Ernest Hemingway once said that a good story was like an iceberg; what is visible is always smaller than the part that remains hidden beneath the water, which confers intensity, mystery, power and meaning on what floats on the surface. This is certainly true of the fourteen stories here, the first collection by the universally acclaimed Chilean author to be published in English. Imbued with 'the melancholy folklore of exile', as Roberto Bolano once put it, and set largely in the world of the Chilean diaspora in Central America and Europe, the narrators of these stories are usually writers grappling with private quests (Bolano's beloved 'failed generation'), who typically speak in the first person, as if giving a deposition, like witnesses to a crime. They are characters living in the margins, on the edge, in constant flight from nightmarish threats. In 'Sensini' an elderly South American writer instructs another younger writer, also living in exile, in the subterfuges of entering work for provincial literary prizes. The title story tells of a journey to Acapulco that gradually becomes a descent into the underworld.
'Dance Card' provides the reader with sixty-nine reasons not to dance with Pablo Neruda. And the story 'Mauricio ("The Eye") Silva' opens with the following sentence: 'Mauricio Silva, also known as The Eye, always tried to avoid violence, even at the risk of being considered a coward, but violence, real violence, is unavoidable, at least for those of us who were born in Latin America during the fifties and were about twenty years old at the time of Salvador Allende's death.'
Author bio. Roberto Bolano was born in Santiago, Chile, in 1953. He moved with his family to Mexico City in 1968, but returned to Chile in 1973, a month before General Pinochet seized power, when he was arrested. After his release he went back to Mexico before travelling to Europe and finally settling in Catalonia. He wrote ten novels, including Distant Star and By Night in Chile (both published by The Harvill Press), as well as his two prize-winning works The Wild Detectives and 2666. He died aged only fifty in 2003. Translator's bio Chris Andrews was born in Newcastle, Australia, in 1962. He teaches in the department of French, Italian and Spanish Studies of the University of Melbourne. His translation of Roberto Bolano's Distant Star in 2005 won the prestigious Valle-Inclan Prize.