Roberto Bolaño: The Last Interview & Other Conversations (2009)
Introduction by Marcela Valdes
Melville House Publishing
As regular readers of this blog will know, I have a great admiration for the Chilean poet and novelist Roberto Bolaño. Bolaño died in 2003, leaving behind him a series of novels (some already published, others forthcoming through the next few years), at least one of which will last: 2666 (2004). This collection of interviews Bolaño held with Capital, Bomb, Turia and Playboy (the Mexican edition), introduced by fellow Bolaño-ite Marcela Valdes has clearly been assembled to benefit from the recent interest shown by the wider reading public in Bolaño. Before reading these interviews, I had not heard Bolaño’s views other than those expressed through his writing, and consequently I purchased this with great interest.
First of all is Marcela Valdes’s introduction: a superb introduction to this writer and to Bolaño, specifically his interest in the Juárez killings that inspired 2666. Much of his level of interest in them was new to me, and I think in future editions of 2666, Valdes’s introduction should be included – it has certainly expanded my thinking on this great novel. Sadly Bolaño was still finishing 2666 when he died, so the interviews that follow this make no mention of this work; instead Bolaño talks about The Savage Detectives and his other works.
The first of the interviews, conducted for Capital magazine, in Santiago, in 1999, is a short interview – as most magazine interviews are – but there is depth here: Bolaño talks about the importance of reading and his own writing, but avenues of thought are left unexplored – Bolaño almost seems to be setting things up and the interviewers miss them. The second interview, with Bomb, a Brooklyn based magazine, is much more detailed – though the interviewer seems to show-off to Bolaño with his own learning. The interview with Turia expands upon the Bomb one, and is again more detailed. It comes as such a shame, then, that the last interview, for Playboy, doesn’t allow much room for Bolaño to really speak – the interviewer keeps cutting him short, and asking him stupid questions: “What makes your jaw hurt laughing?” “What makes you cry?” Stupid, stupid questions that Bolaño swats away with short, curt answers. It reveals nothing. A shame that it ends the collection as there is much to savour here: for the fan of Bolaño, for the general reader, and for the writer.
There is much to be written on Bolaño, and these few interviews will provide some form of initial basis upon which to build that critical commentary: as such it is a useful volume. I do not know how many interviews Bolaño gave in his lifetime, but that some can be gathered (and annotated wonderfully by Tom McCartan) and distributed by a small, but brilliant publishing house, Melville, well, we should be grateful. Congratulations to them.
There is more on Bolaño at their website, http://www.mhpbooks.com/index.php – where you can also browse their small collection of publications.