Noah Enelow's Reviews > Distant Star

Distant Star by Roberto Bolaño
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's review
Dec 27, 2008

it was amazing

This is a great short novel. Bolaño writes with a kind of casual elegance that is both accessible and highly layered. The protagonist, a far-right-wing Air Force officer / poet named Carlos Wieder, is Bolaño's emblem of the violent contradictions of post-coup Chile of the 1970s, twisting quasi-Nietzschean notions of self-overcoming, a transcendent view of the individual over the social, and the purgative power of death (don't know if that's exactly Nietzschean, but it is definitely important to Wieder's ethos), into a kind of poetic psychopathy that is both darkly comic and genuinely horrifying.

Wieder remains a distant figure from the narrator and his leftist literary cohorts, who spend much of the novel piecing together whatever information they can on the elusive figure. It is almost as if all of their sublime literary ambitions, which had just begun to bud under Allende's socialism, become displaced onto a fascination with Wieder and his acrobatic, often lethal stunts.

There's much more to the story, but I leave it to you to discover the rest. The narrator and his friends, far from being marginal, are in fact superbly drawn characters. The novel offers a brief but powerful portrait of the bohemian ethos of leftist, literary Chile and its undoing at the hands of the military dictatorship.

This is the first Bolaño novel I've read, and I'm looking forward to the next.

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Noah Enelow Jason wrote: "I just bought Bolano's 2666 for my brother in law. I'm excited to get into this author. (How do you do the little squiggle over the n?)"

On a Mac, it's Option-n, followed by n.


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