A review I wrote a year ago, maybe, about Bolaño's Antwerp
I am wondering if anyone has read it. What were your thoughts on it. It is a strange novel, in many respects, but nonetheless rewarding. Would love to know what your thoughts were.
Bolaño's early work is a 'culmination', retrogressively, of his later work. A strange event, really, since we often find traces of a writer's mature style when we look backward to his or her early creative output. With Antwerp, a work written in 1980 and published only in 2002, the year before his death, we see a concentrated Bolaño, struggling with what will always plague him in his writing - a confrontation with form and structure, an interrogation of voice, both enunciated and forgotten. For Bolaño, this voice has an ontological significance, and something that writers such as Joyce, Beckett, Borges, Bernhard, and Coetzee have all interrogated. In Bolaño, however, it is not only voice that he pursues, but voicedness - the quality of having voice.
What does this quality entail? Does it consist of a sense of authenticity? Is it authenticated by consistency and structure? Or is it an elusive moment of utterance? How does one articulate, as a writer, this elusiveness? How does one capture a quality, if it often dissipates the second it is offered or uttered drowning into a sea of other utterances as soon as it is brought forth? In Savage Detectives Bolaño showcases a history of two poets, itself a doomed project, through the voices of those who tangentially come into contact with these poets. Who they are, and where they may be is intertwined with what these encounters have brought to light about the two poets of the Visceral Realist school. There is a narrative impulse in Savage Detectives, but like the elusiveness of the two poets, Ulises Lima and Arturo Bolaño, this narrative impulse struggles in its pursuit of a resolution.
In Antwerp, resolution is no longer the engine behind the narrative impulse. The Beckettian need to narrate aside, it is the struggle to find a narrative that plagues this narrative. All that exist in this novella are phrases, as one character implies, which never reach the end of their utterances. The chapters themselves are enigmatically short, and the characters do not interact with each other, though they recur occasionally throughout the text. Bolaño's interrogation is not only of discovering what it is that is being said, and by whom, both Beckettian preoccupations, but it is also an experimentation in the very meaning of having a voice. How do we have a voice, and how do we deal with having a voice.
Such an experimentation defies form and structure, and attests to a textual dynamics that transforms reading practices. How do we read if that which is being read refuses to be read 'meaningfully'?