Roberto Bolaño liked to fancy himself a poet above all, yet his novels and short stories are what have garnered him the most posthumous renown. Tres
, published originally in his native Spanish in 2000, is the second collection of Bolaño's poetry to appear in English (translated by Laura Healy, who also rendered The Romantic Dogs
, per its title, is divided into three distinct parts, each of which is rather unlike the other.
The first part, "Prose from Autumn in Gerona," was written in 1981 and chronicles through poetic prose the narrator's unrequited love. "The Neochileans," the book's middle entry, is a lengthy verse poem recalling an itinerant band's travels north through Chile and into Peru. Composed in 1993, "The Neochileans" could well be the musical companions of the more literary and equally adventurous Infrarealists that Bolaño used as the basis for The Savage Detectives
. The final section, "A Stroll through Literature," finds Bolaño offering his trademark insights, with both humor and cleverness, about a disparate array of authors new and old. These dream pieces, from 1994, demonstrate not only Bolaño's extensive devotion to his literary predecessors but also the ways in which these fellow craftsmen have had a lasting influence on his daily life and imagination.
Thematically similar to many of the stories for which Bolaño is so beloved, Tres
is a strong collection of work which complements his other fiction quite well. As with Between Parentheses
, his recently translated collection of nonfiction, Tres
illustrates that Bolaño was no mere novelist content to explore other forms of writing via the occasional vanity project, but instead a master of nearly any format to which he turned his prodigious talent.
"A Stroll through Literature," excerpts:
31.I dreamt that earth was finished. And the only human being to contemplate the end was Franz Kafka. In heaven, the titans were fighting to the death. From a wrought-iron bench in Central Park, Kafka was watching the world burn.
34.I dreamt I was a really old Latin American detective. I lived in New York and Mark Twain was hiring me to save the life of someone without a face. It's going to be a damn tough case, Mr. Twain, I told him.
51.I dreamt the dreamers had gone to the flower war. No one had come back. On the planks of forgotten barracks in the mountains I managed to make out a few names. From far away a voice was broadcasting over and over the orders by which they'd been condemned. Recommended By Jeremy G., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Roberto Bolaño's Tres is a showcase of the author's willingness to freely cross genres, with poems in prose, stories in verse, and flashes of writing that can hardly be categorized. As the title implies, the collection is composed of three sections. "Prose from Autumn in Gerona," a cinematic series of prose poems, slowly reveals a subtle and emotional tale of unrequited love by presenting each scene, shattering it, and piecing it all back together, over and over again. The second part, "The Neochileans," is a sort of On the Road in verse, which narrates the travels of a young Chilean band on tour in the far reaches of their country. Finally, the collection ends with a series of short poems that take us on "A Stroll Through Literature" and remind us of Bolaño's masterful ability to walk the line between the comically serious and the seriously comical.
"Poetry is braver than anyone," Roberto Bolaño believed, and the proof is here in Tres, his most inventive and bracing poetry collection.
About the Author
Author of 2666 and many other acclaimed works, Roberto Bolaño (1953-2003) was born in Santiago, Chile, and later lived in Mexico, Paris, and Spain. He has been acclaimed "by far the most exciting writer to come from south of the Rio Grande in a long time" Ilan Stavans, The Los Angeles Times), and as "the real thing and the rarest" (Susan Sontag). Among his many prizes are the extremely prestigious Herralde de Novela Award and the Premio Romulo Gallegos. He was widely considered to be the greatest Latin American writer of his generation. He wrote nine novels, two story collections, and five books of poetry, before dying in July 2003 at the age of 50. Laura Healy has received a Master's in Spanish from Harvard. She is the managing editor of Harvard Review and the web editor of Zoland Poetry.