5 June 08 | Chad W. Post

The second issue of the very impressive web magazine Triple Canopy recently went live and features the first English translation of Roberto Bolano’s Caracas Speech, which he gave a few years before his death upon receiving the Rómulo Gallegos prize for The Savage Detectives.

It’s an interesting speech that’s very Bolano-ian, starting with a bit about his dyslexic difficulties with right and left (he kicked with his left foot playing futbol, but wrote with his right hand which gave him troubles) before extending this to his difficulty keeping the capitals of Venezuela and Colombia straight:

And with Venezuela I had, more or less around the same time—meaning until yesterday—a similar problem. The problem was its capital. For me, the most logical thing was for the capital of Venezuela to be Bogotá. And the capital of Colombia, Caracas. Why? Well, by a verbal logic, or a logic of letters. The v in Venezuela is similar, not to say related, to the b in Bogotá. And the c in Colombia is first cousin to the c in Caracas. This seems insubstantial, and it probably is, but for me it constituted a problem of the first order when, on a certain occasion, in Mexico, during a conference about the urban poets of Colombia, I showed up to talk about the potency of the poets of Caracas, and the people—people just as kind and educated as yourselves—remained silent, waiting for me to move beyond the digression about the poets from Caracas and start talking about the ones from Bogotá, but what I did was keep talking about the ones from Caracas, about their aesthetic of destruction. I even compared them to the Italian Futurists—differences notwithstanding, of course—and to the first Lettrists, the group founded by Isidore Isou and Maurice Lemaître, the group out of which the germ of Guy Debord’s Situationism would be born, and the people at this point began to conjecture. I think they must have thought that the poets from Bogotá had made a mass migration to Caracas, or that the poets from Caracas had played a defining role in the new group of poets from Bogotá, and when I finished the talk, abruptly, as I liked to finish any talk those days, the people stood up,applauded timidly, and ran off to consult the poster at the entrance. And as I was leaving, accompanied by the Mexican poet Mario Santiago, who always went around with me and who had surely noticed my mistake, though he didn’t say anything, because for Mario mistakes and errors and equivocations are like Baudelaire’s clouds drifting across the sky, that is to say something to look at but never to correct—on our way out, as I was saying, we ran into an old Venezuelan poet (and when I say “old,” I remember the moment and realize that the Venezuelan poet was probably younger than I am now), who told us with tears in his eyes that there must have been some kind of mistake, that he had never heard a single word about these mysterious poets from Caracas.

In addition to this piece, the other parts of Triple Canopy #2 sound great as well, especially the letter from Bosnia and the forthcoming “Only Connect” with Ed Park and Rachel Aviv.


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