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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)
I came to Bolano fresh from the stories of Richard Yates and though they are different in technique and effect to the North American's they are no less brilliant. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Mike Collins
Great read. If you are an avid reader you will love this author. His books are so well written it is a pleaseure to readPublished 17 months ago by Debs
This is a truly remarkable collection of short stories, packed with characters you think you might recognize or situations that you've vaguely heard of before. Read morePublished on 6 May 2011 by saran
A decent collection of short stories. It feels as if Bolano's personal ticks are a little too in evidence here (the themes of exile, discourses on literature, etc) and at times I... Read morePublished on 16 Oct. 2010 by DRFP