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A deluxe edition of Bolaño's collected poetry Perhaps surprisingly to some of his fiction fans, Roberto Bolaño touted poetry as the superior art form, able to approach an infinity in which "you become infinitely small without disappearing." When asked, "What makes you believe you're a better poet than a novelist?" Bolaño replied, "The poetry makes me blush less." The sum of A deluxe edition of Bolaño's collected poetry Perhaps surprisingly to some of his fiction fans, Roberto Bolaño touted poetry as the superior art form, able to approach an infinity in which "you become infinitely small without disappearing." When asked, "What makes you believe you're a better poet than a novelist?" Bolaño replied, "The poetry makes me blush less." The sum of his life's work in his preferred medium, The Unknown University is a showcase of Bolaño's gift for freely crossing genres, with poems written in prose, stories in verse, and flashes of writing that can hardly be categorized. "Poetry," he believed, "is braver than anyone."


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A deluxe edition of Bolaño's collected poetry Perhaps surprisingly to some of his fiction fans, Roberto Bolaño touted poetry as the superior art form, able to approach an infinity in which "you become infinitely small without disappearing." When asked, "What makes you believe you're a better poet than a novelist?" Bolaño replied, "The poetry makes me blush less." The sum of A deluxe edition of Bolaño's collected poetry Perhaps surprisingly to some of his fiction fans, Roberto Bolaño touted poetry as the superior art form, able to approach an infinity in which "you become infinitely small without disappearing." When asked, "What makes you believe you're a better poet than a novelist?" Bolaño replied, "The poetry makes me blush less." The sum of his life's work in his preferred medium, The Unknown University is a showcase of Bolaño's gift for freely crossing genres, with poems written in prose, stories in verse, and flashes of writing that can hardly be categorized. "Poetry," he believed, "is braver than anyone."

30 review for The Unknown University

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    Poetry that might champion my shadow in days to come when I’ll be just a name not the man who wandered with empty pockets, worked in slaughterhouses on the old and on the new continent. I seek credibility not durability for the ballads I composed in honor of very real girls. After Novel Explosives I needed something to clear the air of cordite. These Beat-ish ruminations certainly cleansed, if only with the tears elicited. Heartfelt and sprawling, the verses ache of exile and loneliness. There are the Poetry that might champion my shadow in days to come when I’ll be just a name not the man who wandered with empty pockets, worked in slaughterhouses on the old and on the new continent. I seek credibility not durability for the ballads I composed in honor of very real girls. After Novel Explosives I needed something to clear the air of cordite. These Beat-ish ruminations certainly cleansed, if only with the tears elicited. Heartfelt and sprawling, the verses ache of exile and loneliness. There are themed clusters of redheads and hunchbacks, crooked cops and faded postcards. I was expecting more books and reading to be chronicled. Despite my surprise this is a worthy testament.

