Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: The Secret of Evil
Amazon Vehicles Buy 2 kids' books and save Amazon Fashion Learn more nav_sap_plcc_ascpsc Britney Spears Fire TV Stick Health, Household and Grocery Back to School Totes Summer-Event-Garden Amazon Cash Back Offer ElvisandNixon ElvisandNixon ElvisandNixon  Amazon Echo  Echo Dot  Amazon Tap  Echo Dot  Amazon Tap  Amazon Echo Starting at $49.99 All-New Kindle Oasis AutoRip in CDs & Vinyl Water Sports

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
10
Format: Hardcover|Change
Price:$19.31+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

Roberto Bolaño died in 2003, at the age of 50. The author of BY NIGHT IN CHILE,THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES, and 2666 was a towering genius, no question about it. But the posthumous publications even of geniuses can be disappointing; the recent THIRD REICH, for example, while still uniquely his, lacked the sheer intensity of his greatest works. So I had limited expectations of this collection of stories and fragments garnered from his computer files.

But how wrong I was! Partly because with stories and fragments you do not expect either the range or the embrace of a masterpiece like 2666. But mainly because, despite the enormous length of his most famous books, Bolaño had been developing a style that relied increasingly on what was NOT said, breaking off the narrative abruptly at the approach of evil -- what his editor, Ignacio Etchevarría, calls his "poetics of inconclusiveness." It means that even fragments can have an ominous suggestive power, and there is no way of knowing whether such a fragment is not, in fact, complete. There are a number of short studies in noir throughout the book: a voice on the phone contacting a journalist at night, neighbors who make love only in the small hours, a shoe salesman who enters an almost deserted newspaper office and quizzes a female reporter about the sex crime she is writing about, a young woman gradually coming to terms with her brother's sexuality. There is a hilarious description of the worst zombie movie ever made -- or what would be hilarious had the narrator had not introduced it as his virtual biography. There is a five-page run-on sentence, moving and disturbing at once, in the voice of a former heroin addict observing the other people on the beach, "a man of thirty-five who had nothing at all but who was recovering his will and his courage and who knew that he would live a while longer."

There are also two critical pieces on South American literature, mostly about writers I do not know. But even these read almost as stories, because of Bolaño's outspokenness: "Seen as a closet or a basement, [Roberto] Arlt's work is fine. Seen as the main room of the house, it's a macabre joke. Seen as the kitchen, it promises food poisoning. [...] Seen as the library, it's a guarantee of the destruction of literature." This guy pulls no punches! Sometimes it is hard to separate fact from fiction. He drafts a story about VS Naipaul visiting Buenos Aires in the 1970s, becoming increasingly aware of an oppressive atmosphere in the city, and linking it to a supposed Argentinian predilection for sodomy. I have not read the Naipaul book, THE RETURN OF EVA PERON, but I strongly suspect that this is Bolaño riffing on the Nobelist's points, expressing his own political sensibilities with an irrepressible taste for shock.

LABYRINTH, the story that impressed me most, combines literary journalism, novelistic imagination, and ribald daring all in one. It starts as the meticulous deconstruction of a photograph of eight French intellectuals, taken around 1970. The photo itself is not reproduced, but it can easily be found online by entering two or three of the names (say Sollers, Kristeva, and Devade). It is fascinating, first, how much detail Bolaño sees. Then what he deduces about the relationships between the people. Then what he speculates about possible people outside the frame. From there, he branches off into wilder and wilder speculation about their off-camera behavior and amorous entanglements, even inserting himself into the story at one point. But he keeps coming back to the picture, and suddenly his speculations (though undoubtedly libelous) do not seem so wild after all. It is a perfect example of the fictive process at work, in the hands of a writer of great intelligence and unbridled imagination.
66 comments| 25 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on March 31, 2013
If you enjoyed 2666, The Savage Detectives, or By Night in Chile, don't automatically assume you're going to find anything of interest to you in this posthumous scrap heap.

If, however, you were bowled over by the aforementioned texts, and ventured beyond them to be further bowled over by Amulet, Distant Star, Nazi Literature in the Americas, Last Evenings on Earth, Between Parentheses, et cetera, then you'll more than likely be satisfied with what the editors have dug up for us with The Secret of Evil, an insignificant but, for the Bolano obsessive, ultimately fascinating assemblage of oddities and false starts. For those of us who, having come to the end of Bolano's published novels and short story collections, still are frantic for him, this is a nifty grab bag of pieces heavily saturated with the man's tell-tale style. It is no substiture for his great works, and won't do for you what Amulet did, or Last Evenings on Earth did, but as a way of staving off the inevitable, it works well.
0Comment| 5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Roberto Bolaño died in 2003, at the age of 50. The author of BY NIGHT IN CHILE,THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES, and 2666 was a towering genius, no question about it. But the posthumous publications even of geniuses can be disappointing; the recent THIRD REICH, for example, while still uniquely his, lacked the sheer intensity of his greatest works. So I had limited expectations of this collection of stories and fragments garnered from his computer files.

