If we look with X-rays at the patients house,we’ll see the ghosts of books in silent shelves
or piled in the hall or on the nightstands and tables.We’ll also see a small notebook with drawings, lines
and arrowsthat diverge and intersect: they are voyages in death’scompany.But death, despite its arrogant aide-memoir,still hasn’t won. the X-rays tell us timeis expanding and thinning like the tail of a cometinside the house. Life still gives its bestfruits. And as the sea promised Jaufre Rudel *the vision of love, so this house near the sea promises
its dweller the dream of the destroyed and constructed tower.If we look, however, with X-rays inside of the man,we’ll see bones and shadows: ghosts of fiestasand landscapes in motion as if viewed from an airplanein tailspin. We’ll see the eyes he saw, the lipshis fingers brushed, a body emerged
from a snowstorm. And we’ll see the naked body,just as he saw it, and the eyes and the lips he brushed,and we’ll know that there’s no cure.
The poem above is one of forty-three in a collection of poetry by Chilean writer Roberto Bolano, originally published in 2006, this, the bilingual edition was published two years later, and was translated by Laura Healy (publisher New Directions). This collection spans just under twenty years (1980 to 1998) and covers a lot of the subject matter covered in his novels, his obsessions with detectives, with the lost and exiled, and with poetry itself. In fact anyone who has read 2666, The Savage Detectives, Amulet etc. will be familiar with the subject matter and although the books are shot through with poetry, you get the impression that these are more personal. Bolano has always considered himself a poet, he wrote fiction to fulfil the need to support his family more than as an abiding wish to write the books, explaining, “I blush less when I reread my poems.” Yet it was through his novels, translated after his death, that he gained recognition outside the Spanish language world, that allowed this work to be published alongside other works from his back catalogue.
This book has an air of nostalgia, of looking back at a youth and it’s freedoms, of a time of living the poetry, of it being the essence, in the title poem Bolano writes;
Back then, I’d reach the age of twentyand I was crazy.
I’d lost a country
And through these poems you follow his journey, meeting the many characters, the good, the lost, the evil. This is the story of artists, writers & poets exiled from all that could be called home. Individuals caught in their own private quests, hunted by nightmares, always on the edge, and yet the penultimate poem is about love (possibly his wife) and it ends with these lovely words suffused with hope.but won a dreamnothing else mattered.Not working, not prayingnot studying in the morning lightalongside the romantic dogs.
more beautiful than the sun,
than the stars
"That's what art is, he said, the story of a life in all its particularity. It's the only thing that really is particular and personal. It's the expression and, at the same time, the fabric of the particular. And what do you mean by the fabric of the particular? I asked, supposing he would answer: Art. I was also thinking, indulgently, that we were pretty drunk already and that it was time to go home. But my friend said: What I mean is the secret story.... The secret story is the one we'll never know, although we're living it from day to day, thinking we're alive, thinking we've got it all under control and the stuff we overlook doesn't matter. But every damn thing matters! It's just that we don't realize. We tell ourselves that art runs on one track and life, our lives, on another, we don't even realize that's a lie."
This was spoken by one of the characters in a tale (Dentist) in the short story collection, Last Evenings on Earth, and I think it sums up the reasoning behind this writers work, which includes this wonderful, explicit, fragmented brilliant book of verse.
(The first part of) Resurrection
Poetry slips into dreamslike a diver into a lake.Poetry, braver than anyone,slips in and sinkslike lead…………....
The Source of all Wisdom on Bolano -(In Lieu of a Field Guide)
New Directions (Roberto Bolano)