Book Review: Cowboy Graves by Roberto Bolano | More2Read
 

Cowboy Graves by Roberto Bolano


 

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About Cowboy Graves:

One more journey to the literary universe of Roberto Bolaño, an essential voice of contemporary Latin American literature

Roberto Bolaño’s boundless imagination and seemingly inexhaustible gift for shaping the chaos of his reality into enduring fiction is unmistakable in these three exhilarating novellas.

In ‘Cowboy Graves’, Arturo Belano – Bolaño’s alter ego – returns to Chile after the coup to fight with his comrades for socialism. ‘French Comedy of Horrors’ takes the reader to French Guiana on the night after an eclipse where a seventeen-year-old answers a pay phone and finds himself recruited into the Clandestine Surrealist Group, a secret society of artists based in the sewers of Paris. And in ‘Fatherland’, a young poet reckons with the fascist overthrow of his country, as the woman he is obsessed with disappears in the ensuing violence and a Third Reich fighter plane mysteriously writes her poetry in the sky overhead.

Cowboy Graves is an unexpected treasure from the vault of a master of contemporary fiction. These three fiercely original tales bear the signatures of Bolaño’s extraordinary body of work, echoing the strange characters and uncanny scenes of his great triumphs, while deepening our understanding of his profound gifts.

 


 

Praise For Cowboy Graves:

 

“suggestive . . . A primary element in the compound that keeps Bolañoites hooked is the voice: it hardly matters what it’s saying, or what the torrent of words ultimately amounts to, when it speaks so seductively.”
-Observer

“Bolaño’s brilliant oeuvre expands with another bright starburst, this one comprising three separate yet thematically connected novellas . . . Bolaño’s inimitable style and searing vision will appeal to fans and new readers alike.”
-Booklist

“All three texts offer something unique and at times fascinating . . . a rare opportunity for the reader to witness the creation of a seemingly inexhaustible body of work.”
-El País

“[Bolaño] opens up formal possibilities with sheer energy and a sense of improvisation, creating new designs for stories and novels through unexpected combinations and juxtapositions.”
—New York Review of Books

“Bolaño’s works have been a gateway drug to literature (and to literary life that embraces risks and adventures) to many young aspiring writers. The readers of his novels seem to learn, in a certain ineffable way, what’s in store for them in this life even before they experience it in reality: the impending adventures (both trivial and immense), the inevitable disappointments, the tenuous nature of human relationship, our yearnings and their tragically unfulfilled ends. Yet, we emerge no longer afraid of the transient nature of things. . . . His writing is global and encyclopedic, curative and addictive, and vibrant and visceral.”
—Los Angeles Review of Books

“The Savage Detectives may have made Bolaño’s name, but his posthumous publications—from the galactic 2666 to the winsome Spirit of Science Fiction—have cemented his legend. He left behind a vault to rival Prince’s Paisley Park. . . . The effect of Cowboy Graves is less the piecing together of a puzzle than the recentering of a whole, mythic world.”
—Garth Risk Hallberg, The New York Times Book Review

“Cowboy Graves contains writing completed over a period of 10 years, and features many of the touchstones Bolaño was known for: semi-autobiographical narration; a humorous, fragmentary style; and the sort of intrigue that grabs hold of you and never lets go, despite offering no easy answers.”
—Chicago Review of Books

“Companionable, exotic, witty and glamorously suggestive.”
—The Guardian


 

Review:

 

Cowboy Graves 

There is an I as in one telling in first person of his chaotic ambiguous disquieting nostalgia at times with one hell of a lived life presented in Cowboy Graves with the pervasive Arturo Belano the alter ego from The Savage Detectives by Robert Bolano.
He does tell, the sentence construction is not as poetic as I would have wanted, declarative sentences, but never a dull moment he tells on the various aspects of life, aspiring to be a poet in Mexico, ambitions, passions, family, violence and identity with the complexities and jigsaw of it all.

