Roberto Bolaño & Geopolitics

David Kurnick published an interesting piece about Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño on Public Books,  which I just discovered and is a partner site of the journal Public Culture. Like many others, I’ve noted the “discovery” of Bolaño by the Anglo literary establishment in recent years—a process that Kurnick partly dissects in his article. My favorite essays on Bolaño just happen to be those by my bro Marcelo Ballvé: “The Face in the Mirror: Roberto Bolaño Chronicled Latin America’s Dashed Utopias” and “The Resilient Works of Roberto Bolaño.” What I find interesting in all these essays is how they each examine the geopolitics of literature and how deeply geographical Bolaños’ work really is. Kurnick, for instance, critiques “the world republic of letters”—a phrase coined by Pascale Casanova—”in which metropolitan publishing centers ratify a severely limited number of writers from less powerful regions.” But Kurnick leaves room for considering that Bolaños’ “popularity among Anglo-American readers bespeaks a hunger for some more ample register of geopolitical comprehension. His fiction boasts an impeccable claim to status as ‘global’ writing but has none of the bleached-out quality the term conjures.” While noting the curious “routes which unite reader and author,” Marcelo highlights how Bolaños’ work is “geographically expansive, many-voiced and chronologically complex”—in other words, perfect for critically minded geographers.

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