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Even after our narrator becomes an expat living in France he continues collecting information on Wieder, as well as the other poets he left behind (the poetry professor Stein and his rival workshop leader Soto, Bibiano and the doomed Garmendia twins).He makes only a token effort to sort fact from rumor.
Bolaño, in a short introductory note, explains how his friend Arturo B. Arturo felt it should be longer and less dependent on the other stories in the collection; that “a month and a half in my house in Blanes, where, guided by his dreams and nightmares, we composed the present novel.
My role was limited to preparing refreshments, consulting a few books, and discussing the reuse of numerous paragraphs with Arturo and the increasingly animated ghost of Pierre Menard.” The joke for those in the know: Arturo B. Pierre Menard is a reference to the Borges short story – “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote“.
The following weekend I went back for Nazi Literature In the Americas.
Distant Star began life as the final chapter of Nazi Literature in the Americas.
Before the fight began he insulted them in Spanish. Obviously the novel is longer (the original is only about 25 pages). What the book does a wonderful job at is conveying Chile under Pinochet, and what that experience was for those who remained and those who fled.
I’ve read other books about the period – The Days of the Rainbow by Antonio Skarmeta and, more recently, A Man of His Own by Edgard Telles Ribeiro.
Years could pass before families learned the truth about what happened.
Sometimes the missing were released from prison; or (happily) it’s revealed that they joined the revolution and went underground; or their remains are discovered in a mass grave.
Ruiz-Tagle, we eventually learn his real name is Carlos Wieder, becomes a life-long obsession for our narrator.
He is the bogeyman at the center of the novel – tied to random acts of terror perpetrated by the Pinochet regime.