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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Latin American Master
Fourteen stories are included in this collection, by the author who died at age 50. He considered himself a poet primarily, and wrote fiction to support his family. The characters in "Last Evenings" invariably suffer early death by illness or suicide. Few, if any, of his characters achieve what Bolano calls the three highest goals of a man of letters: "fame, wealth and a...
Published on June 9, 2006 by Adrift in Suburbia

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For Most of the Stories, Where Was the Beef?
This book was published in 2006 and collected 14 short stories. Half of the pieces came from the Spanish-language collection Phone Calls (1997) and half from the collection Killer Wh-res (2001).

Eight of the stories were narrated, while five others described vignettes from the life of "B," who might be taken as the author's fictional counterpart. The pieces...
Published on May 17, 2009 by Reader in Tokyo


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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Latin American Master, June 9, 2006
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This review is from: Last Evenings on Earth (Hardcover)
Fourteen stories are included in this collection, by the author who died at age 50. He considered himself a poet primarily, and wrote fiction to support his family. The characters in "Last Evenings" invariably suffer early death by illness or suicide. Few, if any, of his characters achieve what Bolano calls the three highest goals of a man of letters: "fame, wealth and a large readership." Yet they toil away regardless, because they have no other choice. Bolano has a prose style utterly distinct from Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the other Latin American masters of the sixties, seventies and eighties. Bolano's style, in contrast, is flat and unornamented, like a police report; one can sense the influence of Jorge Luis Borges in Bolano's precision and clarity, and also an amalgamation of genre fiction writers of North America, like Phillip K. Dick and James Ellroy. Bolano melds these influences into something all his own, a sort of pan-Latin American voice, without any distinct national identity.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A loss for world literature, August 28, 2006
By 
G. Nordström (Hollviken, Sweden) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Last Evenings on Earth (Hardcover)
When Chilean writer Roberto Bolano prematurely died at the age of 50 a few years ago it was a loss to world literature. By many considered as one of the most interesting of new latin american writers, Bolano in his lifetime published several novels and collections of short stories. Very little has, so far, been translated into english. For those interested in getting to know Bolanos work, Last Evenings on Earth offers an ideal starting point. These enigmatic, haunted stories will stay in your mind long after you've read them. So, while waiting for translations of Bolano masterpieces Los detectives salvajes, and 2666, allow yourself to be seduced by these magnificent short stories. Bolano novels distant Star and By Night in Chile are also available in english and are highly recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric and melancholy stories of exile, November 14, 2007
This review is from: Last Evenings on Earth (Paperback)
This is an evocative and haunting collection of short stories. Overall, the mood is bleak and melancholy and the world is rather pointless -- all of which is understandable given Bolano's life as an exile from Chile. Indeed, most of the stories are set in "exile", in the sense that they occur in countries (for example, Spain or Mexico) other than the narrator's own. Many are told in the first-person and the reader is encouraged in various ways to think of the first-person narrator as Bolano himself. Perhaps because the world of politics was foreclosed to them, Bolano's narrator(s) and characters busy themselves with their literary or cultural reputation(s) and careful and at times exasperatingly tedious examination of interpersonal relationships. There is little action and much discussion or introspection.

Several of the stories left me hanging, wishing for some sort of resolution. But that's life. It is also true that life continues beyond the point where a story would end; as Bolano remarks in one of the stories, "Days of 1978", "life is not as kind as literature." That is just one of the terse apercus or aphorisms sprinkled here and there. Another: "We never stop reading, although every book comes to an end, just as we never stop living, although death is certain." More generally, Bolano's writing is exceedingly simple and straightforward, yet whatever he depicts is fuzzy, slightly out of focus, and hence uncertain.

