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Roberto Bolaño and wild tourism

Roberto Bolaño is the antithesis of the writer-vividor Hemingway. There are no tracks in the places where he lived, there are no legends, no anecdotes, no love affairs or media binge. However, that world that details in his dying prose, that universe that seems unlikely is not impossible. It exists, is there and awakens in the reader an uncontrollable desire to seek in these places another more rogue, more instinctive and more wild life.

This article was born in full reading of Wild detectives, with the wild hypothesis that perhaps the second part of this book (called with the same title) was only a kind of makeup book. An endless list of places and times where his two characters: Arturo Belano (that indecipherable alter ego of Bolaño) and Ulises Lima roam for 20 eternal years. Both this part of the work and the tales of Killer whores, the spaces follow each other without glitter, able to overshadow and sublimate the plots without resorting to topics or natural hyperbole, only to subjective memories that magnify or mitigate the impact of the environment.

But there is much more. There is impossible love for Mexico, nostalgia for Chile, references to Paris, life in Catalonia, etc. Absolutely partial spaces where poets are amateurs and brave and are not afraid to get stained with ink, blood or semen. The detachment by many of these sites in their narratives is symptomatic that Bolaño it wasn't from anywhere, which starts with the advantage of not being accountable to anyone, only to their past. The one who best defines his relationship with the Planet is the author himself in the prologue of that work as personal and inexplicable as Antwerp is: "I felt at an equidistant distance from all the countries in the world."


We are facing the space par excellence where Roberto Bolaño's most ambitious works are developed. A country where he lived almost 10 years divided into two stages and to which he would never return. As Dunia Gras and Leonie Meyer-Krentler argue in The impossible trip, in Mexico with Roberto Bolaño This rejection of the return may be because he never left there and that is why it is the spatial framework of his most important works. It is a stark, violent but human Mexico, with tares, religions and other beliefs. He does not give up any of his many characters, or the thief or the police; neither the capricious landowner nor the maquiladora worker. His works, above all, speak of the desert, of the north of the country, far from paradises like the jungle of Chiapas or the beaches of the Caribbean. The moors of Sonora become more important than its infinite coast while the road becomes the central axis. Always the trip, always the escape.

That is why its Mexico is synonymous with roadside bars and breakfasts that are tributes to the egg and its endless possibilities for lunch. A good place to escape, as in Wild detectives, where the reader is transported from one place to another, discovering authentic characters, unintelligible poems and Stinky canteens where, however, you become comfortable. Sonora is nostalgic, as if each reader were the reincarnation of the poet García Madero.

The arid northern Mexico © Corbis


The capital of 'your' country comes to rise as the culprit of everything, responsible for you, reader, be before this article. There Roberto Bolaño studied, fell in love and, above all, launched himself into the adventure of poetry, openly participating in all kinds of current and leading the resurgence of Infrarrealism with his friend Mario Santiago Paspaquiaro (who would become Ulises Lima) . It is not the Mexico of the squares with arcades or the luxury with woodworm of the post-Olympic years. It is the D.F. student, the one that takes place between Bucareli and UNAM, where young intellectuals apprentices have no problem alternating, flirting with soft drugs and lying with prostitutes and waitresses. Where posturing does not exist or good forms lead somewhere.

In the intense succession of streets in Bolaño's stories (he names them all, one by one), intellectual currents do not stop being born and die, as if it were Paris in the early twentieth century, but without so much myth or paraphernalia. The reader ends up wanting to spend the afternoon in bars like the Veracruzana Crossroads, taking some synchronized and ingesting tequila or mezcal without rest next to the Font de Wild detectives or next to the Lacouture Aid of Amulet. You even imagine dictating invented poems without fear of not living up to it because, simply, you have to be. And always under the threat of a latent violence that does not oppress, but emboldens and debases.

