Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bolano's Gaucho & Distant Star

From a note I posted elsewhere on 11-24-2007. Someone found it and sent me a note to this blog about it. See comments below:

Today I received Borge’s A Personal Anthology and read “The South.” After having read Bolano’s The Insufferable Gaucho, “the South” was a disappointment. Yes, Bolano must have used the story as an outline, but not merely that. I suspect he found “The South” insufferably short with too many important loose ends left to the imagination or more likely the perplexity of the reader. Dahlman remains a puzzle which Bolano plausibly explains.

What can Dahlman’s motive be for going out to die other than the precedent set by his maternal great-grandfather who died gloriously from an Indian spear? But don’t we all have great-grandfather’s who died gloriously from an Indian spear – so to speak. Let me think . . . I have a great-grandfather, Schyler Helm, who was a Sergeant working in the Engineers in one of the Northern armies. Actually I don’t know how he died. I do know that he used his mustering-out pay to buy a plot of land in Iowa. Pretty disappointing that – someone choosing to live in Iowa – that strikes me as almost like dying – can’t call it glorious I suppose.

I had another great-grandfather who was mustered out with dysentery – not terribly glorious that, now that I think about it. He lived in a small town in Illinois– and other ancestors who were in the Civil war. Surely some of them must have died gloriously . . .

I know a private William Matthews on my mother’s side who was captured by the British in the War of 1812 – that, I suppose, couldn’t count as glorious either – more like an interesting adventure – unless he was tortured and he probably wasn’t – why would the British torture a private? Anyway, I can’t say that I was influenced by any of them, and maybe I’ll have to retract my earlier statement. Had one of them died gloriously like Dahlman’s ancestor who can say how that might have affected me. I might, in a Dahlman frame of mind, have left my base in Kunsan, stolen a jeep and drove up to the DMZ and rushed out to be shot down by 7.62x39 SKS rounds or failing that to throw myself on Chinese bayonets.

Lawrence, an insufferable Marine

t. lief tepper left a note on the blog reading as follows: Lawrence --

Just read Bolano's Insufferable Gaucho and, tacking back to Borges, an old favorite, reread The South. Then googled both and found you and your post. Then this blog.

Would suggest that, having read Bolano first, explained why you didn't see the point of the Borges. And was curious to have an internet exchange with someone, anyone, who's bothered to think about both stories.

Your blog, however, moots that. Still, glad you're open-minded enuf to give works by people like Bolano and Borges a try.

Dahlmann, btw, isn't about to die in The South. And the Insufferable Gaucho is unlikely to live. The 2nd story is an updating of the first. It's about Argentina, and identity, and its connection to mythos. Like our cowboy west. There's more, plenty of enigma to chew over. But the "ungrounded" "homeless" meandering of both heroes is the central parallel.

The knife-point daring of the Gaucho's final act may have whet your sense you'd 'got' what Bolano's prose obviously excited in you. Life and literature, however, is complicated, and there are inevitable disappointments when our presuppositions aren't confirmed by reality. When writers we're attracted to don't share the views we ascribe to them.

The Dow didn't drop cuz Obama got elected, nor did it drop 900+ pointd in one day a few weeks earlier because W. was and is an idiot. Bolano is a fascinating writer, and so, you will find, is Borges.

Use that Marine determination to incorporate lessons without denying reality and charge on, sgt.

Please don't hesitate to delete this post. It was really meant for your eyes only. didn't know how else to email you.


Actually, t. lief tepper, you weren’t remiss in posting your note to the blog. I didn’t intend this blog to pertain exclusively to foreign affairs and politics. I would eventually have posted motes pertaining to literature. In fact I posted a few poems there already. And If you checked back to the very beginning of the blog you would discover that I was provoked into beginning it as a result of a debate that turned vindictive – about Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

After reading Bolano’s “Insufferable Gaucho” I read Distant Star. I commented at the time: “Bolano has a huge long list of Chilean poets in his Distant Star which I finished this morning – longer than your list of philosophers – everyone in Chile must be a poet. Not everyone wants to publish so he counts unpublished poets as well. They belong to Poetry reading groups, clubs and seminars and they are all happy to read their poems to you. They read their poems out loud and are jealous of the good poets and the handsome ones whom the girls are attracted to.

“According to the writing on the back, this novel was considered great. I’ll have to read some reviews now to see what others thought of it. Coming out of a Negative/Positive consideration I was conscious of Bolano dealing with a lot of negativity, but he does it so engagingly and entertainingly that I forgave him.”

Elsewhere I wrote, “. . . reminded me of Alberto Ruiz-Tagle’s entrance into the Juan Stein’s poetry workshop in Concepcion. Of course Alberto Ruiz-Table wasn’t his real name. His real name was Carlos Wieder and from the activities he engages in described by the narrator (in Roberto Bolano’s Distant Star) I took him to be a serial killer, but after reading several reviews, I now suspect he was an assassin for the Pinochet regime. He was at least a lieutenant in the Pinochet Air Force and disposed of prisoners because there wasn’t room for them in prisons; so one of his jobs was killing. The thing that threw me off – made me think he was an ordinary demented serial killer – was his killing of the Garmendia sisters. Yes they were mildly engaged in subversive activities but so was everyone. It went with being a poet, but if Carlos Wieder killed people for Pinochet, he may well have been sent to kill them. One evidence of that is that even though it became well known that he as Alberto Ruiz-Tagle had killed them, he was never really pursued by the police. He merely changed his name.”

Also, t. lief tepper, I got only to page 147 of The Savage Detectives before bogging down – or finding something more interesting. I can’t recall for sure. As to Bolano exciting something in me, I can’t recall that he did. I just read a lot.

No comments: