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Last Evenings on Earth Hardcover – Apr 24 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harvill Secker (April 24 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843431815
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843431817
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13.4 x 2.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 358 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,557,232 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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The way in which my friendship with Sensini developed was somewhat unusual. Read the first page
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Amazon.com: 23 reviews
44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
A Latin American Master June 9 2006
By Adrift in Suburbia - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fourteen stories are included in this collection, by the author who died at age 50. He considered himself a poet primarily, and wrote fiction to support his family. The characters in "Last Evenings" invariably suffer early death by illness or suicide. Few, if any, of his characters achieve what Bolano calls the three highest goals of a man of letters: "fame, wealth and a large readership." Yet they toil away regardless, because they have no other choice. Bolano has a prose style utterly distinct from Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the other Latin American masters of the sixties, seventies and eighties. Bolano's style, in contrast, is flat and unornamented, like a police report; one can sense the influence of Jorge Luis Borges in Bolano's precision and clarity, and also an amalgamation of genre fiction writers of North America, like Phillip K. Dick and James Ellroy. Bolano melds these influences into something all his own, a sort of pan-Latin American voice, without any distinct national identity.
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
A loss for world literature Aug. 28 2006
By G. Nordström - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
When Chilean writer Roberto Bolano prematurely died at the age of 50 a few years ago it was a loss to world literature. By many considered as one of the most interesting of new latin american writers, Bolano in his lifetime published several novels and collections of short stories. Very little has, so far, been translated into english. For those interested in getting to know Bolanos work, Last Evenings on Earth offers an ideal starting point. These enigmatic, haunted stories will stay in your mind long after you've read them. So, while waiting for translations of Bolano masterpieces Los detectives salvajes, and 2666, allow yourself to be seduced by these magnificent short stories. Bolano novels distant Star and By Night in Chile are also available in english and are highly recommended.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Bolano's Meditations on Short-term friendships Aug. 19 2008
By Fairweatherassult - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Sensini, the literary mentor in this collection's first story, warns Arturo Belano (the novelist's anti-mainstream alter-go) that "The little world of letters is terrible as well as ridiculous." Roberto Bolano's life story, with its sudden headhrush of fame and recognition, proves this point. Neglected for most of life, heralded as a supreme genius in his dying days, the fickle sensibilities of aestheticians are now claiming a son whom they, for so long, orphaned.

The positive effect of all this is that non-Spanish readers can now enjoy a wide selection of Bolano's writings. _The Savage Detectives_ has certainly now gotten its fair take . . . but what of Bolano's other writings, his short fiction, which also work with his technique of 'infrarealism': memoir combined surrealism, or something like that.

This collection, while perhaps not giving the fullest single view of Bolano's stylistics, none the less pleases throughout for many reasons. Far sparser, and far more restrained than 'The Savage Detectives', this book might be called 'ode to marginalia'. A recurrent figure is the unsuccessful writer, no doubt a reflection of Bolano's own years of rejection. Dark, witty, but always earnest, this collection provides character vignettes which do not depend on high phrases or intricate psychoanalysis for their texture. Bolano reveals tensions, contradictions, and regret through understatement, rather than exposure, and these stories thrill by disappointing . . . conclusions are never conclusive, and discoveries are never certain. The successive tales all float about in a fog of open-ended indecision, which is as charming as it is maddening. In doing so, Bolano brings a uniquely felt point of view to the ways in which people try, and fail, to ensure their own immortality.

This collection does not attempt the cosmological anarchy of '2666' or 'The Savage Detectives', but its brevity and incisions of calm fury make for very provocative reading. There's really not much like this to be found in English language writing.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
"I prefer not to say anything..." April 11 2010
By meeah - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"...there's no point adding to the pain, or adding our own little mysteries to it. As if the pain itself were not enough of a mystery, as if the pain were not the (mysterious) answer to all mysteries." --Roberto Bolano

So concludes Bolano at the conclusion of one of the more engimatic stories in his collection, "Last Evenings on Earth." Ive been a big Bolano fan since reading his sprawling, loosely connected 3-part epic "2666." My regard for him only increased after I read "The Savage Detectives." I knew these two books were regarded as his highest achievement in fiction, so I was prepared that whatever else I might read in his relatively short career (he died at 50) would likely not raise the bar any higher.

Indeed, his short stories are wonderful; eschewing magical realism, they nevertheless manage to evoke something of that particular blend of personal passion, political violence, and phenomenolical alchemy that one has come to expect from Latin American literature, post Garcia Marquez. Bolano, however, is more of a skeptic, a realist, an existential tragedian. His stories depict lives--mostly those of writers and artists--lived on the outside of love, success, and easy contentment. There is, as Wayne Koestenbaum noted on the back of the book, a kind of "haze that floats above Bolano's fiction" that is addictive and that reminds me of the haze that fills Camus's "The Stranger." One senses that something bad will happen, that the characters know it (often they come right out and acknowledge their foreboding) and yet there is nothing they can do to alter the course of events towards the catastrophe.

But what is, perhaps, most unsettling of all, is that Bolano's stories often don't encompass the catastrophe itself; they end, sometimes abruptly, almost always enigmatically, before the worst of a series of increasingly bad things happen. But that offers very little, if any, comfort. What comfort there may be is that one doesn't have to be there to see the worst when it inevitably happens--and therefore one might even convince themselves that it isn't inevitable.

Bolano's stories typically end short of any final revelation of the mystery. They don't offer answers or balm for the pain and price of living. What they do better than most is to present the mystery as it is and ask, "isnt that enough?" To draw in breath is to draw in both the wonder and pain of the world in equal measure. There is no cure that doesnt do violence to the mystery or increase the wound. Neither is necessary. In Bolano's art, truth is stranger than fiction and fiction is a way to put forth the truth.

"Last Evenings on Earth" presents us with a series of lives that may be described as failures, acted out as they are by characters who ought to be described as anything but--at least insofar as one believes that the only true measure of a "successful" life is to experience the mystery and pain of existence as acutely as possible without lies or rationalization. In this sense, in this endeavor, Bolano's characters, and Bolano's vision in these stories succeed and do so memorably.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Atmospheric and melancholy stories of exile Nov. 14 2007
By R. M. Peterson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is an evocative and haunting collection of short stories. Overall, the mood is bleak and melancholy and the world is rather pointless -- all of which is understandable given Bolano's life as an exile from Chile. Indeed, most of the stories are set in "exile", in the sense that they occur in countries (for example, Spain or Mexico) other than the narrator's own. Many are told in the first-person and the reader is encouraged in various ways to think of the first-person narrator as Bolano himself. Perhaps because the world of politics was foreclosed to them, Bolano's narrator(s) and characters busy themselves with their literary or cultural reputation(s) and careful and at times exasperatingly tedious examination of interpersonal relationships. There is little action and much discussion or introspection.

Several of the stories left me hanging, wishing for some sort of resolution. But that's life. It is also true that life continues beyond the point where a story would end; as Bolano remarks in one of the stories, "Days of 1978", "life is not as kind as literature." That is just one of the terse apercus or aphorisms sprinkled here and there. Another: "We never stop reading, although every book comes to an end, just as we never stop living, although death is certain." More generally, Bolano's writing is exceedingly simple and straightforward, yet whatever he depicts is fuzzy, slightly out of focus, and hence uncertain.

I have not read much modern Latin American fiction beyond Borges and Garcia Marquez, so I can't begin to place Bolano within that category. He does remind me somewhat of Borges, but not of Garcia Marquez. Other modern story-tellers of whom I am reminded, however, include Camus, Kafka, and Fellini, in that a certain mystery and unease pervades everything. I hesitate to stamp this collection "great literature", but it certainly is worth reading and for me it is good enough to seek out and read one of Bolano's novels.

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