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Last Evenings on Earth

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  3,517 ratings  ·  362 reviews
"The melancholy folklore of exile," as Roberto Bolano once put it, pervades these fourteen haunting stories. Bolano's narrators are usually writers grappling with private (and generally unlucky) quests, who typically speak in the first person, as if giving a deposition, like witnesses to a crime. These protagonists tend to take detours and to narrate unresolved efforts. Th ...more
Paperback, 219 pages
Published April 30th 2007 by New Directions (first published May 1st 2006)
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4.11  · 
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 ·  3,517 ratings  ·  362 reviews

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We never stop reading, although every book comes to an end, just as we never stop living, although death is certain.

Roberto Bolaño *sigh*

I’m always at loss of words whenever I try to explain how Bolaño’s writing makes me feel and most of the times I only manage to come up with clichés like I’m at loss of words. I read him for purely selfish purpose, whenever I just want to get lost in some unfamiliar land of story-telling by my imaginary friend ‘B’, B for Bo-la-ño.

Last Evenings on Earth is a
Steven Godin
I still have vivid memories of reading 'The savage Detectives' well over a year ago, in which I thought the first half had masterpiece status written all over it, featuring one of the best openings I have ever read, only to be let down by a second half which seemed to drive into a fog and never get anywhere. Style over substance, Bolaño showing off, to a degree. The longer the novel dragged on, the more distance came between me and the characters, reaching a point where I just didn't care anymor ...more
Jun 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"I prefer not to say anything, she wrote, there’s no point adding to the pain, or adding our own little mysteries to it. As if the pain itself were not enough of a mystery, as if the pain were not the (mysterious) answer to all mysteries."-Anne Moore’s Life


The short story is the perfect form for Bolaño’s talents, his two big novels being composed essentially of chained bursts of prose that might stand as stories on their own. He is the master of the resonant scene, the character who fades from
Hola señor. We meet again. I see you’ve cleaned up your act this time. I’m not going to lie, I missed the filth a bit in this one, but you’ve got enough grit to go around so I won’t fault you for it. Sigh.

Oh señor, why are all the good ones dead?

Bolaño gives us a glimpse into the life of the struggling artist with this collection of stories. Brilliantly, of course. “A poet can endure anything. Which amounts to saying that a human being can endure anything. But that’s not true: there are obvious
Nidhi Singh
Jul 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I am in love with Bolano. I don't think I have come across anything as ingenious as Bolano’s Last Evenings on Earth, for quite some time. A collection of 14 short stories that mostly tell the tales of amateur authors, wandering lives, forgettable love episodes, randomly struck friendships. The narrative, in most stories, is infused with biographies of good writers, bad writers, failed writers, forgotten writers. Writing becomes a quest, an obsession, a life-force, a life-history. Something that ...more
Apr 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
1) viva susan sontag! bolaño is the 'it' writer of the moment - and my rebellious, contrarian, and bratty self wanted to hate him. or just not read him. then i caught sontag's seal of approval and knew i hadda dive head-first into the 'ol zeitgeist. lucky me.

2) these tales aren't about all that much, but, holyshit brother!, is there all that much there. most of 'em owe a debt to borges in their ultra-obsession with books, writers, & reading; a few actually follow the master's game of tracki
Dec 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
bolano is just flat out one of the best writers of the last fifty years. these stories compare to the nick adams stories except with strange hallucinogenic thoughts that course through the protagonist's brain. the stories follow b, who is most definitely arturo belano, bolano's alter ego who also shows up in "the savage detectives". the stories find him in spain, france, belgium, and mexico, landing in odd places for odd reasons, always with a desire to read and an inability to sleep. the storie ...more
Jul 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, fiction
Oh the melancholy. The longing. The detachment. The beautiful sorrow. Bolaño speaks my language. And it's all a dream and it's all slightly out of focus. And it's wonderful.
Jun 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
I don't care if Brazil beat the pants off of Chile today. The Chilean people are still winners to me!

Today I was thinking about the countries (damn them) who're still in the World Cup right now, and I realized I can't think of any Brazilian writers. The only Brazilian on my bookshelf is Paolo Friere, but he isn't a novelist.... I can't even name a single Uruguayan writer. Argentina of course has got some famous players, and is therefore an exception, but in general I think there's a trend of the
Last Evenings on Earth was my first encounter with Bolaño's writing. Like many short story collections, there were some that were just "meh" and others that were gripping and engaging. Overall, the stories were good and I'm encouraged to read more of his work.