  2. 5 out of 5

    jeremy

    at long last. the late roberto bolaño envisaged himself a poet above all else. despite being accomplished as both a novelist and short story writer, bolaño only ever took to fiction following the birth of his son lautaro - and only then to secure the financial well-being of his family. as a founding member of the infrarrealismo movement (or "visceral realists" as they appear in the savage detectives) in the mid-1970s, bolaño and his friends (dada/surrealism enthusiasts that they were) set about at long last. the late roberto bolaño envisaged himself a poet above all else. despite being accomplished as both a novelist and short story writer, bolaño only ever took to fiction following the birth of his son lautaro - and only then to secure the financial well-being of his family. as a founding member of the infrarrealismo movement (or "visceral realists" as they appear in the savage detectives) in the mid-1970s, bolaño and his friends (dada/surrealism enthusiasts that they were) set about agitating the mexican poetic establishment, often disrupting readings and rebelling against traditional literary convention (with octavio paz as a favorite target). though the erstwhile infrarealists did not endure, their contrarian and iconoclastic ethos persisted onward throughout so much of bolaño's writing (see also distant star, 2666, and any number of short stories and poems). the vagabond poet, the obscure poet, the forgotten poet, the missing poet, the enigmatic poet, the criminal poet - all figure prominently within the realm of bolaño's fictional universe. beyond mere archetype or aspiration alone, the poet is an ideal of dissidence, the heretical devotee, or perhaps even the libidinous visionary. "poetry is braver than anyone." indeed. my literary career rejections from anagrama, grijalbo, planeta, certainly also from alfaguara, mondadori. a no from muchnik, seix barral, destino... all the publishers... all the readers all the sales managers... under the bridge, while it rains, a golden opportunity to take a look at myself: like a snake in the north pole, but writing. writing poetry in the land of idiots. writing with my son on my knee. writing until night falls with the thunder of a thousand demons. the demons who will carry me to hell, but writing.the unknown university (la universidad desconocida) is a bilingual edition that collects nearly all of the poetry bolaño composed, spanning the years between 1978 and 1994. in 1993, ten years before he succumbed to liver failure (despite apparently being near the top of a transplant recipient list), bolaño "set about organizing and classifying his poetry." different versions and typewritten manuscripts were found in abundance amongst his archives after his passing (a more detailed explanation of the unknown university's origins may be found in an afterword of sorts, "brief history of the book," penned by carolina lópez, bolaño's widow - as well as in an accompanying and untitled series of notes from the author himself). it's better to learn how to read than to learn how to die literacy is much better and more important than the arduous study of death she will be with you all your life and will even dole out happiness and a certain misfortune or two learning to die on the other hand learning to look the grim reaper in the face will only serve you a short while the brief moment of truth and disgust and then never again epilogue and moral: dying is more important than reading, but it doesn't last as long. you could argue that living is dying every day. or that reading is learning to die, obliquely. in conclusion, and as with so many things, the example continues to be stevenson. reading is learning to die, but also learning to be happy, to be brave.divided into three parts, the unknown university collects more than three hundred of bolaño's poems and is further apportioned into 16 sections that correspond with his original handwritten notebooks (bolaño wrote all of his poetry by hand). for those familiar with bolaño's fiction, similar themes abound throughout his poetry, including sex, death, police, detectives, age, time, courage, crime, corruption, mexico, spain, the dilapidated and disregarded, forgotten and obscure writers, old friends, lighthouses, knives, and hunchbacks (to name but some of the more recurrent motifs). for those who have immersed themselves more fully within bolaño's oeuvre, it will be easy to recognize portions of the unknown university from his previously published works. nearly all of the poems contained within the romantic dogs, for example, are contained herein, but are