Who better than Chris Andrews, translator of 10 of Roberto Bolaño’s books, Here, Andrews makes the case for why Distant Star should be. The star of Roberto Bolaño’s hair-raising novel Distant Star is Alberto Ruiz-Tagle, an air force pilot who exploits the coup to launch his own version of the. A review, and links to other information about and reviews of Distant Star by Roberto Bolaño.
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The Best Bolano Book is ‘Distant Star’
Turn up any stone in Chile, the writer Pablo Neruda used to say, and five poets will crawl out. The narrator of Distant Star is one of them: Unfortunately for him – and very soon, for them as well – the sisters only have eyes for another of the aspiring poets in their workshop, the aloof figure of Alberto Ruiz-Tagle, a vaguely aristocratic youth who does not share the others’ political beliefs or bohemian lifestyle.
The poetry workshops are taking place in Chile in fistant, just as the socialist president Salvador Allende is being overthrown and General Pinochet’s brutal regime begins.
In the vertiginous first chapter of Distant Star, we descend rapidly from the student world of literature and hopeless poetic passions to the ghastly realities of military repression and disappearances. From that moment on, the narrator, like so many of his fellow countrymen, is a distznt man. He is picked up as a “terror ist suspect”, and spends several months in a concentration camp.
Although he is eventually released without charge, he finds he has been expelled from his university and has no chance of getting work in Pinochet’s Chile. He then begins a wandering life in Europe that is forever defined by this historical moment. Wtar he wanders, he hears more of Ruiz-Tagle, who now calls himself Carlos Wieder and has re-invented himself as an officer in the Chilean airforce.
He is continuing his poetic career, however, using the small planes he pilots to write messages in the skies over Chile, combining violent and patriotic slogans in a way reminiscent of the Italian Futurists. This skywriting adds still further to the romantic reputation of the young officer, so that when he announces that he is holding a photographic exhibition in his apartment, influential figures from the armed forces and Chilean high society show up for the opening.
Written in the skies
What they discover is the opposite of what they had been expecting: The narrator meanwhile is still struggling to make ends meet and to make sense of what has happened to him and his generation through literature. His destiny is suddenly reconnected with that of Sar when a Chilean private detective turns up at his home in Spain.
The detective wants his boalno as a poet to track Wieder down – to see if he can use his hermeneutic skills to identify the airforce pilot’s hand behind articles in various neo-fascist publications from several European countries. He helps the detective, and between the two of them they track Wieder down to his hiding-place, also in Spain.
Distant Star – Wikipedia
The detective does what he has been hired to do, and the two men walk away into the night. His own personal history mirrors that of the narrator: As in his previous novel Chile by Night, in this novel his approach to horror and the sense of guilt felt by those robertp survive it is full of irony and artifice, bolqno it is this oblique, wry style which has appealed to many Hispanic writers unhappy with the lazy, indulgent fantasies of magical realism.
There as here, the shadow of Jorge Luis Borges is obvious. It is also full of a strange kind of gallows humour, as we are swept along by stories that are invented and presented entirely convincingly, only to be suddenly brought up short by a reminder that this has not been done innocently.
Baudelaire warned us long ago roebrto reader and author are linked together in their complicity: