Novelist and Poet Roberto Bolaño in n+1

Roberto Bolaño, a Spanish author (Chilean, Mexican – the Spanish language seems to be the best description of his nationality) died in 2003, but has lately received a lot of attenion for the posthumously published 2666. Including this article in the muy hip magazine n+1. I’ve read very little of Bolaño, although this article makes me want to read more. But it isn’t necessary to have read Bolaño for these sentences from the article to ring a bell:

Considered simply as a job, writing is erratically paid but with flexible hours: potentially not so bad, especially with the hedge funds laying everybody off. But as a vocation? Look around, and all you see is literature and publishing faltering in tandem. People read less and less; worse yet, they’re right to. It’s clear that, besides the occasional small or large check, most writers—ourselves included—write out of vanity and compulsion. One believes in being a writer more, it seems, than in writing. What is it, again, you once had to say? And who, supposedly, wanted to hear it?



  1. I think he’d best be described as a ‘Latin American’ writer, wouldn’t he?

  2. Matthew Lickona says

    Poor sad hipsters. Actually, no, n+1, I don’t believe in being a writer more than in writing. I know what I have to say. It may well be that no one wants to hear it, but lit culture ain’t why I do what I do. Bottoms up!

  3. Quin Finnegan says

    Thanks, Matthew – that’s a helpful comment I didn’t know I needed to read.

    Considered again, “One believes in being a writer more, it seems, than in writing” doesn’t make much sense, except perhaps as a way for writers to finger themselves for writing out of vanity and compulsion.

    Do people really read less and less? Maybe they don’t read Paris Review and The New York Review of Books so much, but they’re evidently reading n+1.

    Perhaps literature and publishing aren’t faltering in tandem quite so much either – I still read literature old and new (right now I’m going back and forth between Voltaire and Vinge) – and even if I find it next to impossible to get my own stuff published, there’s always the blog.

    I think there’s good and bad in lit culture – culture in general always seems to be a mixed bag. There’s often something fishy about The New York Review of Books (and perhaps n+1), but then where would we be without the lit culture of New Criterion and First Things? Blog-wise, Godsbody, Mark Shea, Theocoid and many others make for constellations I’m more than happy to watch, and even travel by.

    Thanks for reading and writing.

  4. Quin Finnegan says

    Anonymous – that “Latin American” is a suit off the rack that doesn’t quite fit was actually the point that I didn’t really make in the post. Bolaño ended up in Spain, and his restless itinerary suggests that he wasn’t comfortable with any particular nationality. But as I said, I don’t really know that much about him – except that I’d like to know more.

  5. Matthew Lickona says

    I hope I didn’t sound too grumpy – but n+1 is calling out folks who became writers because it was cool to be a writer – hipster MFA types for whom entrance into the NYC literary scene is the reason one strives to find publication. Fie on ’em. New York is where the books get published; that absolutely does not mean it’s where the writers should live. Insularity sets in, literature as parlor game, postmodern textual hijinks, etc. To hell with it. Writing should enlarge one’s world. Thanks for reading and writing to you as well!

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