The real story of the three is the Cowboy Graves novella.
There are four parts to Cowboy Graves the first being

The Airport
He starts by recalling and talking of the past with this: 

“ My name is Arturo and the first time I saw an airport was in 1968. It was November or December, maybe the end of October. I was fifteen then and I didn’t know wether I was Chilean or Mexican and I didn’t care much either way. We were going to Mexico to live with my father.”

He goes on to talk about his mother called on the loudspeaker of the airport and lead away by Interpol at the airport. He is to move to Mexico but before he embarks the plane eventually not this first time but another time.

“My mother was Chilean and my father was Mexican and I was born in Chile and I had lived there all my life. Moving from our house in Chile to my father’s house may have terrified me more than I was prepared to admit. Also, I was leaving without having done a lot of the things I wanted to do. I tried to see Nicanor Parra before I left. I tried to make love with Monica Vargas.”

Monica Vargas:
“Monica was very thin, with long, straight hair and big breasted, and she played the flute.”

There is a Nicanor Segundo Parra Sandoval : (5 September 1914 – 23 January 2018) was a Chilean poet and physicist. (Wiki)

“My mother was a beautiful woman. She read a lot. When I was ten, I believed that she had read more than anyone else in our town, wherever that was, though actually she never had more than fifty books and what she really liked were astrology or fashion magazines. She bought books by mail, and I think that’s how Nicanor Parra’s Poems and Antipoems turned up at our house, or at least I can’t see any other way it could’ve gotten there. I guess whoever packed up the books fro my mother put it ion by mistake. At our house the only poet anybody ever read was Pablo Neruda, so I kept the Parra book for myself. My mother used to recite Neruda’s twenty love poems (before or after Mexican impersonations) and sometimes the three of use ended up crying and other times -only a few, I admit-the blood rose to my face and I yelled ands escaped out the window, felling sick and ready to vomit.”

“Monica said that she was going to loan me a book to read before we left. What book? I asked. Rilke, she said, Letters to a Young Poet. I remember that we looked at each other, or it seemed to me that we did-Monica actually had her eyes fixed on the hazy mass of Santiago-and I remeber that I felt as offended, as humiliated, as if she had refused me a cigarette. I realised that the Letters were her way of advising me not to write poetry; I reaIized that the Young Poet never wrote anything worthwhile, that at best he’d been killed in some duel or war; I realized that Monica might talk like Nicanor was her friend but she had no idea how to read him; I realized that Monica knew that aside from Nicanor Parra (Mr. Parra), I hadn’t read much in my life.”

The Grub

The grub appeared before in from Last Evenings on Earth.

Oh dear some behaviour in cinema in public some might find troublesome, must not be autobiographical. Lurking in cinemas watching Mexican movies, thieving a book from the Libreria de Cristal, his encounter with loved actress of his named Jacqueline Andere, befriending the Grub, and the many adventures of Arturo.

“On the first page of The Fall, Jacqueline write: “For Arturo Belano, a liberated student, with a kiss from Jacqueline Andere.” When I read it I couldn’t help laughing. Suddenly I wasn’t in the mood fro bookstores, long walks, reading, early shows(especially early shows).”

“I’ve been walking like almost soul on the lands of your grandfather, may he rest in peace, he said to me once.
We met each morning. Sometimes I tried to pretend I’d forgotten, maybe go back to my solitary walks, my morning movie sessions, but he was always there, sitting on a bench in the Alameda, very still, with the Bali hanging from his lips and his straw hat covering half his forehead (his grub’s forehead), Deep in the shelves of the Libreria de Cristal, I couldn’t help seeing him, watching him for a while, and finally going to sit down next to him.”

The ‘Libreria de Cristal’ did exist.

 

The Trip

“Dora Montes boarded the Donizetti with approximately twenty others passengers, myself among them.”

And he takes a trip, a voyage on the sea, with a few more personal histories, misadventures, and stories to be told by the passengers and a few close encounters.
There is Jesuit on board and he goes into detail retelling story he says is not finished a strange tale sci-fi styled with Ants UN America and war incoporated.

“The story was unfinished. I might expand it and turn it into a novel, I said to the Jesuit. The jesuit said nothing. Maybe he hadn’t liked the last part, about the Amazonian missionary.”