I have not read much modern Latin American fiction beyond Borges and Garcia Marquez, so I can't begin to place Bolano within that category. He does remind me somewhat of Borges, but not of Garcia Marquez. Other modern story-tellers of whom I am reminded, however, include Camus, Kafka, and Fellini, in that a certain mystery and unease pervades everything. I hesitate to stamp this collection "great literature", but it certainly is worth reading and for me it is good enough to seek out and read one of Bolano's novels.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I prefer not to say anything...", April 11, 2010
By 
meeah (somewhere between my ears (i presume)) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Last Evenings on Earth (Paperback)
"...there's no point adding to the pain, or adding our own little mysteries to it. As if the pain itself were not enough of a mystery, as if the pain were not the (mysterious) answer to all mysteries." --Roberto Bolano

So concludes Bolano at the conclusion of one of the more engimatic stories in his collection, "Last Evenings on Earth." Ive been a big Bolano fan since reading his sprawling, loosely connected 3-part epic "2666." My regard for him only increased after I read "The Savage Detectives." I knew these two books were regarded as his highest achievement in fiction, so I was prepared that whatever else I might read in his relatively short career (he died at 50) would likely not raise the bar any higher.

Indeed, his short stories are wonderful; eschewing magical realism, they nevertheless manage to evoke something of that particular blend of personal passion, political violence, and phenomenolical alchemy that one has come to expect from Latin American literature, post Garcia Marquez. Bolano, however, is more of a skeptic, a realist, an existential tragedian. His stories depict lives--mostly those of writers and artists--lived on the outside of love, success, and easy contentment. There is, as Wayne Koestenbaum noted on the back of the book, a kind of "haze that floats above Bolano's fiction" that is addictive and that reminds me of the haze that fills Camus's "The Stranger." One senses that something bad will happen, that the characters know it (often they come right out and acknowledge their foreboding) and yet there is nothing they can do to alter the course of events towards the catastrophe.

But what is, perhaps, most unsettling of all, is that Bolano's stories often don't encompass the catastrophe itself; they end, sometimes abruptly, almost always enigmatically, before the worst of a series of increasingly bad things happen. But that offers very little, if any, comfort. What comfort there may be is that one doesn't have to be there to see the worst when it inevitably happens--and therefore one might even convince themselves that it isn't inevitable.

Bolano's stories typically end short of any final revelation of the mystery. They don't offer answers or balm for the pain and price of living. What they do better than most is to present the mystery as it is and ask, "isnt that enough?" To draw in breath is to draw in both the wonder and pain of the world in equal measure. There is no cure that doesnt do violence to the mystery or increase the wound. Neither is necessary. In Bolano's art, truth is stranger than fiction and fiction is a way to put forth the truth.

"Last Evenings on Earth" presents us with a series of lives that may be described as failures, acted out as they are by characters who ought to be described as anything but--at least insofar as one believes that the only true measure of a "successful" life is to experience the mystery and pain of existence as acutely as possible without lies or rationalization. In this sense, in this endeavor, Bolano's characters, and Bolano's vision in these stories succeed and do so memorably.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Escaping, March 4, 2012
This review is from: Last Evenings on Earth (Paperback)
14 short stories of the life of exiles, failures and misfits living on the margins of society; escaping the traumas through literature and poetry,love, friendship and rivalry, themes Bolano pursues in all of his works that I've so far had the pleasure of reading.
All the stories are accessible and enjoyable, with 'Last Evenings on Earth' about a father and sons trip to Acapulco-one trying to revive his youth, the other trying to move on, 'Sensini' about the letters and friendship between two writers of varying success and 'Anne Moore's life' exploring how our lives are altered and made by a combination of fate chance and-often-poor decisions encapsulate the themes Bolano muses upon.
Since his death, it seems as if every scrap of paper Bolano ever wrote on is immediately published-most likely material that Bolano had either discarded or was working on-that have diluted his great works and made people wonder what the fuss is all about, which is a great shame. 'Last Evenings on Earth' was published by Bolano when he was alive, is how he intended it, and is pure Bolano through and through. A book to read and enjoy and realise that "The fuss" is well placed.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For Most of the Stories, Where Was the Beef?, May 17, 2009
This review is from: Last Evenings on Earth (Paperback)
This book was published in 2006 and collected 14 short stories. Half of the pieces came from the Spanish-language collection Phone Calls (1997) and half from the collection Killer Wh-res (2001).

