Haunting, unsettling, evocative, Roberto Bolanã's Last Evenings on Earth
is a remarkable book, and as the first of celebrated Chilean author's work to be translated into English (by Chris Andrews), it's the perfect introduction to the man who Susan Sontag called 'the most influential and admired novelist of his generation in the Spanish-speaking world'.
The protagonists have one thing in common in these stories: often on the fringes of society, they are engaged in difficult, challenging quests, their lives frequently on the line. And when they find what they are seeking, those lives are often changed irrevocably and forever. The bleak undercurrent of life in Pinochet's regime is the background here, but the narratives of the stories contain a whole universe. In the title tale, the central character pursues rather desperately a hedonistic, erotically-charged lifestyle on a holiday in Acapulco. The pleasures of the flesh do not offer the relief he seeks, and he finds consolation in the work of a surrealist poet who died during the Nazi regime, possibly at his own hand. Many of the Bolanã's favourite themes are brilliantly worked out here, in prose that leaps off the page. The other stories glitter with same coruscating brilliance and despite the recurrence of such dark themes as suicide this is not at all depressing fare: in fact, reading Last Evenings on Earth is a positively life-enhancing experience.
There should be a warning on the jacket of the book, however, reading Roberto Bolanã has a curious side-effect: you will find yourself proselytising on his behalf to anyone who will listen (and to some who won't). Bolanã's writing is addictive and it has that effect on the reader. --Barry Forshaw
"The most influential and admired novelist of his generation in the Spanish-speaking world" (Susan Sontag)
"This may be the most haunting and mesmerising collection I have ever read" (Daily Telegraph
"A book full of insight for writers and aficionados of South American literature and culture" (Scotland on Sunday
"It is a shame that Bolaño has no more evenings on earth, his unique voice asserting the importance and exuberance of literature will be sorely missed" (Guardian
"Bolaño's language, alert and always graceful, his way of constructing narratives that are simultaneously disconcerting, brilliant and infinitely immediate, is a form of resisting evil, adversity and mediocrity" (Le Monde