The Coup

An older Arturo Belano caught in a coup in Santiago with more adventure ahead.

“I wasn’t a Communist or a Socialist but it didn’t seem like the kind of day to be choosy about your comrades.”

“The mission, which had to be carried out in broad daylight, under curfew, and on a bicycle, was assigned to me. Then I realised that they all thought I was a foreigner (and therefore a seasoned activist) and I hurried to correct the misunderstanding. I told them that I was Chilean, that I had a different accent because I had just arrived from Mexico where I had been living for years, that I had no experience in situations like this, and I hardly knew Santiago.’

There was a coup in 1973 and this was part of his life and another example of telling from what he knows.
“The 1973 Chilean coup d’état was a military coup in Chile that deposed the Popular Unity government of President Salvador Allende.” Wiki.

 


 

French Comedy Of Horrors

 

Starts with a group artists poets and vivid scene of dancing and music …and then he returns home avoiding “gas station robberies a common occurrence”, mentions of the french town, birds, and the eclipse.
There be talk of revolutions and surrealists with stranger on end of phone with poet Diodorus Pilot. In a strange discussion he goes into extent telling of a meeting with five young men and Breton and forming the CSG. There is a real surrealist André Robert Breton, planted in this fictional tale.

 

 

“That day, if I’m not mistaken, was the day of the eclipse. We, the friends of Roger Bolamba, had settled down at the House of the Sun, a soda fountain that is, or was, at the curve of the seaside promenade along the stretch officially known as avenue Colonel Goffin. As we waited for the spectacle of the eclipse, we talked about poetry and politics, which was what we awakes talked about anyway. w had chosen a table next to the window overlooking the cliff, which wasn’t the best seat in the house, but wasn’t bad either.”

“On the other hand, the sun was gradually dimming until it went completely black. On the other hand, the well-dressed guy and the older woman were dancing a sombrilla, which sometimes seemed more like a resbalosa, or a chacona (because of the precision of the steps), or a galleada (because of the obscene moves), sining softly and watching the solar show without blinking. They looked like two people possessed, not in a violent way, but in resigned, bureaucratic way. The grill, oblivious to the eclipse, had eyes only for them, as if their highly predictable spins were the most interesting thing happening. I should also say that of all the people pressing their noses to the glass at the House of the Sun, it’s possible (although I may be presuming too much) that, other than the girl, I was only one watching what was happening inside as well as out.”

“What’s killing us, meanwhile, is the heat I summer and the cold in winter. And sometimes boredom, because we’re getting old, and boredom is on of the afflictions of old age. I’m going to tell you a story, Diodorus, listen up. At the end of the fifties or the beginning of the sixties, Andre Breton invited five young surrealists to his house. Four of these surrealists had just arrived in Paris. The fifth was a Parisian and something of an introvert.”

 


 

Fatherland

 

Fatherland has ambiguous small pieces, some truths of Bolano’s life, titles with strange names.
There is a woman that appears a few times a one Patricia Arancibia, many would love to have known but seems a fictional creation.

This passage that follows mention her:

“Her name was Patricia Arancibia and she was twenty-one. She lived outside of Nacimiento, town of potters, in a two-story house of stone and wood, at the top of a bald hill with sweeping views of the whole valley….At first sight, her house looked like the house from Psycho. Only the stairs and the views were different. From Patricia Arancibia’s house, the views were sweeping, rich, desolate. From Norman’s house, of course, all you could see was the old highway and the swamp.”

 



 

About Roberto Bolano:

Roberto Bolaño (1953-2003) was born in Santiago, Chile, and later lived in Mexico, Paris, and Spain. A poet and novelist, he has been acclaimed as “by far the most exciting writer to come from south of the Rio Grande in a long time” (The Los Angeles Times), and as “the real thing and the rarest” (Susan Sontag). Among his many prizes are the prestigious Herralde de Novela Award and the Premio Rómulo Gallegos. He is widely considered to be the greatest Latin American writer of his generation. His books include The Savage Detectives, 2666, By Night in Chile, Distant Star, Last Evenings on Earth, and The Romantic Dogs. 

Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 07 March 2021