The Return by Roberto Bolaño

The first time was a hit. The second one a flop. A third book was needed to decide whether I would want to read more of Roberto Bolaño’s works.

2666 was one of the most word-intense novels I have ever read. While the thickness of the spine was initially a bit off-putting, the contents made for an intriguing and satisfying read. So, my reasoning was that if the author could turn one thousand pages into a page-turner, than a collection of his short stories should be a breezy pleasure to peruse.

Wrong. Actually I’ll put that in capital letters for emphasis – WRONG! I cannot recall ever having been so utterly bored by the contents of a book. Each word of Last Evenings On Earth seemed to stretch out into sentence length, every sentence into a never-ending paragraph. Short stories they might have been but it was taking an eternity to finish a tale. I didn’t give up on this collection because I always expected the subsequent story to be, even if only minimally, better. How couldn’t it have been an improvement, seeing how deeply the author had descended into dreary fiction. To his (dis)credit, Mr Bolaño succeeded in scraping the bottom of storytelling until the final full-stop.

Browsing through the English section at Livraria Cultura in São Paulo, I saw another of Roberto Bolaño’s books; another collection of short stories – The Return. My roaming finger stumbled on its spine. Why shouldn’t I give the author a second chance? 2666 still hadn’t faded from my memory and besides, the selection available wasn’t exactly overwhelming. But maybe what got the book off the shelf and into my bag was the synopsis on the back cover – “The Return contains thirteen stories about sex, tales that seem to tell what Bolaño called ‘the secret story … the one we’ll never know.'”

And I wish I had never known these stories. But for “Buba”, they were another test on my patience, another trial to see how far down the vale of tedium I was willing to venture before calling it quits. I did reach the end of the book but I am now turning the page on Mr Bolaño.



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