Bolano on Exile

The Nation has an essay from Between Parentheses–the forthcoming book of Bolano essays from New Directions–called “Literature and Exile.” Obviously this was a subject that Bolano knew much about, as it was central to pretty much all of his major novels.

Literature and exile, I think, are two sides of the same coin, our fate placed in the hands of chance. “I don’t have to leave my house to see the world,” says the Tao Te Ching, yet even when one doesn’t leave one’s house, exile and banishment make their presence felt from the start. Kafka’s oeuvre, the most illuminating and terrible (and also the humblest) of the twentieth century, proves this exhaustively.

Normally I’m quite suspicious of miscellaneous essay collections from major novelists, and so I was suspicious of Between Parentheses, but I’ve read four or so pieces from this book in various places so far, and they’re all of high quality. As you can see in the essay at The Nation, Bolano does a pretty good job of importing the irony, clarity, and coyness of his best fiction into his non-fiction. (And yes, I know those are three contradictory adjectives; such was Bolano’s skill as a writer.)

If you’d now like to read more about Bolano, The Quarterly Conversation has a trove of essays and reviews for you.



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