She says she’s okay. You say you’re okay and think she must
really be okay and that you really are okay. Her expression is
gorgeous, as if she were seeing for the first times the scenes she’d
wished for her whole life. Then comes the rotten breath, eyes
hollow even though she claims (while you keep quiet, as in a
silent film) that hell can’t be the world she lives in. Cut it out
with this bullshit text! She screams. The kaleidoscope assumes
the look of solitude. Crack, goes your heart.
Tres is Roberto Bolano’s second collection of poetry to be published in English, and like Romantic Dogs before it, this is a bilingual edition with the English translations by Laura Healy. As the title suggests, Tres is in three parts and the poem above is from “Prose from Autumn in Gerona” a series of prose pieces slowly unfolding into a tale of unrequited love, with each poem capturing an image, a moment fractured, with the writer attempting to piece together memory fragments like mirror splinters, each sliver an image, a puzzle that the writer needs to understand or at least come to terms with. “Prose from Autumn in Gerona”, like Bolano’s novels, dissolves the borders between fictional narrative and memoir as we follow a certain R. Bolaño through these various poems that - like a series of micro narratives written sometimes in first person, sometimes third - attempt to reconfigure the puzzle, to understand his world and where and who he is within it.
The second section, “The Neochileans” is one long poem written around the time of Bolano’s first novel & just adds to the bewilderment, fragmenting any ideas of what is real, of what is Bolano & what will eventually be seen as “The Myth of Bolaño”. The poem reads as a Bildungsroman, like the Savage Detectives, this is about a group of young idealist, looking for an ideal to follow, for something to give themselves to. The story follows a group of musicians as they follow the road in search of wonder,of a path to their dreams, it’s as though Bolano was channelling Kerouac & filtering the ideas through his own world view.Dejection and angst consume my heart. I curse theArrival of day, which calls me to a life whose truthAnd significance are doubtful to me. I spend my nightsplagued by continuous nightmares. (Fichte)Indeed, dejection, angst, etc.The pale protagonist waiting, at the exit of a theatre? of aSports field? the arrival of the immaculate grave. (From thisautumnal perspective his nervous system may seem splicedinto a war propaganda film.)
The trip began one happy day in November,The band set off on their trails, heading north from Chile through Peru and Ecuador, and we follow as they try to discover who they are and what it is they are searching for, trying to piece together their own identities along the way, before realising that what they are looking for has no substance and that any perceived ideal was merely a hindsight reconstruction of chance, happenstance.
But in a sense the trip was over
When we started.
All times coexist, said Pancho Ferri,
The lead singer. Or they converge,
The prologue, however,
With a resigned gesture we boarded
The van our manager
Had given us in a fit
And set off for the north.
The final section “A stroll through literature”, is a series of short and in some cases very short poems that number from 1 to 57, and appear more like a recounting of dream images that start and finish with Georges Perec. Through this catalogue of dream scenarios we encounter various writers (Gabriela Mistral, Alonso de Ercilla, Archibald MacLeish etc.), who confront and confound the writer: some are seeking a kind of help from him, others merely bemuse him, remind him of his inability to do what is required of him, or just leave him gutted, feeling pointless. “A stroll through literature” also features one of Bolano’s favourite images, that of the detective, who seems to be a witness within the various dreams, who - as Bolano’s alter ego - seems lost in the world of the writer and is there to fathom out its mysteries, but remains constantly bewildered by his encounters. Even by what purpose he should serve.
Tres, is Bolano at his best, condensed, stripped bare of all but the essence, reduced to a rawness that haunts. They have an hallucinogenic beauty, that has you throwing around words like “cinematic”, “experimental”, and "kaleidoscopic". These poems are all the above but there is a questioning nature that appears to show a writer trying to find his voice, asking of himself & through the poems, prose, and micro fiction of those he admired and respected, where he stood as a writer. Bolano always considered himself a poet above all else and Tres shows us why this was his favoured persona.
We’re undone father, not cooked or raw, lost in the vast –
ness of this endless dump, wandering and going astray, kill –
ing and asking forgiveness, manic depressives in your dream,
father, your dream that had no borders and that we've dis –
emboweled a thousand times and then a thousand more, like
Latin American detectives lost in a labyrinth of crystal and
Mud, travelling in the rain, seeing movies where old men ap-
pear screaming tornado! tornado!, watching things for the last
time, but without seeing them, like spectres, like frogs at the
bottom of a well, father, lost in the misery of your utopian
dream, lost in the variety of your voices and your abysses,
manic depressives in the boundless room of Hell where your
people lost long ago. Sometimes I'd look at myself casually in
a mirror and recognise Roberto Bolaño.
Although deep down he always felt like a poet, in the vein of his beloved Nicanor Parra, his reputation ultimately rests on his novels, novellas and short story collections. Although Bolaño espoused the lifestyle of a bohemian poet and literary enfant terrible for all his adult life, he only began to produce substantial works of fiction in the 1990s. He almost immediately became a highly regarded figure in Spanish and Latin American letters. (Wikipedia)