Bolaño reminds me a bit of Borges. The stories are peculiar and tend to take place among fellow writers, artists, and thinkers. But with Borges, the sensibility is more 19th century scholarly with many deep thoughts and layered philosophies
A collection of stories, mostly about writers. What comes through for me most is a sense of separation and disconnectedness, though the effect is muted. The writing is subtle and intimate, yet somehow detached. It was perhaps this detachment that isolated me from the characters, and the subtlety which robbed the stories of impact. For the most part, I did not connect with them deeply.
Ned Rifle
Oct 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On Bolano in general

In the endless search for genuinely palatable vaguely contemporary literature, Bolano is an almost wholly nourishing find. My first exposure was 2666, which failed to fully convince until I began to talk about it, upon which discussion I realised that my quibbles pointed to their own solution. My main problem had been the rather too neat, for my tastes, ending of the first part on the one hand; on the other was the emptiness left from the lack of resolution elsewhere - not a
Tanuj Solanki
Jun 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Bolano at his best.

And Bolano at his best is a transvaluation of literature - here he achieves the rendering of a new aesthetic to the short story.

If the complaint is that nothing happens, ever, then nothing has been read closely enough. There is a lot that happens, there abound whirlpools of terror in the most mundane trivialities. And the way some of the stories connect to the larger Bolano narrative, one of 'The Savage Detectives' and 'Amulet,' is a delight in itself.

One doesn't just love
Jim Coughenour
Jul 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bleakfiction
Last Evenings on Earth was the first book I read by the late Roberto Bolaño, and it's still my favorite. (I really liked Distant Star, and I've started but not finished Amulet, By Night in Chile, and The Savage Detectives). Unlike those novels, Last Evenings is a collection of short stories.

For me, Bolaño's writing triggers some kind of endorphin. Reading him jazzes me up, has me floating a few inches above where I'm sitting — there's some kind of alchemy in his sentences that comes through even
Nov 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
when he died in 2003, at the age of fifty, roberto bolaño was all but unknown anywhere north of the rio grande, yet is now acclaimed internationally and considered amongst the most eminent figures in latin american letters. chilean by birth, but living in exile throughout much of his life, bolaño had always been a dedicated writer, yet began publishing with increasing fervor in the mid-1990's. like much of his work, including the incomparable epic the savage detectives, last evenings on earth is ...more
Sep 15, 2007 rated it liked it
(See also my comments on Bolaño's Distant Star.)

Well, I don't know. I understand that Bolaño is considered one of the finest modern writers (that is, of the last quarter-century); Susan Sontag told us so. And I can see why: he's very smart, very literary, very inventive, and he does grapple with the big issues--in this case, the Pinochet years in Chile. He's also got a sly, subtle sense of humor that gets under your skin. And yet this book left me unsatisfied.

Bolaño is one of the newer writers--
Aug 09, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Well this doesn't bode well for "2066" or "The Savage Detectives" unless someone tells me that this collection of short stories is very different from these two novels...
No one is more crushingly disappointed than me after reading my first book by Roberto Bolano this weekend.
I found this collection to be nothing but a vast, arid and lifeless desert without a single miraculous oasis to redeem it. The more I tried to get into these stories, the more alienated I felt. I found the style strikingly o
Oct 22, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: micromelancholy afficionados
Recommended to lisa_emily by: Gradylove
Shelves: tales
There are many reviews already, but I will put my small cents forth. This is my first Bolano book although I have read many reviews of his work and a few stories about his life. Gradylove swears by "The Savage Detectives" and a few adherents to the Bolano cult, it is a book that is definitely on my "to read" list. I had read the title story in the New Yorker, so I was prepared to take on this short story collection.

Bolano had called this collection the "melancholy folklore of exile" which is an
Oct 26, 2009 rated it liked it
N picked up a collection of short stories. They were by this Chilean dude. Exotic, that. So he read a few – or so he thought. He wasn’t sure. Was he missing something? Falling asleep without realizing it and reading the same page over and over again? He started anew. He owed it to this writer, Roberto Bolano, because he was a posthumous hero of sorts in contemporary lit. Hell, book groups were even tackling this 3-gazillion page book he wrote called 2666 (the year most participants are expected ...more
Nov 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
When reading short stories, I like the characters I'm reading about to be the people you see in the background of movies, or in the shadows of buildings when you're on a walk. They're just regular people, but are often ignored because they're not central to a plot, either visually, thematically, or personally.