situated within their original assemblages. two of the three pieces that comprise tres, "prose from autumn in gerona" and "the neochileans," also reappear in this collection. the 56 short chapters that make up antwerp (written while in his late 20's and considered by ignacio echevarría, bolaño's literary executor, as the "big bang" of his friend's fictional universe) are included under the title "people walking away" with but the slightest variations from the version that was originally published in 2002. victoria ávalos and i united in almost everything but mostly in the pain in the silence of lost lives which pain efficiently replaces in the tides flowing toward our loyal hearts toward our disloyal eyes toward the wild parties we throw that no one understands much like the two of us don't understand the slaughters that surround us tenacious in the division and multiplication of pain as if the cities we inhabit were an endless hospital ward (victoria ávalos was the name of bolaño's mother)throughout the unknown university, the reader will find reference to many a real life individual, be they arcane poets, fellow writers, family members, or former friends. mexican poet efraín huerta, horror/fantasy writer fritz leiber, former girlfriend edna lieberman (whom also appears in different incarnations within the savage detectives, antwerp, and 2666), argentine writer macedonio fernández, spanish novelist antoni garcía (a.g.) porta (with whom bolaño co-wrote his first published work, consejos de un discípulo de morrison a un fanático de joyce (advice from a morrison disciple to a joyce fanatic), and the author of the recently translated, soon-to-be-published (april 2013), and apparently remarkable 2006 novel, no world concerto), infrarealist poet bruno montané (and alleged inspiration for the savage detectives's felipe müller), spanish poet and nobel laureate juan ramón jiménez, mario santiago (infrarealist poet, friend, and the basis for ulises lima's character in the savage detectives), and bolaño's own son, lautaro, amongst others, all appear within these poems. characters from other works also show up, including gaspar heredia, poet/camp watchman from the skating rink, hunchbacks aplenty (antwerp), and, of course, the late poet/novelist himself. roberto bolaño's devotion toward the end of 1992 he was very sick and had separated from his wife. that was the goddamn truth: he was alone and fucked and he tended to think there was little time left. but dreams, oblivious to sickness, showed up every night with a loyalty that came to surprise him. dreams took him to that magical country he and no one else called mexico city and lisa and the voice of mario santiago reading a poem and so many other good things worthy of the most ardent praise. sick and alone, he would dream and confront the days that passed inexorably toward the end of another year. and from it he gathered a bit of strength and courage. mexico, the phosphorescent steps in the night, the music playing on corners where in the past whores would freeze (in the icy heart of colonia guerrero) and would dole him out the sustenance needed to clench his teeth and not cry in fear.it seems unlikely that bolaño's poetry will ever garner the acclaim that his novels and short stories have so deservedly attracted. while much of the dark, foreboding, obsessive, and dimly-lit fringes that so characterize his fiction are ubiquitous in his poetry, the (perceived) challenges of poetry in general are likely too many for some (and perhaps, sadly, irredeemably so). like all great artists that work across more than a single medium, however, bolaño's fiction and poetry complement, augment, and interplay with one another. one cannot rightly claim to have read bolaño if they've spurned or dismissed what for the author himself was the truest and most natural form of his writing. had bolaño not fallen so gravely ill, perhaps he never would have turned to fiction at all - but instead remained one of the vagabond poets of esoterica that he wrote so admiringly about. it was, of course, his fiction that allowed him to ascend to the heights of literary eminence, but he likely would not have ever scaled even the least formidable of peaks if not for his poetry and poetic sensibilities as essential foundation. resurrection poetry slips into dreams like a diver in a lake. poetry, braver than anyone, slips in and sinks like lead through a lake infinite as loch ness or tragic and turbid as lake balatón. consider it from below: a diver innocent covered in feathers of will. poetry slips into dreams like a diver who's dead in the eyes of godas epic and