Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Review: "Distant Star" by Roberto Bolano

I feel a little bad about dissing a Roberto Bolano book, but I’ve got to be honest: his novel Distant Star is a far cry from the books that made him famous. It seems like it is nothing more than a deleted scene from some book that might be great if it was published as a whole, but seems very dry and emotionally vacant as it is. It still holds some of those qualities that made books like The Savage Detectives and 2666 so great and astounding, but this is a little too light for what I’ve come to expect from Bolano, especially since it concerns an oppressive dictatorship responsible for many deaths. It is far from being a bad book, and has a few moments that succeeded in sending chills down my spine, but I was more bored reading through some of the book’s scenes more so than any others I have come across in Bolano’s novels. The story itself, narrated by Arturo Belano, Bolano’s fictional alter ego, tells of an aspiring poet Alberto Ruiz-Tagle, who Arturo met while he was a student. This man, who is later known as Carlos Weider, becomes a kind of a figure head of Salvador Allende oppressive regime in Chile. While at school, Arturo and his friend are immediately distrustful of him, seeing him as a second rate poet and a threat to them since he seduces the twin girls each of them secretly loves. Arturo later sees him again, in jail, as Carlos, as he is now known, has become a successful pilot and “sky poet” for the regime, and once Arturo is free, he begins to suspect Carlos is much more than a tool for the dictatorship. Minus the scene where Alberto/Carlo might have committed a horrific murder and an odd dinner scene where Alberto/Carlos disappears soon afterward, nothing in this book really grabs your attention the way scenes in other Bolano works almost grab you by the throat with their violence and immediacy. It is short enough to where it’s bad qualities are pretty much painless, but don’t expect to have your world moved. 
Rating: 4/5

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