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Ugh He once described his novel By Night in Chile as a tale of terror a situation comedy and a combination pastoral gothic novelMany Chilean authors have written about the bloody events of the early Pinochet years the abductions and murders Richard Eder commented in the The New York Times None has done it in such a dark and glittering fashion as Roberto Bolaño Literary KeyholesIn The Remains of the Day Kazuo Ishiguro painted an England as seen by the butler of a large house whose keyhole view of the world circumscribed by the minutiae of place setting and gong ringing is so narrow that the truly great events the approach to World War can be seen only in narrow glimpses Roberto Bola o also writes of horror but his particular keyhole is literature especially avant garde poetry and literary criticism Almost all the books of his that I have read or read about from his very brief Antwerp to the enormous 2666 contain references to writers and critics and tiny literary magazines some made up a few well known and others real but so obscure that they might as well be made up His most extreme excursion into this genre is probably Nazi Literature in the Americas a catalog of ultra right wing or fascist writers in both continents political fiction displayed through the medium of bibliographic fact Distant Star is an expansion of the final section of that earlier bookIf you ignore a few details here and there the plot is entirely literary It opens in Chile in the early 1970s during the socialist Allende regime The author narrator is a university student in Concepci n attending weekly poetry workshops run by Juan Stein though occasionally attending the rival workshop of Diego Soto across campus He is part of a group of friends all of whom are would be poets among them the beautiful and talented Garmendia sisters and an elegant young man rud to be the lover of at least one of them Alberto Ruiz Tagle Ruiz Tagle is always insightful and courteous in the workshops but his own polished poems are strangely impersonal as though they were not really his at all But then comes the right wing coup of September 1973 Many of the original group of poets including the author are arrested or disappear Some survive some resurface in other parts of the world some are never seen again Ruiz Tagle meanwhile reappears under his real name Carlos Wieder as a daring air force pilot who writes his poems in smoke in the skies of Chile and makes a sensational impression as a photographer For a while he is the talk of the town but then he too disappears and the rest of the novel like the first few hundred pages of 2666 is a literary search for traces of him taking the writer ultimately to EuropeDry cerebral stuff you might think But no The novel has humor than most Bola o books that I have read and he is unfailingly interesting even when he pursuing minor literary movements including an almost plausible French one involving defecating on great books in order to achieve total assimilation with the classics And in fact all the literary discussion is a cloak for something else those few details I studiously ignored in the previous paragraph A couple of episodes only no than ten pages in all but they are what give the book its true impact The strategy certainly worked for me but perhaps not uite so well as his later By Night in Chile which deals with the same period also beginning in a rarefied literary world but drilling longer and deeper into the dark side of the Pinochet regime by the end All the same a keyhole view of horror can be suggestive than a door opened wide

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Estrella distante

The star of Roberto Bolaño's hair raising novel Distant Star is Alberto Ruiz Tagle an air force pilot who exploits the 1973 coup to launch his own version of the New Chilean Poetry a multimedia enterprise involving sky writing poetry torture and photo exhibitionsFor our unnamed narrator who first encounters this star in a college poetry workshop Ruiz Tagle bec This novel is an extension of the last entry in Bola o s wonderful earlier work Nazi Literature in the Americas It s clear why Bola o made it into a novel it s one of the most memorable sections of the book A poet is forced into the Chilean air force and starts a new literary movement by writing poems in the sky above the Andes mountainsI feel that because I ve already read the story which inspired this I didn t really get anything new out of it However it is thoroughly enjoyable and probably one of Bola o s best narratives I must applaud it for sheer inventiveness and bits of it definitely precurse certain parts of 2666 I think this would be a good one for Bola o newbies It s fairly straightforward and is a great example of his uniue prose and admirable characters

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Omes the silent hand behind every evil act in the darkness of Pinochet's regime The narrator unable to stop himself tries to track Ruiz Tagle down and sees signs of his activity over and over again A corrosive mocking humor sparkles within Bolaño's darkest visions of Chile under Pinochet In Bolaño's world there's a big graveyard and there's a big graveyard la A much better primer for 2666 than The Savage Detectives this one s short and involves the same sort of style themes characters geographic all over the placeness lists of books and writers some real some so obscure they may as well be made up soaring peaks and dry valleys but in this one there s skywriting Definitely a recommended wading pool if you re wary of the hypeheft of 2666 for which the average rating on goodreads right now somehow on a scale of 1 to 5 stars is 579


10 thoughts on “Estrella distante

  1. says:

    This short novel has some similar elements to The Savage Detectives but it's much darker Bolaño looks at the sinister side of Latin American poetry movements and politics as he explores the dark careers and identities of Alberto Ruiz Tagle aka Carlos Wieder a member of the Chilean air force who achieves as small measure of fame as a poet aviator practicing a dark kind of performance art by skywriting over the

  2. says:

    This short novel that flew through the dark clouds covering an eerie 70's era Chile was a breathtaking and chilling narrative that I wish could have gone on for so much longer Intriguing with a hidden sinister element Bolaño seeks to make sense of Chile's turbulent past He takes his obsession with poets adds the Chilean Air Force and in particular one Carlos Wieder to create a compelling read that despite it's short length turn

  3. says:

    This novel is an extension of the last entry in Bolaño's wonderful earlier work Nazi Literature in the Americas It's clear why Bolaño made it into a novel it's one of the most memorable sections of the book A poet is forced into the Chilean air force and starts a new literary movement by writing poems in the sky above the Andes mountainsI feel that because I've already read the story which inspired this I didn't really get any

  4. says:

    A brilliant miniature of the tenderness and sadism of 1970s Southern Cone poetry and politics Bolaño as in The Savage Detectives works to undermine Art and Poetry as the cult of the pure while adoring both as accidental conseuences of living He accuses poetry and poets of the LuciferianRomantic lyrical gyre specifically in the role of a sky writing fascist serial killer poet and photographer who ushers in the Chilean Ar

  5. says:

    A much better primer for 2666 than The Savage Detectives this one's short and involves the same sort of style themes charact

  6. says:

    355There are certain authors whom I keep coming back to because they do various themes to the point of what should be death but which never actually achieve that final destination of overworked banality This is hardly a static or even a linear relationship seeing as how my previous Bolaño experience occurred i

  7. says:

    A book about poets in Chile during the 1973 coup d'etat specifically Alberto Ruiz Tagle an aviator Ruiz Tagle's real name was Carlos Wieder and he had been part of the Chilean Air Force Throughout this short novel he appear

  8. says:

    Literary KeyholesIn The Remains of the Day Kazuo Ishiguro painted an England as seen by the butler of a large house whose keyhole view of the world circumscribed by the minutiae of place setting and gong ringing is so narrow that the truly great events—the approach to World War—can be seen only in narrow glim

  9. says:

    Forty years ago Chile's elected president Salvador Allende was overthrown by the Pinochet regime Reading Roberto Bolaño novella DISTANT STAR today recollections of the coup events and especially their aftermath re emerge vividly in my mind In this work originally published in Spanish in 1996 the author confronts us with different kinds of regime collaboration from the activist to the sections of society tha

  10. says:

    Picked this one up second hand recently and synchronicity it turns out to be an expansion of one of the entries in Bolaño's Nazi Literature in the Americas which I only recently read into a complete novel Seems like the only way to review this then is to consider if the expansion of the story of Carlos Wieder was really necessary and if this novel works on its own as a narrative without the clever framework of the phony literary