The Jackal, Bolano, and the Sadness of Big Deals

I’m disappointed in myself for not having found out about this during the Frankfurt Book Fair, but Wylie is making a major play for Bolano, which means that Scott Moyers can now claim that he created Bolano. (Before this Bolano was a little known writer published by some small press like New Visions or whatever, but we, Wylie, blew him up! All apologies—there’s something jarring about returning from Europe that can leave one a bit cynical.)

Anyway, here’s the story: First off on Sunday Adriana Lopez of Criticas reported that the rumor that Wylie was going to move to Spain and takeover Balcells (who represents a number of big name Spanish-language authors) is untrue.

According to the infamous literary agent Anrew Wylie, aka the Jackal, “It’s easier and more serious to do business in the Congo than it is in Spain.” Interviewed at the Frankfurt book fair last week for El Pais’ culture section, it was time he set the record straight for the sake of Spain’s publishing circuit’s sanity. [. . .] But he is going to take away the world’s current hottest deceased writer from the agency: Roberto Bolaño. The author’s wife Carolina contacted Wylie because Bolaño’s contract with the Balcells agency expires on November 4th of this year.

Wait, what? Congo > Spain?? . . . If I were an international author I’d jump to be represented by someone so culturally sensitive and understanding of the Spanish book market. The only thing I’ve found difficult in dealing with Spanish publishers is the fricking postal service, but it’s not like USPS is that much better. (If only Tristero . . .)

Anyway, the bigger news—for all the Bolano fans—is that a new manuscript has been found. According to The Guardian:

The Third Reich is said to have been written in the early 1990s before Bolaño began to work on a computer. The Wylie agency was touting the book at Frankfurt as “a type-written, completed novel that is meticulously corrected by hand”, according to Spain’s El Periodico.

Described as “a man’s descent into a nightmare”, the book features a German wargames champion who travels to the Costa Brava to take on an American opponent. He is pursued by a private detective while a friend disappears after encountering two sinister characters.

And supposedly, publishers from around the world are fighting over the rights to this title . . . I’m going to dream that Wylie has some integrity and will offer this to New Directions, who has/is publishing more Bolano than anyone else . . . Although I’m going to suspect that FSG or Random will get this in a battle of big vs. bigger offers. I cringe at the idea of this book being auction off in a crass, capitalistic fashion because of the groundwork ND and FSG did for his books here in the U.S.

It also strikes me that this is another time (see Sebald) that Wylie is late to the party, but seizes the literary world and makes a shitload of money off of a name built by others. (Again, apologies, cynicism, traveling for 18 hours, etc., etc.)

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