Distant Star Bolano Essay

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Last weekend eight or ten books by Roberto Bolaño fell off a bookstore shelf and landed on my head. But the not so subtle point was made that it was way past time for me to read Bolaño.

And so I picked-up a copy of Distant Star, shelved the rest and went home to read.

Even after our narrator becomes an expat living in France he continues collecting information on Wieder, as well as the other poets he left behind (the poetry professor Stein and his rival workshop leader Soto, Bibiano and the doomed Garmendia twins).

He makes only a token effort to sort fact from rumor.

Ruiz-Tagle, we eventually learn his real name is Carlos Wieder, becomes a life-long obsession for our narrator.

He is the bogeyman at the center of the novel – tied to random acts of terror perpetrated by the Pinochet regime.

For both narrators – Bolaño’s alter-ego and the doomed Quentin Compson – the focus of their investigations takes on a stature far beyond that of simple men – Carlos Wieder and Thomas Sutpen come to embody all that these narrators cannot accept or reconcile in themselves or in the society/country where they live(d).

Bolaño’s sometimes difficult relationship to Chile and Faulkner’s torturous love-hate relationship to the American South.

Or they just remain among the missing – no news, no closure.

In the absence of facts it is inevitable that rumors fill the void.


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