Bolano's short stories in this collection bring those folks out into their own light. More appropriately, perhaps, is that Bolano actually takes you, the reader, into their shadows. These a
Mar 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2009
With still one story to go, I'll go out on a very sturdy limb and call this my favorite of Bolano's works that I've read to date. (While admitting that I have yet to take on 2666 - thankfully, perhaps, since the last section has been found(?).) I enjoyed the Savage Detectives and read it at the right time while traveling around Honduras and the Mosquito Coast, but it lost some of its narrative force about 1/3 of the way in. It is a sprawling novel, the kind that an author has to be unafraid to w ...more
May 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It's been a few years since I've read any Bolano (2666 left me scarred), so I figured it was time to plunge back in. The ominous, aimlessly wandering world of bohemians and Latin American exiles he renders so perfectly in his novels works just as well in short form.

The sense of deferred violence he creates so well; of some catastrophe that is just beyond reach but still palpably there, infuses almost everything here. Whether it's a philandering father looking for trouble in Acapulco, or a man r
Ben Loory
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
really loved how fast-moving and no-nonsense these stories were. the sheer amount of happenings per page was astronomical and even though the stories all ended up feeling pretty much the same and i can't say i even remember any of them very clearly, i ate the whole book up like a bag of free candy and was immediately jonesing for more.
Jul 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommended stories: "Sensini", title story, "Dentist"

I'm going to try once more and a little harder to get at why I think he's great, though I know it's not exactly a minority opinion these days.

Take Borges, the reason you probably love him, if you do-- that he continuously tries to speak to the reason you're reading a book, his book or any book, the searching for another part of the self through the labyrinth of culture. Borges gets at it most successfully through metafictional tricks and myth
Mar 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
'The little world of letters is terrible as well as ridiculous.'

What we know about the tremendous gifts of Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño (April 28, 1953 - July 15, 2003) is in many ways due to the excellent translations by Chris Andrews. Andrews began translating Bolaño into English before the word understood the importance of this much mourned novelist and poet. This particular work LAST EVENINGS ON EARTH is a series of short stories that are delivered in conversational style (the narrator is
Tom Lichtenberg
Translation is always interesting. The stories in this book come from other collections called, in Spanish, "Assassin Whores" and "Telephone Calls". I might have called it "Stories About Friends I Didn't Particularly Like" or "Poets and Whores", after the prominence of those several types throughout the book. These friends are often mysterious, coming and going intermittently throughout the narrator's life, gifting him with stories from their lives. Quite often these tales are tremendously compe ...more
Nov 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
There is more than a little Hemingway in these stories, the Hemingway of the Sun Also Rises, esp in Last Evenings on Earth. There is magnificent writing in this book. And a magnificent heart.
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
1.Doom on display. 2.Something always lurking in the shadows or just outside the periphery. 3. Is it waiting for the narrator, or other characters? 4. It slinks like an alley-cat from the dumpster to underneath the fence. 5. It hides, but it is still watching. 6. Is it waiting for you?
Jan 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
I feel like Bolano is getting his posthumous "it author" moment right now. Beyond his really annoying habit of naming characters with letters like "B" and "U" (please don't do this authors, it kills my ability to suspend disbelief), this short story collection by the Chilean confirms his place as a person worth reading.

The reason I ordered this was because a buddy of mine, whom I will call G, told me that Bolano decided, late in life, having been diagnosed with a terminal illness, to turn from
Apr 07, 2010 rated it liked it
It kinda bums me out to only give this one three stars because I love everything else I've read by Bolano (though I've only gotten around to reviewing one). This collection of earlier short stories is fairly pedestrian by his standards though. The style is extremely dry and didactic, with many of the stories relying on a "____ did this. Then ____ did another thing in response. _____ felt sad" sort of feel. Far more telling than showing, which is a criticism based on my personal taste, but noneth ...more
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For most of his early adulthood, Bolaño was a vagabond, living at one time or another in Chile, Mexico, El Salvador, France and Spain.

Bolaño moved to Europe in 1977, and finally made his way to Spain, where he married and settled on the Mediterranean coast near Barcelona, working as a dishwasher, a campground custodian, bellhop and garbage collector — working during the day and writing at night.

“We never stop reading, although every book comes to an end, just as we never stop living, although death is certain” 105 likes
“That's what art is, he said, the story of a life in all its particularity. It's the only thing that really is particular and personal. It's the expression and, at the same time, the fabric of the particular. And what do you mean by the fabric of the particular? I asked, supposing he would answer: Art. I was also thinking, indulgently, that we were pretty drunk already and that it was time to go home. But my friend said: What I mean is the secret story.... The secret story is the one we'll never know, although we're living it from day to day, thinking we're alive, thinking we've got it all under control and the stuff we overlook doesn't matter. But every damn thing matters! It's just that we don't realize. We tell ourselves that art runs on one track and life, our lives, on another, we don't even realize that's a lie.” 22 likes
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