Eight of the stories were narrated, while five others described vignettes from the life of "B," who might be taken as the author's fictional counterpart. The pieces were set mostly in or around Barcelona, or various other cities in Europe (Madrid, Paris, Brussels, Berlin), most likely between the 1970s and 90s. A few others were set in Mexico, between the 1960s and 80s. One story, "Henri Simon Leprince," contained neither a narrator nor B, and described the life of a French hack writer around the time of World War II. Another, "Anne Moore's Life," followed the path of an American woman who grew up in the U.S. and later passed through Spain, where she met the narrator.

Several of the works were memorable for capturing the atmosphere of traveling and being a stranger in a city, of loneliness and connection ("Vagabond in France and Belgium"), for suggesting what it might feel like to be an exile ("Days of 1978"), or for sustaining a sense of tension ("Last Evenings on Earth"). The standout for me, "Anne Moore's Life," followed one woman from adolescence to her 30s, capturing the way people lived, struggling with each of their journeys' setbacks before moving on, passing in and out of one another's lives. For me, it was by far the most successful combination of subject, narrative and tone; in comparison, many of the other stories were fragments of it or pale echoes, flat and uncaptivating. Some ("Dentist," "The Grub") seemed to go on and on, recording minutiae, to no particular point that could be grasped.

In general, for this reader, in this collection the author seemed unable to imagine or write beyond the point of view of himself or his fictional stand-in, except for the main character in "Anne Moore's Life," and even she remained fairly flat and opaque. There were no emotionally rich characters like those found in the best writing of Manuel Puig, or the imaginative strangeness and wonder of other worlds found in the best stories of earlier writers like Borges or Cortázar. Or the inventive, dark humor of writers like Juan Bosch, Juan Arreola or Anna María Shua. Whatever it is that has won the author his great acclaim, I failed to discover it in these pieces; maybe it lies in his sprawling, 600- and 900-page novels, with their multiple narrators and narratives that can't be contained within a short story.

Some excerpts:

"Tony never got angry, never argued, as if he could see absolutely no point in trying to make someone else agree with him, as if, for him, everyone was lost, so how could one lost person presume to show another the way. Especially since the way, as well as being hidden from everyone, probably didn't even exist."

"I prefer not to say anything, she wrote, there's no point adding to the pain. As if the pain itself were not enough of a mystery, as if the pain were not the (mysterious) answer to all mysteries."

"Sometimes, mainly at night, he and Anne would talk on the phone, like two strangers, coldly, without ever mentioning what, for Anne, were the really important things."

"We never stop reading, although every book comes to an end, just as we never stop living, although death is certain."
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Testament to Bolaño's Greatness, July 7, 2013
By 
Oliveira (Chestertown, MD) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Last Evenings on Earth (Paperback)
Some critics have objected that Bolaño's short stories are among the worst texts of his oeuvre. It is true that some of them are not among his best. Which doesn't mean that others belong to that rare category of the masterpiece.

Particularly in this collection, we see Bolaño's masterful skills as a short fiction writer. In "Last Evenings on Earth," a story that could be put in the tradition of Borges' "The South," a father and a son travel to Acapulco and the trip becomes a descent into hell. What does this mean? It means that, just like Dahlmann's trip into the immense Argentine pampas, the pampas plagued by violent gauchos and "cuchilleros," the father and the son descend into a world of vagabonds, tramps and knife-fighters (notice the direct reference and re-writing of Borges' tale.)

Back to the beginning. Bolaño's stories are so important within his oeuvre because they play with the Spanish American literary tradition with just the same mastery (and playfulness) as do his most ambitious novels. This is why they should be read as yet another testament of Roberto Bolaño's literary greatness.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant stories unjustly neglected., October 4, 2012
This review is from: Last Evenings on Earth (Paperback)
Fashion isn't always wrong. Geniuses don't always have to wait a century or two to be recognized. Sometimes they are appreciated just shortly after their deaths. . . The surge of interest in Roberto Bolaño has resulted in translations of his work hurrying into print and fame in English. I have only one argument with these proceedings - this book, Last Evenings on Earth, has been neglected and deserves much more attention.

