‘Days Of 1978’ by Roberto Bolaño

Days Of 1978 by Roberto Bolaño, 2001

The magic trick:

A narrative that is linear but not necessarily sequential

Another story about B. This time he’s hanging out with some Chilean expats in Barcelona. You never get a sense of the setting. Bolaño instead focuses on the expats themselves, specifically a man we meet as U and his wife, who is only referred to as U’s wife.

Well, it’s not my favorite story. The linear, yet somehow detached, narrative never adds up to something greater than the sum of its parts for me. I do, however, like the narrator’s occasional musings on the nature of storytelling. It’s third-person limited from B’s point of view, but it sometimes breaks from the story to say, for example, “The story could end here;” or “This is where the story should end, but life is not as kind as literature.”

These asides put the reader on to the fact that perhaps nothing in this story is as important as the flow of the story. Perhaps it’s not supposed to be greater than the sum of its parts. Life rarely is. Life, like this story, often gives the impression of sensible, orderly, linear routine. But what does it mean? Don’t mistake linear for sequential.

And that’s quite a trick on Bolaño’s part. 

The selection:

And that’s the end of the movie.

When B stops talking, U is crying.

The pale girl is sitting on her chair looking at something out the window, perhaps just the night. Sounds like a good film, she says, and keeps looking at something that B can’t see. U drinks his glass of wine in a single gulp and smiles at the pale girl, then at B, and hides his head in his hands. Silently, the pale girl gets up, leaves the room, and comes back with U’s wife and the hostess. U’s wife kneels down beside him and strokes his hair. The host and the tarot card reader appear in the corridor and stand there in silence, until the tarot card reader sees the bottle of wine left on the table and goes to pour herself a glass.

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