Great Authors: Roberto Bolano

Roberto Bolano

Roberto Bolano

I'm starting a Great Authors series in which I will be writing about some of my favorite authors and what I like about their works and what I have learned as both a reader and a writer.  I will begin this series with Roberto Bolano.

I discovered Roberto Bolano's work last year after reading a review of his book, 2666, in the New York Times.  The review raved about Bolano's works, many of which have been translated into English after his death in 2003.  Two of his most famous works are 2666 and the Savage Detectives.  And while, I have not read either, I have read a few of his other lesser known works and enjoyed them immensely.  So much so, that he's been added to my favorite authors list.

Bolano's writing is minimal, eccentric and beautiful.  He chooses oddball or uncommon narrators and gives them a fascinating story to tell.

In By Night In Chile, the narrator is a Jesuit Priest and poet who gives a deathbed confession about his life and the intermingling of the church and state in Chile. 

Last Evenings On Earth, is a collection of short stories which all detail the travels of an unknown man called B as he lives in various countries on almost every continent across the world.  Some speculate that it is based on Bolano himself.  Either way, it is one of the best short story collections I've ever read.

In Distant Star, Bolano explores politics and poetry during the Pinochet regime in Chile, from the perspective of an exiled poet living in Europe.  It is a great exploration of the consequences and importance of art and the chilling and violent world of a repressive political regime.

As a writer, I learned a lot from Bolano.  Part of my writing style is to be wordy, to tell all the minimal details and really describe the world I've created for you as vividly as possible.  But by reading some of the best literature, I think that as writers we can really learn and hone our craft.

With Bolano, I've observed that he uses the best details and moves the plot of a novel forward and backward effortlessly.  He also could describe a room pointing out the most important and poignant details without bogging down the reader.  A skill I greatly admire as a writer, and one that I long to hone in my own writing.

Bolano is a writer whose works I will continue to read and that will have a special place in my personal library and I'll be reading and re-reading his works for a lifetime.  If you haven't discovered Roberto Bolano, I highly recommend him.  He's a fantastic writer and he will be sorely missed.