22 August 07 | E.J. Van Lanen

To continue our wall-to-wall Bolaño coverage:

Vertigo, the blog that collects all things Sebald, points us to two new books about Sebald. We already talked about the first one, but the second one may be even more interesting. It’s called The Archimedean Author: Roberto Bolaño, W.G. Sebald, and Narrative After Borges and seeks to find points of comparison between the two authors.

There’s a sample of Jessie Ferguson’s book online (or it appears to be a sample anyway).

Sebald’s break with “straightforward conceptions of the novel” may be the more extreme case of the two: he writes in a superficially documentary style and includes photographs and other visual reproductions (e.g. of passports, journal entries, etc.) to both underscore and call into question the facticity of his subject matter. All of his novels deal to some extent with the destruction of the physical landscape by human and natural acts, and with the reflection and refraction of this pattern of destruction in the suffering and troubled memories of the human inhabitants of those landscapes (most of them in England, Germany, Switzerland, and other parts of Europe); thus a variety of complex relationships arise between the fragmented, documentaristic narrative and the themes of severed and fugitive memories and experiences.

Bolaño, on the other hand, is a writer consciously embedded in a “Latin American” literary tradition; his work frequently confronts the traumas of Latin American political experience during the second half of the twentieth century, in particular the fall of the socialist government of Salvador Allende in Chile and episodes of violence in Mexico (the series of unsolved murders in Ciudad Juárez, on the border with Texas, in the 1990s, or the police invasion of the Universidad Nacional in 1968 culminating in the Tlatelolco massacre). He is less concerned than Sebald with landscapes and physical documentation of history, but equally, if not more, concerned with literary texts and with the relationship between literary production and political responsibility, two preoccupations linked throughout the history of the postwar Latin American novel.

Thankfully we have access to a University library, or I’d probably be spending my lunch money on this one.


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