Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Readin': That's All I'm Doin'

I'm determined to log a post this afternoon, but words have eluded me all week. I think I had my first complex thought of the week this morning.

The only excitement this week has been in books.

Book arrived this afternoon: The bestselling Tenth of December: Stories by George Saunders. I heard Saunders interviewed on the local NPR affiliate in Albany and felt inspired to try him. (He teaches in the creative writing program at Syracuse University--an excellent program, by the way.)

My final thoughts about Indiscretion by Charles Dubow: I was entertained throughout most of the book, the huge tragedy was unnecessary, and thank goodness for the long-suffering saint of a narrator steering the course. On the downside: The characters weren't real people. I couldn't believe in any of them, which is unfortunate because a plot with two love triangles demands authentic characters. I was not bored, however.

The Third Reich by Roberto Bolaño baffled me. Udo Berger, a young German man is vacationing with his girlfriend on the coast of Spain. Udo is, first and foremost, a phenomenal gamer--not video games, by the way--but a player of games that reenact historic wars and battles on large tabletops. Instead of vacationing, he finds himself luring an impoverished South American pedal-boat outfitter into reenacting World War II. Udo tempts fate time and time again, and loses his expert mastery of the game, and with it his already weakened sense of identity and stability. Very unusual. Yes, I was left scratching my head at the end.

As you may know, since his death, Bolaño has been increasingly recognized as one of the most important modern Latin American writers of fiction. Born in Santiago, Chile, his parents moved the family to Mexico in 1968 when he was 15. Bolaño returned to Chile for a short time as a young adult, protested the Fascist dictator, and was briefly jailed. He left Chile and went into exile, living in Mexico, France, and in other parts of Europe.

Prior to his death, none of his novels had been published in English. Then, too, there were novels that had never been published at all. The Third Reich is one of the latter. Since Bolaño's death, every few years, one of these previously unpublished novels appears. What were Bolaño's intentions regarding these works?  What was happening during the last few years of his life? Who decided that these unpublished and possibly unfinished works should be published? Who decided how they should be "finished?" Perhaps Bolaño never intended to publish The Third Reich. Perhaps he sensed that there were aspects of the novel that were without form and needed time. One thing is certain: he was deprived of time due to his death from liver failure at age 50.


  1. Yes I wonder about the later Bolano a lot were works in progress ,I do often wonder what writers would think about what happens after they die ,all the best stu

  2. Stu,
    Thanks for adding your thoughts. I wonder the same thing as you. Without knowing the circumstances of his final year or months, one doesn't know. I do know that liver failure can cause death within weeks, sometimes without the sufferer realizing that they're deathly ill, thus postponing medical treatment. Pure speculation of course. Until there's a well-researched biography, all of this will remain a mystery. I tried researching through a number of library literature databases and general databases, but didn't turn up anything that revealed anything of note.