The lion's share of attention has gone, understandably, to Bolaño's doorstop masterpieces - The Savage Detectives and 2666, as well as the oddly perfect novella Amulet. The short story, that short and unpopular cousin, has been disregarded again.

These brilliant and peculiar stories could serve well to help re-energize the form -- many recent examples of which appear to have grown into a weirdly complicated and oddly dull machines, as ambitious as they are unsatisfying.

If you enjoy Bolaño, you must read this book and, if you have not yet been introduced, this is an excellent place to start. Bolano's humor, violence, strangeness, suspense, and tenderness are all present here in abundance.

Everyone will have their own set of favorites. For me, the best stories were "The Grub", "Anne Moore's Life", "Mauricio (The Eye) Silva" and "Sensini". The characters are so vivid that you might well confuse them, in your memory, years from now, for old doomed friends of yours.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bite-size Bolaño, January 3, 2012
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This review is from: Last Evenings on Earth (Paperback)
If you've ever considered reading Roberto Bolaño but weren't sure you wanted to tackle the epic darkness of 2666, you might start with the bite-size darkness of his short stories. His world is fairly homogenous from what I've read of it--any place you dive in will give you a similar impression, if not the exact story, of anywhere else: disenchanted rebels and literati, prostitutes and wayward souls, looming violence, drugs, semi-autobiographical references, random encounters, a fluid plot and a dreamlike haze hanging over all of it. He jumps from the mundane of everyday life to paranoid, surreal and frightening symbolism, to grand passages that advance in epic leaps that would make Marquez proud (even though his style is very different from Marquez's).

Of the fourteen stories in this collection, I put stars in the table of contents next to "The Grub," "Anne Moore's Life," and "Last Evenings on Earth" (in a discussion of the author, I once heard "Anne Moore's Life" described as quintessential Bolaño, which is what prompted me to get this book). I won't describe each story because they wouldn't sound very good and you might not read them, which would be a shame. And the strength of these stories is not as much the plot as the intoxicating mood the author creates and recreates time and again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Much Happens, But You Hang Around Anyway, March 19, 2010
This review is from: Last Evenings on Earth (Paperback)
Reading Roberto Bolano's short stories is a different experience. For one thing, the stories are an exercise in "telling." There's little of the "show" drills we get with most contemporary American practitioners of the short. He also uses letters for characters - chiefly the letter "B" (guess who?) for the protagonist - a Chilean with leftist sentiments who spends time in both Mexico and Europe (aw, you guessed who!).

It takes some time to get into the "rhythm" of Bolano's writing. You think you're being bored, but then suddenly, despite yourself, you start to pay attention. In one tale "B" befriends a writer, Sensini, by mail, then meets his daughter after his death. Not much happens. In another, "B" calls an old flame but cannot get up the nerve to talk and hangs up. She winds up being killed by another guy that was harassing her on the phone. "B" fears he will be blamed by the police, but not much happens and he doesn't.

I liked best the story of an extended vacation "B" takes with his dad, a retired boxer. A stranger befriends them and takes them to a bar featuring prostitutes ("B's" weakness) and gambling (Dad's). His father plays cards, wins, and tries to leave, but thugs try to prevent his departure with all their money. He insists on going anyway and not much happens because, although father and son get surrounded, the story ends with the line: "And then the fight begins."

You get the idea. Almost dreamlike. Otherworldly. Certainly foreign. And not much happens (but you get preoccupied despite yourself). So how does Bolano pull it off? Alchemy, I guess. The words just just keep sifting until flecks of gold show on the page. Worth a look if you like experimental and foreign works in translation. Also if you're considering Bolano's posthumous hit, 2666, but want a sampler first.
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Last Evenings on Earth
Last Evenings on Earth by Roberto Bolaño (Paperback - April 30, 2007)
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