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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars exciting form and content
i do not mean to write a helpful review, but I could provide an opinion. I did like the book very much.
Prose poem is a fine word for it. Sand drawing is another. Montage, dissolves, and POVs are part of the form and content of this magnificent writing.
If mystery and detective novels are partly relying on the readers "wanting to know". This writing slows...
Published on May 3, 2010 by first time

versus
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stray Sentences
"All I can come up with are stray sentences," the narrator of Bolano's Antwerp writes, "because reality seems to me like a swarm of stray sentences." At its worst, Antwerp can feel like 56 disparate parts of stray sentences bearing little relation to each other, not quite composing a whole.

The action in Antwerp is a puzzle to figure out. There's a young...
Published on March 28, 2010 by C. R.


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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stray Sentences, March 28, 2010
This review is from: Antwerp (Hardcover)
"All I can come up with are stray sentences," the narrator of Bolano's Antwerp writes, "because reality seems to me like a swarm of stray sentences." At its worst, Antwerp can feel like 56 disparate parts of stray sentences bearing little relation to each other, not quite composing a whole.

The action in Antwerp is a puzzle to figure out. There's a young red-headed woman dominated by a cop, a writer named Bolano struggling to write, a murder, and a hunchback. Part of the job of the reader is to try to make connections in the muddle of seemingly random passages and repeated phrases.

Roberto Bolano's well-deserved popularity is founded in the mastery and wild inventiveness of his novels like 2066, The Savage Detectives, and By Night in Chile. Since his death in 2003, nearly everything he has written, even some pieces never really intended for publication, are being translated into English. The problem readers have is sorting out what is a minor, inferior work and what is another masterpiece of the caliber of 2066. Of course, even the notes, drafts, and failures of a great writer can be more interesting than the great works of a lesser writer, but Antwerp may be a piece only for the most dedicated fans of Bolano.

Many of the themes and elements of Bolano's best work appear here: the desire for artistic creation, cryptic murders, desolation, and surprising uses of language. The poetry in Antwerp jostles its attempt to be a novel and ends up creating a strange hybrid between a long prose poem and detective fiction. The problem is it does not come together very well. The confusion the reader feels in the tenth section is never satisfyingly resolved by part fifty-six. Even Bolano in his introduction suggests it was an experiment created for himself and not necessarily intended for publication. Antwerp is a fascinating footnote to an incredible body of work, but not the punctuating mark that English readers might hope for in one of the last new publications of his work.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Soon he'll reach the sea", April 18, 2010
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This review is from: Antwerp (Hardcover)
I agree with the views C. Richards expresses in the lead Customer Review, above. Antwerp differs categorically from Bolaño's mature novelistic output -- the fully-formed tales such as "By Night in Chile" and "The Savage Detectives" that build story lines rich enough to communicate the author's considered view of the world. Antwerp, with its frustrating fragmentation and hallucinations, never manages fully to dislodge the impression that it is a cobbled assemblage of pages. There is no journey, only a seeming lack of intention. Yes, there is textual inventiveness in the series of vignettes. But if Bolaño meant this as an experiment in metafiction, I join in saying it cannot be called a success.

To avoid disappointment a reader must alter her or his expectations before delving into Antwerp. In fact, as Richards advises, it may be best if you take a pass on Antwerp unless you count yourself among the hardy crew of Bolaño aficionados. To those souls I offer these words.

One way to prepare for the book is to adopt the manner of a detective. Treat Antwerp as a sheaf of papers you've seized from the drawer of a prospective master, your own Poe-like discovery. The author's preface -- the most interesting pages in the book -- reveals that Bolaño, revisiting the unpublished material 22 years after its creation, viewed the pages with a quizzical eye. Abetting your adopted role of detective are the physical contours of the book. It is a strangely slight object, jacketless, black in color, an intimate notebook, divorced from any larger context, as if casually set aside. In his fiction Bolaño often foregrounds the work of detectives, their search for connections, for meaning. And so, in mimicry, the reader will profit by entering that frame of mind while thumbing through Antwerp's pages. As many of Bolaño protagonists come to learn, your detective work will yield false leads, confusion, drudgery, and uncertain revelations. Principal payoffs in this instance are occasional poetic passages, mordant observations ("Nothing lasts, the purely loving gestures of children tumble into the void" (p. 51)), and points of humor ("Some people choose the worst moments to think about their mothers" (p. 71)). You know not to expect answers, or (in this book) a sustainable melody.