voluminous in its own way as the savage detectives and 2666, the unknown university is also as indispensable to understanding the bolaño mystique. were this collection the entirety of his literary output, it still would, in its own right, be a most notable achievement. the shared, recurrent imagery, the autobiographical infusions, and the permeable sense of inevitable dread ever-lingering just off-scene make the unknown university as characteristic and indicative a work as any of his others. with only a few unpublished or untranslated pieces remaining (the aforementioned work he coauthored with porta, a novella (una novelita lumpen), a posthumously-unearthed manuscript for a novel (diorama), and an apparent sixth part of 2666), it appears as though the reserve of bolaño's prodigious output has been quite nearly exhausted. it seems fitting then that the coda to a feverish decade of published translations (some nineteen books in total) should conclude with what bolaño himself may well have considered his most accomplished effort. the unknown university is deserving of as exalted a place in the bolaño canon as either of his two masterworks, and, with the others, should solidify his stature as a veritable titan of literature well into perpetuity. muse she was more beautiful than the sun and i wasn't even 16 years old. 24 have passed and she's still at my side. sometimes i see her walking over the mountains: she's the guardian angel of our prayers. she's the dream that recurs with the promise and the whistle. the whistle that call us and loses us. in her eyes i see the faces of all my lost loves. oh, muse, protect me, i say to her, on the terrible days of the ceaseless adventure. never pull away from me. take care of my steps and the steps of my son lautaro. let me feel your fingertips once more over my spine, pushing me, when everything is dark, when everything is lost. let me hear the whistle again. i am your faithful lover though sometimes dreaming pulls me away from you. you're also the queen of those dreams. you have my friendship every day and someday your friendship will draw me out of the wasteland of forgetfulness. so even if you come when i go deep down we're inseparable friends. muse, wherever i might go you go. i saw you in the hospitals and in the line of political prisoners i saw you in the terrible eyes of edna lieberman and in the alleys of the gunmen. and you always protected me! in defeat and in triumph. in unhealthy relationships and in cruelty, you were always with me. and even if the years pass and the roberto bolaño of la alameda and the librería de cristal is transformed, is paralyzed, becomes older and stupider you'll stay just as beautiful. more than the sun and the stars. muse, wherever you might go i go. i follow your radiant trail across the long night. not caring about years of sickness. not caring about the pain or the effort i must make to follow you. because with you i can cross the great desolate spaces and i'll always find the door leading back to the chimera, because you're with me, muse, more beautiful than the sun, more beautiful than the stars. *translated from the spanish by laura healy (the romantic dogs & tres)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    For Bolano completists and Beat aficionados who want to read post-Beat poetry set in Barcelona by day and distant lands across the Atlantic by night. Gulped it down thanks to plentiful white space, only occasionally glancing at the Spanish on the left page. Skimmed "People Walking Away" since I'd read it when published solo as Antwerp -- of note: at the end Bolano namechecks Burroughs as its clear influence. So that's where the detectives come from. Also shout-outs to Ted Berrigan, Frank O'Hara, For Bolano completists and Beat aficionados who want to read post-Beat poetry set in Barcelona by day and distant lands across the Atlantic by night. Gulped it down thanks to plentiful white space, only occasionally glancing at the Spanish on the left page. Skimmed "People Walking Away" since I'd read it when published solo as Antwerp -- of note: at the end Bolano namechecks Burroughs as its clear influence. So that's where the detectives come from. Also shout-outs to Ted Berrigan, Frank O'Hara, Nicanor Parra, Stefan Zweig. Loved the stray lines of writing advice. Every passing page accumulated like a dream I didn't want to break but only a few pieces jumped to five-star territory for me -- particularly the surreally sexy single-spaced story about visiting Mexico City bathhouses and the poems toward the end that directly address his son and his sickness. Like the best Beat