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Articles tagged "Americas"

Natasha Wimmer on Roberto Bolaño’s “2666”

This essay was originally featured in the brochure for Natasha Wimmer and Francisco Goldman's December 4, 2008 discussion of Roberto Bolaño's 2666, held at the Idlewild bookstore in New York City. Francisco Goldman's essay can be found here—Editors I'm often asked what challenges I faced in translating 2666. I should say first of all that, despite appearances, 2666 was not impossibly hard to translate. In many ways, it was easier than The Savage Detectives;...

Francisco Goldman on Roberto Bolaño’s “2666”

This essay was originally featured in the accompanying booklet to Francisco Goldman and Natasha Wimmer's December 4, 2008 discussion of Roberto Bolaño's 2666, held at the Idlewild bookstore in New York City. Natasha Wimmer's essay can be found here—Editors The first Roberto Bolaño novel I read was Estrella Distante. It was Aura's copy and we were at the beach in Mazunte, and I read it pretty much in one sitting, with a few breaks to go in the water....


Little spider, greet the sun. Don't be down. Give thanks, dear toad, that you are here. The hairy crabs, like roses, all have thorns, and mollusks are reminiscences of women. Know how to be what you are: enigmas that have taken form. Leave responsibilities to the Norm, who will in turn send them on to Heaven. (Sing, cricket: the moon is lit. And, bear, go ahead and dance.) Translation of "Filosofia." Translation copyright 2008 by Gabriel Gudding. All rights reserved.


Twelve knots are losing patience around the eyebrows of the year to come. No one knows if he will live until December 31. It's barely August. But the brown light of March feels like intensely running late. October better get a grip. Wednesday was drowned in the scrapings of December, but it's rumba Saturday with Brazilian music. When will it begin to happen, the long-awaited, incessant loosening of knots? Somebody or other is asking himself while time goes by,...

The Man Who Killed the Writer

First things first: I didn't write the book everyone thinks I wrote, the one that has been showering me with fame and riches since its publication, just over one year go. Although many people might find that strange—while others might say, I knew it, he never fooled me—the work was entirely finished when I found it, scattered in scrawls all over the walls of an apartment just like my own: all I did was edit it. They Kill Writers, Don't They? was written by a fellow...

The Many Masks of Max Mirebelais

Roberto Bolaño's Nazi Literature in the Americas presents itself as a biographical dictionary of American writers who flirted with or espoused extreme right-wing ideologies in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It is a tour de force of black humor and imaginary erudition. The novel is composed of short biographies, including descriptions of the writers' works. All of the writers are imaginary, although they are all carefully and credibly situated in real literary...

Song of Seeing

Having lived many years in the scrub grass in the way of birds The boy took on a bird's kind of stare— He obtained a fountainesque vision. He observed things the way birds observed them. All the unnamed things. Water wasn't the word water yet. Rock not the word rock. They just were. Words were free of grammar and could inhabit any position. So it was the boy could inaugurate them as he pleased. He could give rocks the costumes of the sun. He could give song the...

The 2007 Book Clubs are Here!

2007 Words Without Borders/Reading the World BOOK CLUBS ARE HERE ALL ARE INVITED TO READ, COMMENT, AND PARTICIPATE RTW BOOK CLUBS 2007 LINEUP: JANUARY and FEBRUARY James Marcus and Cynthia Haven, Collected Poems by Zbigniew Herbert (tr. Alissa Valles) James Marcus introduces Zbigniew Herbert Cynthia Haven interviews Peter Dale Scott Peter Dale Scott talks about translating Herbert's "Pebble" with Czesław Miłosz Anna Frajlich discusses human...

Ars Poetica

Poetry Forgive me for having helped you see you are not made of words alone.

Quasi Sonnet

There is nothing that leads to nothing. Even to sit in a room, quiet and nude as Blaise Pascal, will have some effect on Tanzania maybe, or on New Guinea, just as the beating wings of a lepidopter-- according to the proverb about butterflies in Peru-- could incite a tidal wave in Shanghai, or knock down an Iraqi helicopter. And so we become ourselves, hypocrite lecteur, at the very least accomplices, you and I.

The Bonsai’s Boast

I, you mindless fools, am a pint-sized giant. Time passes me by, distance can't touch me, my breast is pure coral. All I need is water and thirst to decode the book of life. True greatness is in detail. For the author's "Spying," please click here.

Spying on You

Well, I want you, at last, with no more shackles. On the table, I stroke the shields of silence I once wore. I break a rule (now, don't tell), spy on you and am amused (don't say it), to see you smile (don't hold back). You're flustered (right?).


To kiss you at the foot of every streetlamp on every corner of every city in every language with kisses of melon, orange and rain and light of noon in my gaze as if nothing but mistletoe ran in our blood... that's what I wish for. For the author's "Bonsai's Boast," please click here.

