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Between Parentheses: Essays, Articles and Speeches, 1998-2003 Hardcover – May 30, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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“He’s the most controversial and commanding figure to have emerged since Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Mario Vargas Llosa began issuing mature work in the early 1960’s… The excellent thing about Between Parentheses is how thoroughly it dispels any incenses or stale reverence in the air. It’s a loud, greasy, unkeppt thing. Reading it is not like sitting through an air-conditioned seminar with the distinguished Senor Bolano. It’s like sitting on a barstool next to him, the jukebox playing dirty flamenco.” (Dwight Garner - The New York Times)

“Bolano’s judgments are a joy to read. Between Parentheses is a treasure chest: filled with odd glittering jewels and fistfuls of gold. In these essays we hear Bolano’s real voice, the one he often disguised through the ventriloquism of his fiction.” (Marcela Valdes - The Nation)

“What a refreshing surprise it is to hear Bolaño in his own words.” (J.C. Gabel - TimeOut Chicago)

“Bolaño frolics in pithy essays on friendship, women, ancestors, and courage. He’s irreverent and purposeful, cerebral and casual, insouciantly opinionated and ironic, and charming and funny.” (Donna Seaman - Booklist)

“One emerges from Between Parentheses with the desire to read more ― to read more Bolano, re-read Borges, to discover Nicanor Parra and Enrique Lihn and Carmen Boullosa.” (Marianne Moore - Zyzzyva)

“The essays in Between Parentheses preserve for us the voice of the seasoned and accomplished Bolano, the man who, as he was whipping up these various tapas, was also tending the large pot simmering with the eventual 2666, and was very likely aware that his days were numbered. I would like to have the culture, the knowledge, that would let me enjoy his responses to his fellow writers as they were meant to be enjoyed, but even without that―and it is a considerable deficit―the collection delights. How not? Spirit, where it exists, shines through. Roberto Bolano was one of the ones for whom literature was everything.” (Sven Birkets - Aysmptote)

About the Author

Author of 2666 and many other acclaimed works, Roberto Bolaño (1953-2003) was born in Santiago, Chile, and later lived in Mexico, Paris, and Spain. He has been acclaimed “by far the most exciting writer to come from south of the Rio Grande in a long time” (Ilan Stavans, The Los Angeles Times),” and as “the real thing and the rarest” (Susan Sontag). Among his many prizes are the extremely prestigious Herralde de Novela Award and the Premio Rómulo Gallegos. He was widely considered to be the greatest Latin American writer of his generation. He wrote nine novels, two story collections, and five books of poetry, before dying in July 2003 at the age of 50.

Natasha Wimmer’s translation of Roberto Bolano’s 2666 won the National Book Award’s Best Novel of the Year as well as the PEN Prize.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions; Tra edition (May 30, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811218147
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811218146
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.4 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #563,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Michael J. Ettner on June 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This collection of non-fiction pieces is a treasure-trove for anyone who has read Bolaño's fiction and who came away smitten by the author's full-blooded, mercurial, poetic voice.

Seasoned readers of this author can comfortably enter and enjoy the world of these essays, speeches, newspaper columns, travel articles and other occasional pieces. This is because many elements of Bolaño's novels and stories -- their settings, aspects of their storylines, their narrators or chief protagonists, and their abiding spirit of inquiry -- are grounded in autobiography. Bolaño's friend and literary executor, Ignacio Echevarria, who has assembled the 125 pieces found in "Between Parentheses," acknowledges the open border between the author's fiction and non-fiction in his hearty Introduction: "This volume amounts to something like a personal cartography of Roberto Bolaño and comes closest, of everything he wrote, to being a kind of fragmented `autobiography'."

If the reader perceives anything different in this collection it is that here the voice you've come to expect -- opinionated ("plagiarists deserve to be hanged in the public square"), passionate (his love for his soon-to-be-fatherless son beams bright), and with a tinge of the rapscallion ("one of the best ways to steal . . . I had learned from an Edgar Allen Poe story") -- is closer still to the elusive essence of "I, Roberto Bolaño."

In a piece from 1999, this autodidactic author declares: "I'm much happier reading than writing." His admiration shines forth the many times he notes that some friend or acquaintance "has read everything." The exhaustive scope of his own reading and interests is demonstrated by the nine-page Index that completes "Between Parentheses.
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Format: Hardcover
For a few years after his tragic death (finally having reached the top of the transplant list, he died of liver failure) the image of Bolano was of a man who had lived in exile, far from his native Chile, working as a laborer on the coast of Spain and writing all night to provide some support for his children, after what had come to seem his inevitable demise. Of course such romantic images of the artist rarely turn out to be accurate. In fact, between his poems and novels, Bolano did what most modern writers do, which included writing a lot of criticism to pay the bills. Let it never be forgotten that in order to write well, one has to know what the qualities of writing are, and it's almost always worthwhile reading what a great writer had to say about his peers, models, and other contemporaries. Here, stacked up like cordwood, are Bolano's assessments and responses to the universe of writing he inhabited, the literary sea in which he swam. That said, so far I am not a fan of New Directions' new direction. The decision to line the endpapers with blurbs doesn't bother me, but the cloth covers of this book and Antwerp, with their lurid graphics printed in metallic ink, are without precedent to my knowledge in serious publishing, Maybe this is a plot: when the first generation of Bolano's readers dies off, and our books go to libraries, perhaps they will toss the paper wrappers and WHOOSH -- the livid boards hidden beneath will dazzle the students of the future.

We'll see.
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Format: Hardcover
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"Between Parentheses, which has been adroitly translated by Natasha Wimmer, covers a lot of acreage. There are crunchy bits of autobiography, political laments, disquisitions on food and soccer and women and exile and keeping airplanes afloat with your mind." -- Dwight Garner, The NY Times

Roberto Bolaño, is one of the greatest South American authors of our generation, who gained a widespread reputation in Latin literature with his novel, "The Savage Detectives". He was the most dominant and controversial figure to have emerged since the early 1960s, due to the way his novels impend over the past half-century of Latin American fiction. A lover and a fighter, he demonstrates how the boasting Bolaño could invoke in oration and squabble loudly at the same time. In Bolaño's bewildering novel, an exuberant, and wildly inventive fictitious narrative, he declared, "There is a time for reciting poems, and a time for fists." His intellectual thought, and debating fists, in nonfiction prose, mostly from his daily contributions in Newspapers, are gathered here for the first time. These seemed to be the odd jobs and 'left-handed journalism' that filled "Between Parentheses."

Between Parentheses brings about most of the published newspaper columns and articles written during the last five years of his life, as well as the texts of some of his speeches and talks. As the book's editor Ignacio Echevarría remarks in his introduction, the pieces provide a kind of fragmented autobiography, a personal survey attempting to describe the writer. Bolaño's career as a nonfiction writer began suddenly in 1998, just five year before his death, when he became famous for his fiction hit, The Savage Detectives.
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These are occasional pieces by Bolano and really won't provide any insight into the novelists own writing (not that they were meant to be). The tone of these reflections, book reviews, and assessments of various writers from Thomas Harris to Helene Halff's 84 Charing Cross Rd., to the pantheon of contemporary Latin American and Spanish fiction writers, is conversational, along the lines of "Enrique Macias and I were having coffee the other day, and the subject of.... came up."

These are not to be taken as true lit crit (thank goodness), and may help spread the reputation of Roberto Bolano, the writer, for, as e.e. cummings wrote in one of his poems, "And death, I think, is no parentheses."
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