January 15, 2008

My love's like a dancer
she weaves through the dangers complete



Matthew Langley, In Between Words, 2007

* 2001 Bomb interview of Roberto Bolano. excerpt:

Carmen Boullosa: In Latin America, there are two literary traditions that the average reader tends to regard as antithetical, opposite—or frankly, antagonistic: the fantastic—Adolfo Bioy Casares, the best of Cortázar, and the realist—Vargas Llosa, Teresa de la Parra. Hallowed tradition tells us that the southern part of Latin America is home to the fantastic, while the northern part is the center of realism. In my opinion, you reap the benefits of both: your novels and narratives are inventions—the fantastic—and a sharp, critical reflection of reality—realist. And if I follow this reasoning, I would add that this is because you have lived on the two geographic edges of Latin America, Chile and Mexico. You grew up on both edges. Do you object to this idea, or does it appeal to you? To be honest, I find it somewhat illuminating, but it also leaves me dissatisfied: the best, the greatest writers (including Bioy Casares and his antithesis, Vargas Llosa) always draw from these two traditions. Yet from the standpoint of the English-speaking North, there’s a tendency to pigeonhole Latin American literature within only one tradition.

Roberto Bolaño: I thought the realists came from the south (by that, I mean the countries in the Southern Cone), and writers of the fantastic came from the middle and northern parts of Latin America—if you pay attention to these compartmentalizations, which you should never, under any circumstances, take seriously. Twentieth-century Latin-American literature has followed the impulses of imitation and rejection, and may continue to do so for some time in the 21st century. As a general rule, human beings either imitate or reject the great monuments, never the small, nearly invisible treasures. We have very few writers who have cultivated the fantastic in the strictest sense—perhaps none, because among other reasons, economic underdevelopment doesn’t allow subgenres to flourish. Underdevelopment only allows for great works of literature. Lesser works, in this monotonous or apocalyptic landscape, are an unattainable luxury. Of course, it doesn’t follow that our literature is full of great works—quite the contrary. At first the writer aspires to meet these expectations, but then reality—the same reality that has fostered these aspirations—works to stunt the final product. I think there are only two countries with an authentic literary tradition that have at times managed to escape this destiny—Argentina and Mexico. As to my writing, I don’t know what to say. I suppose it’s realist. I’d like to be a writer of the fantastic, like Philip K. Dick, although as time passes and I get older, Dick seems more and more realist to me. Deep down—and I think you’ll agree with me—the question doesn’t lie in the distinction of realist/fantastic but in language and structures, in ways of seeing. I had no idea that you liked Teresa de la Parra so much. When I was in Venezuela people spoke a lot about her. Of course, I’ve never read her.
...
CB: In the eyes of this reader, your laughter is much more than a gesture; it’s far more corrosive—it’s a demolition job. In your books, the inner workings of the novel proceed in the classic manner: a fable, a fiction draws the reader in and at the same time makes him or her an accomplice in pulling apart the events in the background that you, the novelist, are narrating with extreme fidelity. But let’s leave that for now. No one who has read you could doubt your faith in writing. It’s the first thing that attracts the reader. Anyone who wants to find something other than writing in a book—for example, a sense of belonging, or being a member of a certain club or fellowship—will find no satisfaction in your novels or stories. And when I read you, I don’t look for history, the retelling of a more or less recent period in some corner of the world. Few writers engage the reader as well as you do with concrete scenes that could be inert, static passages in the hands of “realist” authors. If you belong to a tradition, what would you call it? Where are the roots of your genealogical tree, and in which direction do its branches grow?