stuff, Bolano's poetry makes you want to write -- and live in a way that makes sense when written and makes self-mythologizing seem to matter. Also interesting to see the early jewels of the big books to come, although they don't pop up everywhere at all. A great collection to plough through when a little sick toward the very end of the year, a time of limbo like in the bathhouses described by Bolano thusly: "The essence of those places seemed to be a limbo, a dead child's closed eyes." Which suggests the line in Amulet, I think, that mentions 2666: "a cemetery in the year 2666, a forgotten cemetery under the eyelid of a corpse or an unborn child, bathed in the dispassionate fluids of an eye that tried so hard to forget one particular thing that it ended up forgetting everything else." The limbo is embodied by the ultimately immortal yet nevertheless dying writer/father who once had a visa that let him stay in Spain for three months but not work. Here's good old-fashioned soul work done in lieu of work work, tracing oblique instruction handed down by a foreign city, all of it passed to his son as unique hometown heritage. Mutual protection -- his son protects the books by reading them and the books protect the son. Nice nice nice.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cosimo

    Procura no dormir, Roberto, me digo “En aquel tiempo yo tenìa 20 anos y estaba loco. Habia perdido un paìs però habia ganado un sueno. Y si tenìa ese sueno lo demàs no importaba. Ni trabajar, ni rezar, ni estudiar en la madrugada junto a los perros romanticos. Y el sueno vivìa en el vacìo de mi espiritu. Una habitaciòn de madera, en penumbras, en uno de los pulmones del tròpico. Y a veces me volvìa dentro de mi y visitaba el sueno: estatua eternizada en pensamientos liquidos, un gusàno blanco ret Procura no dormir, Roberto, me digo “En aquel tiempo yo tenìa 20 anos y estaba loco. Habia perdido un paìs però habia ganado un sueno. Y si tenìa ese sueno lo demàs no importaba. Ni trabajar, ni rezar, ni estudiar en la madrugada junto a los perros romanticos. Y el sueno vivìa en el vacìo de mi espiritu. Una habitaciòn de madera, en penumbras, en uno de los pulmones del tròpico. Y a veces me volvìa dentro de mi y visitaba el sueno: estatua eternizada en pensamientos liquidos, un gusàno blanco retorcìendose en el amor. Un amor desbocado. Un sueno dentro de otro sueno. Y la pesadilla me decìas: creceràs. Dejaràs atràs las imagenes del dolor y del labirinto y olvidaràs. Pero en aquel tiempo crecer hubiera sido un crimen. Estoy aquì, dije, con los perros romanticos y aquì me voy a quedar”. Roberto Bolaño è una poeta unico e inesorabile, è la voce di una speranza che transita dissolvendosi in una materia epica e immediata, e come poeta romantico e metafisico a volte non distingue tra sogno e incubo, tra felicità e disperazione, tra l'amore e la solititudine, tra una parola e un pugnale, e di questa confusione, di questa non distinzione, di questo mancato discrimine noi gli siamo immensamente grati e per sempre riconoscenti, come verso un amico essenziale, un maestro di emozioni. Perché è in questa zona di non conoscibilità, in questi margini indecifrabili e oscuri e impossibili, in questa periferia interiore, che si incontra l'arte del suo dire, del suo raccontare, del suo comporre. Di un poeta che si espone alla vulnerabilità e alla vergogna. Qui mi sono trovato a frequentare queste poesie che coniugano una semplicità indecifrabile a una violenta visceralità, con l'ulteriore valore della lettura in spagnolo, dono linguistico di una espressività passionale e lunatica. Il titolo della raccolta, una biografia postuma, un testamento poetico dell'autore cileno, proviene dalla sua incalcolabile esperienza di lettore, è tratto da un racconto di fantascienza di Alfred Bester, Gli Uomini che assassinarono Maometto (1958), una variazione de La Macchina del Tempo di H.G. Wells. L'Università Sconosciuta è il luogo letterario e fantasmatico dove realtà e letteratura dialogano e etica e estetica si confrontano e si uniscono, con una finalità salvifica e terapeutica. Bisogna proteggere i poeti, o inseguirli come fanno i personaggi di Bolano, perché un mondo senza poesia è destinato alla distruzione, all'annientamento, alla degradazione ad un ambiente di prepotenza, di repressione e di morte. La poesia scrive se stessa fino a quando scende la notte, finché svanisca l'angoscia, fino all'alba e alla paura del mattino. La poesia è verità in forma di purezza, è lavoro gratuito, maturato come il vino, morbido come la neve; è memoria delle vedove e illusione del bambino, affilata come un coltello, silenziosa