The first short-story collection in English by the acclaimed Chilean author Roberto Bolano. Winner of a 2005 PEN Translation Fund Award.
"The melancholy folklore of exile," as Roberto Bolano once put it, pervades these fourteen haunting stories. Bolano's narrators are usually writers grappling with private (and generally unlucky) quests, who typically speak in the first person, as if giving a deposition, like witnesses to a crime. These protagonists tend to take detours and to narrate unresolved efforts. They are characters living in the margins, often coming to pieces, and sometimes, as in a nightmare, in constant flight from something horrid.
In the short story "Silva the Eye," Bolano writes in the opening sentence: "It's strange how things happen, Mauricio Silva, known as The Eye, always tried to escape violence, even at the risk of being considered a coward, but the violence, the real violence, can't be escaped, at least not by us, born in Latin America in the 1950s, those of us who were around 20 years old when Salvador Allende died."
Set in the Chilean exile diaspora of Latin America and Europe, and peopled by Bolano's beloved "failed generation," the stories of Last Evenings on Earth have appeared in The New Yorker and Grand Street.
Chilean Bola o (1953 2003) wrote 10 novels (including Distant Star, published to acclaim last year), books of poems and two story collections before this one. These 14 bleakly luminous stories are all told in the first person by men (usually young) who yearn for something just out of their grasp (fame, talent, love) and who harbor few hopes of attaining what they desire. New Yorker readers may remember two selections: "G mez Palacio," concerning the grimly uneventful encounter of a Mexico City writer with the woman who directs the backwater writing program where he comes to teach, and the title story, set in 1975, in which a young Mexico City man and his father vacation in Acapulco a trip their relationship is not strong enough to survive. The stories are similar, in theme and voice (though not in locale), and they are perfectly calibrated: Bola o limns the capacity of a voice to carry despair without shading into bitterness.