Bolano, in his preface refer to the final chapters of 'Nazi Literature in America' as one of the reasons of this book. ;The story of Lietenant Ramirez Hoffman of the Chilean Air Force. I haven't read that book, hence I could not connect. However, Bolano and his Chilean friend Arturo B , got together to wrie a full version of it.
"So we took the final chapter and shut ourselves up for a month and half in my house in Blanes, where, guided by his dreams and nightmares, we composed the present novel."
Alberto Ruiz-Tagle, a timid young wanna be poet of the young Chilean generation influenced by Neruda, was first encounterd by the narrator during the early 70s at a poetry workshop in southern city of Conception. The early memories of Tagle was not very impressive, being friendly to the woman folks and maintaining a courteous distance with his own gender . However there were a few who believed he is going to be the new distinct voice of Chilean poetry, despite having no success with his art form. The days were Allende's government were short lived and the military coup took over the country under Pinochet. The university was ransacked and the news of arrest, murder and disappearances of 'people of words' were on the rise. Our narrator himself was arrested and was detained in an open prison.
Appearing now as a flight officer under the Pinochet's regime, Tagle, soon came to the limelight with his acrobatics in the sky, where he writes verses with some clever and dare devil maneuvers with his plane of World War II fame to the witnessing crowds at various city scapes.While the poets in ground failed to create any impact and were muted, Tagle, under the new name of Carlos Wieder, writing nationalist slogans in the air to the delights of the authorities.
Bolano's narrator, now released from prison, unable to come to terms with the new regime, exit Chile doing odd jobs in Europe. Now settled in Paris, he tries to reconnect with his old contacts trying to follow their fortune through various forms of correspondence and information that is available. Asked by a Chilean private detective, seeking his help to track Wieder down, he gets into the task of reconstruct his tales of adventure, his cruelty and survival through those troublesome years of oppression. It is through these searches, Bolano ( through his narrator) gives us the tale of missing people, gruesome murder, detention, torture and exile of the large number of poets and other writers from Chile. Before exiling himself from chile Wieder plans and sxhibition of his photographs, where he displays some of the gruesome pictures of torture and murder during the regime. Now out of Chile, living under disguise, Weider or his resemblance seems to have appeared at various places around the world at different times, writing and publishing in many neo-fascist journals. The task of identifying the 'hand behind' these writings as Weider is what is entrusted upon the narrator, helping to track down the fugitive.The investigative thriller now takes over to a typical finish.
Mixing politics and poetry together, Bolano weaves a story together. Rich, filled with sub-plots and mere descriptive journalistic writing, he creates an impressive tale. Short novel , in the size of 'One night in Chile', comes out in his impeccable style, used to a regular Bolano reader. Despite multiple diversion and a rather soft plot, this was an interesting and engaging read.-----------------------------------------------------
Distant Star ( 1996)
Roberto Bolaño ( translated from Spanish by Chris Andrews 2004)
Other Reviews : Guardian, Complete Review , Telegraph, Biblioklept