click to enter the chamber of resonance



Fiction that feels unlike fiction. Fiction that's partially about how it's not fiction. Non-fictional fiction about writing, about war, about endurance/persistence, about poets realizing their ideal worlds through political action, about heroism, about historical reconstruction from fragments as a creative act that keeps the dead alive, especially the dead who live on in the words of people almost gone themselves. Structurally interesting novel about a writer trying and failing to write fiction and backing into this significant story through coincidences related to journalism, including interviewing Roberto Bolano who's a major character in the third part of this, a section that made what was an OK novel in the first part (about the writer's discovery of the title story) and a pretty damn good novel in the second half (the title story itself, essentially a biographical essay on a Spanish fascist poet, sort of like Bolano's Nazi Literature in the Americas but more accessible and more dramatic -- firing squad survival!) a pretty GREAT novel. Almost a few touching moments, too, toward the end. A novel that, although it doesn't feel like a conventional novel, excels thanks to its old-fashioned 45-degree angle narrative arc: upwards, upwards, upwards, upwards until it reaches its long-sentence recapitulations in its last pages, including the refrain onwards, onwards, onwards, ever onwards. Worth it for the intelligence and honesty and the complex yet clear semi-extravagance of the prose, for the approach, for the writing insight ("a person doesn't write about what he wants to write but what he's capable of writing about" or "a writer never writes about what he knows, but precisely about what he doesn't know" or "To write novels you don't need an imagination, Bolano said, just a memory. Novels are written by combining recollections"), for the Spanish Civil War education, and especially for the portrait of Bolano, including what's basically an interview with him ("a man of action is frustrated writer; if Don Quijote had written one single book of chivalry he never would have been Don Quijote") and a drunkenly related tale about a WWII soldier's journey to Chad in Africa and all the way back through Europe, a story reminescent of some of the best parts of 2666 that spurs the final section that makes this book, in the narrator's words, "function." I probably read the first 120 pages in too many sittings. Also didn't love the characterization of the dippy girlfriend, and maybe thought repetitions of sentences in the summation at the end seemed maybe a bit like high-literary hokiness? But otherwise a really excellent, enjoyable, educational, interestingly structured, serious yet never haughty novel that, best of all, felt to me unlike a novel ("all good tales are true tales, at least for those who read them"). Onwards and upwards!

From Bolano's Between Parentheses: Essays, Articles, and Speeches, 1998-2003 about this novel: 

". . . there appears a character, someone by the name of Bolano, who is a writer and a Chilean and lives in Blanes, but who isn't me, in the same way that the narrator Cercas isn't Cercas, although both characters are possible and even probable." 

"His novel flirts with hybridization, with the 'relato real' or 'true fiction' (which Cercas himself invented), with historical ficton, and with hyper-objective fiction, though whenever he feels so inclined he has no qualms about betraying these generic categories to slip toward poetry, toward the epic without the slightest blush: in any direction, so long as it's forward."

[Forever after at http://eyeshot.net/cercas.html]

Read more selections from the Readerly Resonance Chamber

About - Archive - Rejection Letters - Gold Stars - Recently

All about the site known as Eyeshot