In the Shade of the Almond Tree

Author's Note: Two major obstacles to happiness remain constant throughout the history of Haitian society: social and economic injustice, and totalitarian tendencies. Poverty can be as cruel as dictatorship in its effect on the individual. When the two join forces against the human spirit, the choices are limited: violence and madness, hopelessness and revolt. Because even in the depths of madness, revolt can lie dormant, only to erupt, savagely and uncontrollably, against those who...

Selections from Our Archives

Of special concern to Borges aficionados, Alberto Manguel deciphers his detective fictions and Alain Mallard has an epiphany about him by means of oneiric word games. Whereas Cecila Vicuña charts the linguistic theory of infinity that influenced Borges, Witold Gombrowicz criticizes his fantastic metaphysics. Finally, in an interview, Eloy Urroz proposes that the vow of Latin American writers is to become the next Borges.

Counted Threads

She knew she had the threads counted, oriented from top to bottom, with precision slanting. Some mutilated, already frayed, even to the edge stooped and sightless in her rocker my grandmother would say, tearing them out with her fingernails one by one, the threads in her hem. "I count the hours like days so now the edge will be complete, no more left for me." Her days slowed toward stasis when she wasn't fingering them. Thread of divinity, devil or desperation passing...


Threads that are worn through, idle affairs. The sky is an ungrateful fabric and the clouds make darts in the cotton. That's how I see it that's how. It wrinkles a little more, the forehead, to see the evil showing through the tissue's color. Then over that withered other, until it covers the curled feet alongside a rotted frame. I don't want to see the feet, my beautiful feet under the needle's guide, biting out a little house an afternoon of how beautiful I...

Mist: In the capital city

Betrayal of the thread that appears and disappears when the disciple is prepared to set out. Today that’s the mist we see burning over the city. Mist of lime, powdery, (on its particular day) it will lead you to discover faith. A sufficient quantity of leaves to dry in the seawater of the purple bay. How long did I contemplate the line dividing the branch from the water. So many that I fell, fell again into vicious circles speaking lies. “To err, to err,”...

Editor’s Note

Invited to guest edit an anthology of Mexican fiction, initial enthusiasm soon gave way to ennui: twelve or so spots to fill, and twenty-five or so obligatory and obvious names comprised my first list. What's the fun of doing the anthology if you can't do the unexpected and make room for some surprise choices and, hopefully, introduce some exciting young writers who few in this country, and even Mexico, have encountered before? Simply to whittle the field down, I decided not to...

Captain of the Sleepers by Mayra Montero

In chapters that alternate between past and present, this slip of a novel recounts the pain of a child witnessing his parents' infidelities. J.T. Bunker is the "Captain of the Sleepers," a small-time pilot who falls in love with the narrator's mother and begins transporting cadavers, or "sleepers" as the narrator calls them, from mainland Puerto Rico to Vieques-they want to be buried at home--as a reason to see her. The tale unfolds in a series of monologues by the sixty-year-old...

The Flesh and the Bones

My plane wasn't leaving till the next day. For the first time, I regretted not having a picture of my mother with me, but I'd always thought it idiotic to go around with family pictures in your pocket, especially of your mother. I didn't mind spending two more days wandering the streets of that vast, dirty, polluted anthill full of strange people. It was better than walking around a small city with pure air and bumpkins who say hello when they cross paths with you. I'd...

The Paths

Note: This poem was originally written in Mazateco. All paths arrive at the only road that exists. In the darkness only mystery is transparent. No one answers, silence too is a way to scream, and I go screaming. Originally published in Nuni, año IV, número 9, México.


Note: This poem was originally written in Yucatecan Maya. And the ants that sing, laugh, dance and play in circles, began to cry. She was born a woman, one on whom they threw boiling water when she appeared in the kitchen1. You will go to school. You will not be an empty head. You will cross over the threshold of your imagination enter you own house and not have to knock at the door. And contemplating a face that resembles yours you will discover that from your...

Six Variations on Love

Note: These poems were originally written in Zapoteco. I Love comes heavy like a weight one cannot long carry without cursing. II Love is a feather in the air. Although it is also the sun. It rises and falls. Comes and goes. III Love is honey that flows from the tree, the juice of tender corn generous in the dawn. The juice that flows in the intimate garden of a woman. IV Love is the flower of the fig tree, nagual1 of the iguana, hand...

The Owl

Note: This poem was originally written in Yucatecan Maya. The owl is here. He perches on the wall. And meditates. Whose death does he announce if no one lives in this village? The fossils of the people do not cross to either side. The tombs in the cemetery paint the moon that has begun to chew the underbrush. The owl rehearses a song to life. It refuses to presage its own death. Originally published in Nuni, año IV, número 9 p. 20.

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