Is Roberto Bolaño, Chile’s acclaimed novelist, really dead? The online literary magazine The Millions has an essay http://www.themillions.com/2012/05/bolanos-last-great-secret.html on the writer which makes you wonder. Bolaño is said to have passed away in 2003, and since then the New Yorker has published nine of his short stories and his English language publisher, New Directions http://ndbooks.com/author/roberto-bolano, has published fifteen volumes of his fiction, essays and poetry. His literary executors keep unearthing more of his work, with The Secret of Evil, a collection of stories-which-read-like-essays and essays-which-read-like-fiction, appearing earlier this year.
In the prologue Bolaño’s executor writes that there are “multiple indications that Bolaño was working on this file in the months immediately preceding his death.” There have also been multiple accounts of the cause of the writer’s death: liver failure, heroin use and the stress of finishing his 900-page novel, 2666. But his widow (or estranged wife) told the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/28/books/28bola.html?_r=1 that he had never used heroin while several other friends and acquaintances interviewed in the same article said Bolaño had not been in Chile during the 1973 military coup, which would make his account of being arrested, narrowly avoiding torture and escaping thanks to two guards who just happened to be friends from high school an elaborate fiction.
Which should take nothing from the enjoyment of his work and the hallucinatory world beckoning the reader. Here’s a passage from The Secret of Evil:
They’re sitting around a table. It’s an ordinary table, made of wood, perhaps, or plastic, it could even be a marble table on metal legs, but nothing could be less germane to my purpose than to give an exhaustive description of it. The table is a table that is large enough to seat the above-mentioned individuals and it’s in a café. Or appears to be. Let’s suppose, for the moment, that it’s in a café.