But how wrong I was! Partly because with stories and fragments you do not expect either the range or the embrace of a masterpiece like 2666. But mainly because, despite the enormous length of his most famous books, Bolaño had been developing a style that relied increasingly on what was NOT said, breaking off the narrative abruptly at the approach of evil -- what his editor, Ignacio Etchevarría, calls his "poetics of inconclusiveness." It means that even fragments can have an ominous suggestive power, and there is no way of knowing whether such a fragment is not, in fact, complete. There are a number of short studies in noir throughout the book: a voice on the phone contacting a journalist at night, neighbors who make love only in the small hours, a shoe salesman who enters an almost deserted newspaper office and quizzes a female reporter about the sex crime she is writing about, a young woman gradually coming to terms with her brother's sexuality. There is a hilarious description of the worst zombie movie ever made -- or what would be hilarious had the narrator had not introduced it as his virtual biography. There is a five-page run-on sentence, moving and disturbing at once, in the voice of a former heroin addict observing the other people on the beach, "a man of thirty-five who had nothing at all but who was recovering his will and his courage and who knew that he would live a while longer."

There are also two critical pieces on South American literature, mostly about writers I do not know. But even these read almost as stories, because of Bolaño's outspokenness: "Seen as a closet or a basement, [Roberto] Arlt's work is fine. Seen as the main room of the house, it's a macabre joke. Seen as the kitchen, it promises food poisoning. [...] Seen as the library, it's a guarantee of the destruction of literature." This guy pulls no punches! Sometimes it is hard to separate fact from fiction. He drafts a story about VS Naipaul visiting Buenos Aires in the 1970s, becoming increasingly aware of an oppressive atmosphere in the city, and linking it to a supposed Argentinian predilection for sodomy. I have not read the Naipaul book, THE RETURN OF EVA PERON, but I strongly suspect that this is Bolaño riffing on the Nobelist's points, expressing his own political sensibilities with an irrepressible taste for shock.

LABYRINTH, the story that impressed me most, combines literary journalism, novelistic imagination, and ribald daring all in one. It starts as the meticulous deconstruction of a photograph of eight French intellectuals, taken around 1970. The photo itself is not reproduced, but it can easily be found online by entering two or three of the names (say Sollers, Kristeva, and Devade). It is fascinating, first, how much detail Bolaño sees. Then what he deduces about the relationships between the people. Then what he speculates about possible people outside the frame. From there, he branches off into wilder and wilder speculation about their off-camera behavior and amorous entanglements, even inserting himself into the story at one point. But he keeps coming back to the picture, and suddenly his speculations (though undoubtedly libelous) do not seem so wild after all. It is a perfect example of the fictive process at work, in the hands of a writer of great intelligence and unbridled imagination.

[This is a repeat of the review I submitted some years ago under another edition.]
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on January 21, 2013
This has some of Bolaño's wriest writing, albeit incomplete. I prefer reading his work in Spanish, of which he is the ultimate master, but the English translations here are so good that I actually feel like I'm reading in Spanish!
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on August 21, 2015
This is not a book of unfinished stories, but stories in development, in motion. This is what makes it an excellent book into how Bolano developed stories. Having just read Last Evenings just before this, it is clear these are unfinished and require polishing to bring them up to publishable standard. I can see places where the stories would be expanded and filled out, but are not. The only reason I gave it 4 is because these are not final stories.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on December 16, 2012
It's rare that ephemera and unpublished works collected after an author dies holds up to what they put out when in control of their own affairs; this one is the exception. If you like Bolaño's work, you’ll like this. Not everything is a homerun, but even the sketches provide an interesting window into his creative processes.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on October 1, 2013
The title and the book cover are very catching but the contents were very disappointing. None of the stories fit together and certainly did not follow the theme of the tilts. Most stories were very unfinished and really the bottom of the drawer. Did not get any of the charm or magic of Bolano from these selections. The editors did him an injustice in publishing this. Not worth the money even in paperback and I made the mistake of buying the hardcover! Skip this one!
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on July 9, 2013
I believe it is vital to slowly purchase every last piece of poetry by Bolano, whether it be in truly cataloged "poetry" form or prose or "fiction lit." The bigger picture takes years of meticulous studying, that is, if one wants to achieve a paralleled understanding of Bolano's mind.
The writing may be more complete than his posthumous literary works, but still uniquely the adolescent Bolano style.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on December 13, 2015
Very good minor works by Bolano. Fans will dig this.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on May 5, 2013
Pales by comparison with Octavio Paz, Carlos Fuentes, Juan Rulfo, Mariano Azuela. It is lauded as a great Mexican period piece but simply doesn't measure up.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Customers also viewed these items

$12.88

Need customer service? Click here