The OF Blog: Whose Bolaño is it anyways?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Whose Bolaño is it anyways?

Going to be writing a couple of essays in the next couple of weeks on the late Chilean/Mexican/Spanish writer Roberto Bolaño's works (all the works available from Anagrama, minus one, which will be reviewed in March).  In particular, I am interested in how external mythmaking has influenced reception of Bolaño's works.  Therefore, in preparation for this, I read a couple of articles written months apart at Conversational Reading, where Scott Esposito discusses reactions from two Spanish-speaking authors/critics, Alberto Manguel (who wrote his diatribe in English) and Horacio Castellanos Moya (who wrote his piece in Spanish). 

There is much I could say about the two.  In particular, I could devote several paragraphs ripping into Manguel's arguments against popular assessments of Bolaño because of how poorly-written and argued the piece is (let's just say that if I wanted to write another installment of "Trying to Grasp a Muddled Review," this would be among the most muddled negative reviews I've ever read on The Guardian) or I could focus on how Castellanos knew Bolaño personally, but I don't want to delve into that now, because some of what I'm planning on discussing in my essays touches upon these topics.

But for those reading this blog who may be curious about how others outside the Anglophone countries have reacted to Bolañomania, perhaps these two links will be of interest.

9 comments:

Eddie said...

Yeah, I read the Manguel review and thought it was very odd. For a start he stated as fact that NLitA wasn't amusing for more than a few pages, when I found myself laughing out loud (then feeling bad about it) right to the end. *Gasp* do you think humour might be something that people perceive differently?

More than that, it just read more like a contratian whine than a review. Being negative for the sake of it is only cool when you're under 25 and wear skinny jeans :P.

Anonymous said...

Manguel's always been this way. If you read the introductory notes to the stories in Black Water, which he edited, they're full of little digs. One memorable note indicates that the author is a terrible hack but had one moment of brilliance, which Manguel has taken for the book. Most of his notes tend in that direction, so I'm not sure it's him being whiny so much as just being himself. He's very consistent, and I don't mind that consistency. It's much more interesting than the norm.

JeffV

Larry said...

Interesting way of looking at it, Jeff. So he's just consistently this way and there's a sort of odd charm to his commentaries that exists despite Manguel's words themselves? :P

Anonymous said...

Manguel's been responsible for bringing us a lot of amazing Latin American literature we wouldn't have otherwise. Also his creative nonfiction books are amazing. So I think we can forgive him the digs.

JeffV

Larry said...

Ah, so he's earned the term "idiosyncratic," huh? I'll look into it, even if this review/diatribe just didn't jibe with my experience with Bolaño's works (do have to admit I agree with his sentiment that there isn't as much criticism of Bolaño's works in the US right now as there is a pseudo-hagiography).

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with him about Bolano--I just think he's an adorable crank, is all. ;) jv

Larry said...

So he's the Spanish version of Harlan Ellison, then? :P

Anonymous said...

Nope. Harlan Ellison is just a jerk. JV

Larry said...

True. I was trying to be generous, even when the person didn't merit it. Maybe I should have compared him to a dead, rotting vole?

 
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