Another way to approach Antwerp is to imagine it as a derivative of a fully-formed novel that doesn't exist. If you are one of those readers so in love with an author, or a particular book, that you search for illumination in the author's notebooks, journals, log-books, flotsam and jetsam, then here is another occasion to indulge your passion. I had a sense while reading Antwerp that it was not so much a novel as a preparation for a novel, notes toward a novel. But is it even a novel? Because it contains a record of Bolaño's own emotional crises and features his dreams and autobiographical nuggets, the work resists the label of fiction. Some critics say it is a collection of prose poems. However viewed, the text contains signs that Bolaño, by reputation an author proudly meticulous when it came to the fabrication of his books, felt Antwerp was slipping from his grasp: "No work could justify the slowness of movements and obstacles" (p. 62); "There's something obscene about this" (p. 64); "Poor Bolaño, writing at a pit stop" (p. 66); and a dangling reference to "undisciplined writing" (p. 51). Yet Bolaño needed to write.

When the day comes that a full-scale biography of Roberto Bolaño is published, the pages of Antwerp will contribute heavily to the analysis of his early years of residence in Europe, beginning in 1977. On the evidence of the book's distressing fragments and multiple references to illness, these impoverished years were a difficult period of transition in the author's life: "My innocence is mostly gone and I'm not crazy yet" (p. 52); "I no longer ask for all the solitude in the world, but for time" (p. 62); "Nervous collapse in cheap rooms" (p. 32); "But you write ... and you'll get through this" (p. 44). It sounds strange, but the rueful voice I heard throughout Antwerp was that of someone still confident that greatness awaited.

Antwerp is, in my view, an appurtenance to Bolaño's legacy -- an unsolid outbuilding located on a sprawling literary estate, far from the main mansion. It is a necessary stop only for the most devoted visitors. Ready for an afternoon meander?

(Mike Ettner)
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars exciting form and content, May 3, 2010
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first time (new york, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Antwerp (Hardcover)
i do not mean to write a helpful review, but I could provide an opinion. I did like the book very much.
Prose poem is a fine word for it. Sand drawing is another. Montage, dissolves, and POVs are part of the form and content of this magnificent writing.
If mystery and detective novels are partly relying on the readers "wanting to know". This writing slows down the readers "wanting to know" into
frames and display us the frames and pixels of it, very beautifully. How to create poetry out of stories and moving images. How to make sense of day and night that involve so many characters seen and unseen, if not unnecessary. one wrote in a previous review that the book was not satisfying. might be true, but that did not bother me in any way. as for me, things get puzzled out. a very interesting mapping of sequences. the book is more than scribbles that will work as future footnotes and quotes.
a strong physical experience of being in and out of someone's body. reminds me of rilke, lautreamont, and de nerval.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a friend, December 31, 2010
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This review is from: Antwerp (Hardcover)
This is a small gem which you will return to many times over the years. It's a great read for plane trips, brief vacations and idle moments. It will become a friend who will always offer something fresh to the conversation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Beginning, June 1, 2010
This review is from: Antwerp (Hardcover)
As Bolaño's best friend and editor points out, this is the big bang of his opus, his epoch, his life. Because, for Bolaño, there is no divergence between life and art, both are conflated, however, in this book I found something extremely haunting and self-eliminating: life seems to transcend the text. Just like after reading 2666, I felt like I was sick for days after reading this book. 2666 knocked me out for a year. There is an obscure intimacy with the author of ANTWERP, as if you were closer with the author's unconsciousness or split self more than a real human presence that responds and reacts rather similarly to different situations. The book reveals a feeling of base contradictions, it strips away appearances and illusions within the first 15 pages, leaving an arid soul or climate or ghost that manages to knock the wind out of the reader, and drag him back down into the abyss (s)he was born from.

Even though this is the beginning, I strongly recommend starting with Savage Detectives, then 2666, and then some of his novellas before engaging with this petit, eroding, murderous force.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A sad book, October 6, 2011
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This review is from: Antwerp (Hardcover)
I love Bolano's work and consider The Savage Detectives and 2666 some of the best books I have ever read.
And I was born in Antwerp, so I was looking forward to reading this book.

This book made me utterly sad. The narrative is incoherent and the plot is non-existant. And experimental novel maybe , or the "Big Bang of his fictional universe" as the cover tries to make us believe ? I doubt it.

The problem with the book is that there is a complete lack of a sense of humor or fun or plot. To me it read like the ramblings of somebody trapped in an artificial drug universe.

