The Esoteric Bolano

I have come to the realization that you can read Roberto Bolano’s work as an esoteric depiction of the trajectory of Marxism in the 20th Century. The first part of this trajectory is also the aspect of Bolano’s work that is most obviously related to Marxism: the eclipse of Marxist movements in South America and the rise of neoliberal neo-fascism. What is often missed is what can be read as Bolano’s depiction of the split that occurs in Marxism after the eclipse of communism as a global political movement. This can be seen in the depiction of his main characters, many of whom were previously associated with communism, who either lapse into a hedonistic-elitist type of life-stylism, are forced into scraping out a living on the fringes of society, or spend their time in obsessive philological studies of obscure texts.

About HR

Deep in the adjunct crackhole.
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3 Responses to The Esoteric Bolano

  1. David says:

    Which texts you have in mind here? In what I’ve read by Bolaño so far, Nazi Literature in the Americas and By Night in Chile, there is an interesting parallel between that history of Marxism you point out to and the development of certain literary vanguard movements in Latin America. It is fascinating then how the decline of so-called “magical realism” leads to neo-liberal disenchantment.

    • HR says:

      I’m thinking mostly of ‘Savage Detectives’, ‘2666’ and the texts that relate to them. I’m dead serious about his importance as a chronicler of the eclipse of communism, the rise of neoliberalism and its aftermath, but im half-joking about the other two parts. Your point is interesting. I seem to remember Bolano was real polemical towards ‘magical realism’, but i could be wrong, either way it raises the point of the relation between poetic and political movements in Bolano’s work, which is also an interesting question.

  2. Rick Deckard says:

    Great observation, though I guess I would say that the reading doesn’t necessarily have to be an esoteric one. What was in decline in the period Bolaño writes about was the visibility of social contradiction, the fertile soil from which really revolutionary hopes and dreams can bloom. Marxism figures both overtly, because many of the characters ascribe to it, and also more implicitly because the rise of neoliberalism makes a self-reflective critical consciousness of society relatively inaccessible.

    So what’s the critical reading of magical realism? I know that Bolaño despised it, but I’m not sure why.

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