I'm not sure I can translate this properly, but this has to be one of the best lines I've read recently:
El mercado tiene dueños, como todo en este infecto planeta, y son los dueños del mercado quienes deciden el mambo que se baila, se trate de vender condones baratos o novelas latinoamericanas en Estados Unidos.
This line comes in conjunction with a very acidic essay that novelist Horacio Castellanos Moya has written on the "Bolano Myth" (published in the Argentina newspaper La Nacion). The following line explains what moved Moya to such a statement (partial translation below):
Lo digo porque la idea central del trabajo de Sarah es que, detrás de la construcción del mito Bolaño, no sólo hubo un operativo de marketing editorial sino también una redefinición de la imagen de la cultura y la literatura latinoamericanas que el establishment cultural estadounidense ahora le está vendiendo a su público.
Basically, in order to sell books marketers invented the Bolano myth, which Moya is taking as an act of U.S. cultural imperialism on Latin America. Throughout the rest of the piece, Moya goes on to argue that marketers and journalists created an image of Bolano to fit preconceived U.S. stereotypes of what a Latin American is–and especially what a Latin American author is.
Moya concludes that the Bolano created by American marketers and journalists fits in with a sterotype popularized in recent movies and books about Che:
Fue esa faceta contestataria de su vida la que serviría a la perfección para la construcción del mito en Estados Unidos, del mismo modo que esa faceta de la vida del Che (la del viaje en motocicleta y no la del ministro del régimen castrista) es la que se utiliza para vender su mito en ese mismo mercado. La nueva imagen de lo latinoamericano no es tan nueva, pues, sino la vieja mitología del "the road-trip" que viene desde Kerouac y que ahora se ha reciclado con el rostro de Gael García Bernal (quien también interpreta a Bolaño en el film que viene, a propósito).
Moya notes that most of the inspiration for this diatribe comes from an essay called "Latin America Translated (Again): Roberto Bolaño's The Savage Detectives in the United States" that Sarah Pollack will be publishing in the next issue of Comparative Literature.
I should remark here that I covered a lot of this territory about a year and a half ago with this essay in Hermano Cerdo.
First off, I think it's pretty interesting to see how much Spanish-language authors have been pushing back on the seizure of Bolano by the U.S. intellectual classes. I think it's great, especially since it's fostering an authentic trans-national dialogue on literature (of the kind that Horace Engdahl said we don't participate in enough these days). I don't know if this sort of this happened with Gabriel Garcia Marquez when he became big in the English language, but I get the feeling that the changing relationship of the U.S. vis a vis the Latin American world has made the absorption of Bolano a little different than that of Garcia Marquez.
I can't disagree too much with what Moya says, although I think he's painting things a little too broadly. (Granted, this is a diatribe . . .) Where he's dishing out blame, he's mostly talking about the old media press and the publisher FSG, and while I would say that old media coverage of Bolano has featured a lot of what Moya calls out (remember the whole heroin thing?), I don't think FSG is quite the publisher Moya claims it to be. True, it's no New Directions, and, true again, if there was any justice New Directions would have gotten first shot at The Savage Detectives, but FSG does tend to treat literature with a lot more respect than other publishers out there.
But more than that, I do think there is a community of readers that is attempting to read Bolano on his own terms, instead of in terms of a prefabricated Latin American stereotype. Certainly there's lots of bandwagoning and dumb reader tricks happening around Bolano's books, but I do get the feeling that they've captured the imagination of many readers and inspired them to try and live up to the books.
This does happen from time to time, after all. Moya's own translator, Katherine Silver, has in fact spoken very eloquently on how a translated work of literature (in this case, Moya's own Senselessness, which I cover in an essay here) can work to subvert dominant ideas in the U.S. mental image of Latin America. She's right, and I think Senselessness has done just that with its American readership.
More from Conversational Reading:
- John Biguenet, Rising Water; Horacio Castellanos Moya, Senselessness We are not lacking for literary responses to Hurricane Katrina; the one that has engaged me the most so far is playwright and novelist John...
- Horacio Castellanos Moya Fun I will now present to you many links regarding Horacio Castellanos Moya, whom you will all remember as the Salvadoran author of the recently translated...
- NYT Reports on The Bolano Myth Readers will remember that about a month ago there was a kerfuffle over whether or not Roberto Bolano used heroin. In case you haven’t heard...
- Rushdie: Bolano Proves We Should Translate More Opening the PEN World Voices Festival, Salman Rushdie has declared that the example of Roberto Bolano proves that there are tons of great writers still...
- Bolano and Heroin? You might not have noticed it, but many Spanish-language bloggers are arguing that there’s been a certain word creeping into Anglo-American Bolano discourse: heroin. It’s...
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