I do not think this book improves your understanding of Bolano's work or writing, but it is a sad reminder that this man did not always have an easy life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "stray sentences", May 6, 2010
This review is from: Antwerp (Hardcover)
Roberto Bolaño wrote "Antwerp" some twenty-five years ago during the Barcelona phase of his global wanderings (as fictionalized in "The Savage Detectives"). In the preface, he explains that he wrote "Antwerp" for himself as a collection of loose pages that he would play around with and reread from time to time. He finally decided to publish it in 2002, having previously felt that any publishing house would simply slam the door in his face.

At this stage in his life, Bolaño says he was still reading more poetry than prose. As such, "Antwerp" is best thought of as a series of loosely-connected prose poems. The setting is a dreamscape where odd little phrases and fleeting visions drift in and out of Barcelona's abandoned lots and empty houses. There are several references to a woman with no mouth or a whole corridor of them. Disembodied clapping is occasionally heard. Along with Bolaño's consistent use of the present tense, it is as though we are viewing either a slideshow or a disjointed film sequence. We glimpse a hunchback living in the woods, an ephemeral Englishman, fragments of the itinerant life, a campground, and a drug-dealing teen who sleeps with narcs. There's not much plot to speak of beyond several reappearing characters and references to a dead body and a detective looking for someone.

But there is still that sense that hidden forces are at work here, akin to what Bolaño would later expand upon in "2666." The gritty and violent sex scenes, the murder, allusions to homelessness and unemployment, and the looming presence of law enforcement clearly form a pattern, although what this means exactly is never developed. We are watching a drama unfold through a hazy screen and we're not quite sure what it is that we're seeing. Overall, "Antwerp" is an unusual, half-formed little book. Still, it has its appeal, especially to Bolaño fangirls like me who love his cryptic atmospheres. It is best read alongside "The Savage Detectives" and "2666," as the three works seem to compose a loose trilogy. According to Publisher's Weekly, Roberto Bolaño is apparently "doomed to have all of his scribblings published" (they didn't like this book) but that's just fine with me.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Prose poetry, October 27, 2013
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This review is from: Antwerp (Hardcover)
The halfway-house between Bolano the poet and the prose-ist. What a remarkable writer. Best to start elsewhere in Bolano's work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece, December 19, 2012
This review is from: Antwerp (New Directions Pearls) (Paperback)
This is a post-post-everything masterpiece, the literary equivalent of modern classical music (e.g. Cage, Kagel, Stockhausen, Xenakis) or avantgarde cinema (think of a weird David Lynch movie). In other words, it is a masterpiece, but not for everyone and not necessarily made for instant gratification. Think of it as a prose poem not written by someone on drugs but inducing a drug-like stupor in the reader.

A weird idea of mine by way of a bonus: Many bloggers discussing Antwerp seem to be perplexed by the mysterious Colan Yar. Could it be "Scotland Yard"?
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5.0 out of 5 stars A small gem, November 10, 2011
This review is from: Antwerp (Hardcover)
"I wrote this book for the ghosts" says the author, before adding that this "my only novel that doesn't embarrass me..."
The thing is though that this book is not neither a novel, nor a novella; it's not even a short story collection. If anyone asked me I would say that what we have here is a collection of clippings of life and of random thoughts that somehow manage to meet at one point or another and thus make sense.
The author is doing here what he does best; he's playing. He's playing with the words and the meanings and a non linear sense of time in order to tell the reader a story in shards; the story of a writer that struggles with words and the story of a hunchback; the story of a red-haired prostitute and the cop that abuses her. And also the story of a day and one more. All that takes place in the city of Barcelona.
If there's one thing that stands out in this small book, apart from the literary acrobatics, is the way the author drops into the text his cues; the cues that don't seem to have anything to do with the story but somehow manage to make it better. Here are a few examples: "Forget the gesture that never came", "Monogamy moves with the same rigidity as the train", "There are silences made just for us", "The gun was only a word", "Loneliness is an aspect of natural human egotism", "Only the inventors survive", "Destroy your stray phrases", "Everything is the projection of a forlorn kid".
Antwerp is not one of those books that have a beginning, a middle and an ending. The author seems more interested in walking on a tightrope made of words than telling a story. What he brings to light are parts of his inner world: his dreams, his thoughts and even his delusions. And for once again he reminds us of old man Borges, because every now and then he tends to address the reader with a mocking smile, as if implying that he's not to be taken seriously by anyone. Bolaño seems to be changing costumes and roles all the time and so he sometimes becomes the author, other times the reader and yet other times the protagonist of the book; the god of his own creation.
I'm certain that anyone who's familiar with his work will enjoy this small gem of a book.
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Antwerp (New Directions Pearls)
Antwerp (New Directions Pearls) by Roberto Bolaño (Paperback - May 23, 2012)
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