Monday, January 31, 2011

Roberto Bolaño: The Last Interview & Other Conversations

I agree with the sentiments expressed by many people - this book would never have been published except to cash in on Bolano's posthumous popularity. Nevertheless, it brings out a candid Bolano, and some of the interviews are more conversations between writers, and hence enjoyable. The least inspiring conversation in the book is the Last Interview where Mónica Maristain asks Bolano some superficial questions which he answers in one liners, and she never delves into details - not that I am particularly interested in how much trouble his dyslexia landed him in or what kind of underwater fish did he see - those questions seemed to do nothing to bring out the man in the writer, but were mere facts - obscure and useless at that.
In this interview, as in others, Bolano comes out with some cheesy lines, which he has the good sense to call cheesy before typing them, but the good sense does not stop him from making those comments anyway: My only home are my two sons, Lautaro and Alexandra . I believe he treated the interview with Ms Maristain as frivolously as she was treating it herself.
What is best in the book is his conversation with Carmen Boullosa. CB is as well versed with Latin American literature as Bolano is, and they speak as equals. Bolano is more forthcoming and also thoughtful about his replies:
For me, the word writing is the exact opposite of the word waiting. Instead of waiting, there is writing. Well, I’m probably wrong—it’s possible that writing is another form of waiting, of delaying things. I’d like to think otherwise
In these conversations, Bolano's love for reading comes out very clearly - he seems very familiar with every Latin American writer across the centuries; he is equally at home with Western writers. He even goes onto say that Reading is more important than writing - a line which has become an introductory quote for this slim book.
Overall, this volume was an enjoyable read, even if the best part of it was a reprinted review of 2666. But I sometimes got annoyed with Bolano's calculated words and his pedantic comments which kept cropping up.
The Carmen Boullosa interview can be found here. Marcela Valdes' review of 2666, which forms the introduction to the book can be found here.

6 comments:

Rise said...

At least 2 of the reviews (by Boullosa and Maristain, I think) were conducted through emails. I think Bolano sat through scores of other interesting reviews which will fill
one or two books.

Madhuri said...

The concept of interviews through email is strange, yet interesting. The element of quick thinking and instant reply is missing in the email version, and that perhaps explains the sometimes overtly clever answers from Bolano :)

Kubla Khan said...

Madhuri,

I feel that the last interview is a running collection of interviews, and sorry, you seem to have missed the point. What you think are cheesy answers and one line questions are in fact the most interesting answers I gave ever heard uttered by a writer, there are no corny answers here, just truth and lyricism, you know.

It is interesting to see how Bolano divides opinion, and you have a "right" to yours, but frankly, I find your opinion abysmal. Bolano is a writer's writer, a poet's poet and his engagement with political and social forces and his poetic engagement in a surreal manner shine in these interviews. I thought his answers are thrilling and an exact mirror of his "prose".
I hope that you don't read writers to tick them off from your list, a condition quite rampant. Leave Bolano critique to those who know the atrocity of sunsets.

I hope you are well and are not offended, for I would not ever think of offending you.
Cheers

Kubla Khan said...

PS: it should be stunning instead of running, but the apologies are mine alone.

Madhuri said...

Kubla Khan,

You cannot call someone's views abysmal and accuse them of reading authors for ticking off the list and not expect them to get offended. Strong words are used to offend, and they did offend me.
I found the conversations interesting, but the last interview with Monica Maristain was superficial because it was a 'running' list of questions, and the answers were never probed further. There were many questions on whether Bolano liked A or B, there were many names and little thoughts. If you ask whether Bolano has seen colorful fish under water, would you stop at Acapulo 1974? It was like a celebrity interview with the kind of questions filmfare journalists ask Shah Rukh khan. I believe you missed the point - my critique is of the interviewer and not Bolano. Her questions were questions you could ask anyone.
I have been reading Bolano for sometime, and enjoying him a lot - that is what got me interested in reading these conversations. I was curious to find out about what he thought of Infra realist, why he is fascinated with the detective element,the conversations were great for that. Boullosa, Alvarez knew they were conversing with Bolano. Monica Maristain didn't seem to.

parrish lantern said...

have not read this, but, as a Bolano fan & by that I mean I wouldn't be writing this comment, because i wouldn't have been blogging, had i not read The Savage Detectives. I'm really interested in this collection of interviews, 7 am in agreement with the comment that "Bolano is a writer's writer, a poet's poet" in fact am reading The Romantic Dogs, at the moment, and there appears to be no division between his poetry or his novels, this relates to subject matter, tone ,character etc.
thanks for your review
Parrish.