Bolaño forever in El País

El País has yet another article marveling at the excitement about Roberto Bolaño in the English speaking world. The author is primarily interested in whether the excitement is misplaced.

I have read that the North American success of Bolaño is due to his premature death and in fact have constructed a cursed legend partly false of someone politically persecuted, on the literary margin, and a heroin addict. I have read the the success of Bolaño is due to the way in a certain mode Bolaño was a North American author whose literary models are North American and whose prose works better in English than in Spanish. I have read that the North American success of Bolaño is because he found a great North American editor that has known how to use all these things to make Bolaño a great success in North America. I have many answers more, but all of them has produced an embarrassing sensation that these have been engineered not only to reduce the merit of Bolaño’s success, which at the end of these stories is unimportant, but to diminish the merit of Bolaño’s works, if they have any. I confess that I don’t understand them.

He leído que el éxito norteamericano de Bolaño se debe a su muerte prematura y al hecho de que se haya construido en torno a él una leyenda maldita y en parte falsa de perseguido político, marginado literario y adicto a la heroína. He leído que el éxito norteamericano de Bolaño se debe a que en cierto modo Bolaño era un escritor norteamericano, cuyos modelos literarios son norteamericanos y cuya prosa funciona mejor en inglés que en castellano. He leído que el éxito norteamericano de Bolaño se debe a que ha encontrado un gran editor norteamericano que ha sabido usar todas esas cosas para convertir a Bolaño en un gran éxito norteamericano. He leído muchas respuestas más, pero todas ellas me producen la embarazosa sensación de que han sido ingeniadas no sólo para rebajar el mérito del éxito de Bolaño, lo que a fin de cuentas no tendría ninguna importancia, sino para rebajar el mérito de la obra de Bolaño, lo que sí la tiene. Confieso que no alcanzo a entenderlas.

In the end he says it is due to the art of Bolaño that he is a success.

The reality is that Bolaño experienced during his life an absolute success. I want to say that the ghostly question is a mistaken question and the question that at first look seems correct also es a mistaken question. Every true writer knows that success and failure (or what tends to be called success and failure) are illusions: the test is that they obtain it, the great writers, the good writers, the average writers, the bad writers, and the terrible writers; or in other words: every true writer knows that what truely is a success and a failure. Cyril Connolly wrote that “the true mission of a writer is create a master work.” There are few writers who get to create one; in my opinion, Bloaño was one of them: he experienced the incomparable intensity of writing not just one master work but more than one. No one that I have known knows better that Bolaño in order to be a writer there is no greater success than to be able in your wildest dreams compare yourself to him.

Porque la realidad es que Bolaño conoció en vida un éxito absoluto. Quiero decir que la pregunta fantasmal es una pregunta equivocada y la pregunta que a primera vista parece acertada también es una pregunta equivocada. Todo escritor de verdad sabe que el éxito y el fracaso (o eso que suele llamarse éxito y fracaso) son espejismos: la prueba es que lo obtienen escritores buenísimos, escritores buenos, escritores regulares, escritores malos y escritores malísimos; o dicho de otro modo: todo escritor de verdad sabe lo que son de verdad el éxito y el fracaso. Cyril Connolly escribió que “la verdadera misión de un escritor es crear una obra maestra”. Hay poquísimos escritores que consiguen crearla; en mi opinión, Bolaño fue uno de ellos: experimentó la intensidad incomparable de escribir no una obra maestra sino más de una. Nadie que yo haya conocido sabía mejor que Bolaño que para un escritor no hay ningún éxito que pueda ni remotamente compararse a ése.

Perhaps only an author would say this, but there is some truth for non writers too.

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