Anatomy of Mexico City © Corbis


The Saint Teresa of 2666 It does not exist in reality, but it is not difficult to guess that it is Ciudad Juárez. The border city is the territory of survival, the stark reflection of the constant threat of death and absence. Bolaño does not deny his obvious tragic side. In fact, he dedicates a full part of this novel to the massacre that is committed day after day against his women. Everything happens in the shadow of the maquiladoras and with the complicit silence of the desert, which becomes a great grave. Here nobody knows anything.

But it is also claimed as a city that should overcome the scourge, with boxing matches and evening evenings. With mean-looking gringo tourists, journalists with too much smell and police officers with good intentions. While it does not become the ideal destination for a family trip, it seems like the ideal place to go on a pilgrimage when everything in life runs out and only a city that lacks time to put its identity in order can become a lifesaver, a spur.

Ciudad Juarez: Truculent violence © Corbis


Despite being born in Santiago, Chile, Bolaño treats his native country with an objectivity that becomes vehement. Because it has material for the opposite. Both in Distant star like in Chile Night He speaks bluntly about Pinochet's coup, telling in the first how his adolescence is diluted and how the monsters are born and arriving in the second to create a character who teaches Marxism to the dictator himself.

Chile is presented with two faces, with the descriptive one, that of the first bars of both novels, where there is life in cities such as Santiago or Concepción, fertility in the fields and ingredients to create a new Chilean culture. Then he turns into a country rejected by the author, absolutely militarized and violent, a faithful reflection of that spirit that he felt when he realized that he could do nothing in front of the coup plotters and his way of making a State (he became imprisoned). These two faces leave the reader a aseptic feeling, heartless, hopeless. As if the country deserved a punishment for not having been able to react but in which there remained people for whom it is worth returning.


When Roberto Bolaño centers his novels away from the places where he has lived, from the indelible autobiographical marks in his works, what remains is a random succession of the most diverse spaces. Yes, there is enough of the Paris of immigrants, a bit of London, Turin, Vienna or Berlin, but they are always silent and almost anecdotal scenarios. However, the rest of the corners of the world gain vital importance in their stories.

As if he didn't want to get wet or didn't want to play it, Bolaño makes the reader travel to unexpected and surprising places like the caves of the Roussillon coast in France, the seabed of the North Sea, African cities like Monrovia and Luanda, the dungeons of Beersheba in Israel or even an abandoned sovjós in Kostekino, on the banks of the Dnieper in Ukraine. They are absolutely unusual, strange spaces, as if they had emerged from the accounts of the bars of the bars of any port city. But extraordinarily described, with a crudeness that honors him as a writer, without falling into easy postcard descriptions. They are effective and wild, where Humanity is about to be and not worth it. Only those characters taken from an extensive anecdote transmit the conclusion to the reader: places do not make men, they only sustain them. A conclusion that Bolaño exemplifies with his life.


Catalonia was the destination Roberto Bolaño arrived after leaving Mexico. Barcelona continues to sigh for him with an extensive exhibition at the CCCB although in his works he treats it as a dwelling where he lived and that appears circumstantially in the narrative when he acquires prominence. As if it were a sweet casual condemnation against which not to rebel. Only in Antwerp, the road from Casteldefells to Barcelona acquires a notable prominence, although more like a kamikaze essay prior to The Wild Detectives. Contrary to what happens with Mexico, it does not make its places of reading and fun as the Central Bar, the studio where he lived on Tallers Street, or the Parisienne farm a fundamental space in his works, as if he had burned all these resources with Mexican nostalgia.

The same happens Girona or Blanes. The latter houses the end of Distant Star without sorrow or glory, as if he had chosen this place out of sheer laziness, unable to find a better place. But in Spain that space-surprise reappears as is the madhouse of Mondragon. In full development of the part of Amalfitano in 2666Bolaño takes Lola's story out of her sleeve and her passion for an eccentric poet in this psychiatric hospital. Again an unusual place, an inhospitable space that becomes an accomplice of the wonderful (and under-realistic) anarchy with which Bolaño handles the reader at will.

There are also remnants of Madrid in 2666 or in Wild detectives, always presenting it with a certain superficiality, narrating the adventures by Malasaña of the critic Espinoza or the sunny days of the Book Fair.

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