RB: The truth is, I don’t believe all that much in writing. Starting with my own. Being a writer is pleasant—no, pleasant isn’t the word—it’s an activity that has its share of amusing moments, but I know of other things that are even more amusing, amusing in the same way that literature is for me. Holding up banks, for example. Or directing movies. Or being a gigolo. Or being a child again and playing on a more or less apocalyptic soccer team. Unfortunately, the child grows up, the bank robber is killed, the director runs out of money, the gigolo gets sick and then there’s no other choice but to write. For me, the word writing is the exact opposite of the word waiting. Instead of waiting, there is writing. Well, I’m probably wrong—it’s possible that writing is another form of waiting, of delaying things. I’d like to think otherwise. But, as I said, I’m probably wrong. As to my idea of a canon, I don’t know, it’s like everyone else’s—I’m almost embarrassed to tell you, it’s so obvious: Francisco de Aldana, Jorge Manrique, Cervantes, the chroniclers of the Indies, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Fray Servando Teresa de Mier, Pedro Henríquez Ureña, Rubén Darío, Alfonso Reyes, Borges, just to name a few and without going beyond the realm of the Spanish language. Of course, I’d love to claim a literary past, a tradition, a very brief one, made up of only two or three writers (and maybe one single book), a dazzling tradition prone to amnesia, but on the one hand, I’m much too modest about my work and on the other, I’ve read too much (and too many books have made me happy) to indulge in such a ridiculous notion.

CB: Doesn’t it seem arbitrary to name as your literary ancestors authors who wrote exclusively in Spanish? Do you include yourself in the Hispanic tradition, in a separate current from other languages? If a large part of Latin-American literature (especially prose) is engaged in a dialogue with other traditions, I would say this is doubly true in your case.

RB: I named authors who wrote in Spanish in order to limit the canon. Needless to say, I’m not one of those nationalist monsters who only reads what his native country produces. I’m interested in French literature, in Pascal, who could foresee his death, and in his struggle against melancholy, which to me seems more admirable now than ever before. Or the utopian naiveté of Fourier. And all the prose, typically anonymous, of courtly writers (some Mannerists and some anatomists) that somehow leads to the endless caverns of the Marquis de Sade. I’m also interested in American literature of the 1880s, especially Twain and Melville, and the poetry of Emily Dickinson and Whitman. As a teenager, I went through a phase when I only read Poe. Basically, I’m interested in Western literature, and I’m fairly familiar with all of it.
...
CB: When we were young poets, teenagers, and shared the same city (Mexico City in the seventies), you were the leader of a group of poets, the Infrarealists, which you’ve mythologized in your novel, Los detectives salvajes. Tell us a little about what poetry meant for the Infrarealists, about the Mexico City of the Infrarealists.

RB: Infrarealism was a kind of Dada á la Mexicana. At one point there were many people, not only poets, but also painters and especially loafers and hangers-on, who considered themselves Infrarealists. Actually there were only two members, Mario Santiago and me. We both went to Europe in 1977. One night, in Rosellón, France, at the Port Vendres train station (which is very close to Perpignan), after having suffered a few disastrous adventures, we decided that the movement, such as it was, had come to an end.

* Mad Cabbie and MHI. excerpt:

"MHI stands for Mad’s Hooker Index: As a professional DC cab driver and an ex-mathematician I have created my own way of weighing in the country’s state of the economy by the frequency of rides I offer to my hooker clients and their customers. Things are so bad out there even the highly in demand lovely friend of mine the one legged hooker is not keeping me busy lately and on the other side of the coin, armed robberies are way up, you just don’t read about them unless somebody gets hurt. I am talking about robberies all over the city including Georgetown, Adams Morgan, Chevy Chase and Tenelytown.

"They say sex always sells but there comes a point that some fine gentlemen stash away that extra hooker appointed cash for the coming rainy days and instead they are forced to downgrade their hooker level to $50 blow-jobs on L street or forced to make love to their wives or they go down the basement and jerk-off watching Angelica Houston movies."

* "The other guy I dug a lot was Burroughs because he was a smart man already; he learned it through the druggie pool - the street scene of an old aristocratic kind of man." -- Gregory Corso

1 Comments:

Blogger matthew langley said...

Hello there:

Thanks for using my painting and giving me credit for it. I've only just discovered your blog and it's all very interesting to me - loved the JG Ballard article.

Matthew Langley

1:51 PM  

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