come una preghiera, accogliente come la chioma di un albero. Suonano le labbra di Bolano, cantano senza fermarsi né ammalarsi, ridono delle sconfitte i suoi versi, non si aspettano nulla dalla battaglia, si compromettono in un abisso e nel pericolo, nel rumore di una donna che ama, nell'inferno di un'ossessione perduta. Non rimane nulla dei nostri cuori, dice Bolano, e non ci sono immagini al di là del disfacimento, della disperazione, della furia febbrile. La lotta è inutile, la convinzione di una sconfitta si mostra inflessibile. Sta in una stanza a scrivere e senza uscire dalla porta conosce il mondo; quello che ha paura è lui, come un corpo dentro a un sacco colpito dal vento, e crede che niente di male possa accadergli, né il denaro, né la corruzione, né la noia, né il dolore, nulla passa attraverso la forza dell'amicizia, la compagnia degli sconosciuti. Tutto ciò che ancora non ha forma mi protegge, scrive, le colline ombrose, la gente che si allontana, i passaggi solitari, i frammenti che curano. Nella freddezza del reale il poeta si denuda, compie allusioni e inferenze, cerca un amore inusuale tra sesso e terrore, negli autunni condivisi, nei luoghi alieni e promiscui, nell'apparenza della solitudine. Scrive del mare, dello splendore e della luminosità, della ricerca pulsante, scrive la pietà necessaria a lasciare il labirinto del paradiso, a separare l'angoscia dallo spavento, ad arrendersi al fantasma della speranza. Dentro al testo poetico e alle brevi prose liriche ci sono i suoi detective smarriti e perduti, i personaggi maledetti, i suicidi dimenticati, i giovani che ballano, gli uomini duri e i nomadi e gli ultimi, le donne sudamericane, le regine dei bordelli, le promesse misteriose e i casi irresolubili, la pioggia specchio della melanconia, le frontiere vuote e improbabili, i cani romantici con la loro naturalezza. Il poeta come il detective vede oltre l'apparenza, nel vuoto e nell'orrore della città oscura e brutale, e lavora per evitare l'oblio e negoziare con la paura. Leggiamo i suoi versi e sentimenti antichi ci ricordano chi siamo, ma non troppo, ci spingono a fallire, ma senza colpa, a ingannare quanto basta a sopravvivere. C'è la luce dell'orfano e l'infinità delle cose, la follia degli spazi che abitiamo. Poi il poeta innamorato dimentica, devoto alle proprie impronte, avanza nel sentiero magnetico e irreale degli asini e dei giocatori e degli eroi, con passo incerto e necessario ritorna a casa, un luogo dove immergersi e risorgere e scrivere un finale felice, solo pelle e volontà. La poesia di Bolaño è una specie di caleidoscopio multiplo e deformato in direzione antimimetica, nella pluralità di realtà e tempo, il cui senso il lettore deve interpretare e discernere. Scrisse Bolaño nel 1976: “Il vero poeta è quello che lascia sempre se stesso alle spalle. Mai troppo tempo in uno stesso posto, come i guerriglieri, come gli ufo, come gli occhi bianchi degli ergastolani”. Da poeta è disceso con utopia e coraggio dentro ai romanzi, come un eroe della perdita, come l'occhio di un volto malinconico e incomprensibile che guarda sempre al presente, sconfitto dal mostro, come in un viaggio senza ritorno. “Musa, adondequiera que tu vayas yo voy./ Sigo tu estela radiante a travès de la larga noche./ Sin importarme los anos o la enfermedad./ Sin importarme el dolor o el esfuerzo que he de hacer para seguirte./ Porque contigo puedo atravesar los grandes espacios desolados/, y siempre incontraré la puerta que me devuelva a la Quimera/, porque tu estas conmigo, Musa/, mas hermòsa que el sol, y mas hermòsa que las estrellas”. http://www.edizionisur.it/sotto-il-vu...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tanuj Solanki

    I am grateful for three masterpieces, all of which I had read earlier, 'Autumn in Gerona,' 'Mexican Manifesto' and 'The Neochileans.' This is probably the last Bolano work that one should read, after all the prose has been devoured and a journey for its poetic center is felt as necessary. The center is, of course, a void. *** It hits you in the most ridiculous moment, when you are asking A.V. to leave the house or pay the money and he looks back at you with eyes of graphite, eyes murderous and leaden I am grateful for three masterpieces, all of which I had read earlier, 'Autumn in Gerona,' 'Mexican Manifesto' and 'The Neochileans.' This is probably the last Bolano work that one should read, after all the prose has been devoured and a journey for its poetic center is felt as necessary. The center is, of course, a void. *** It hits you in the most ridiculous moment, when you are asking A.V. to leave the house or pay the money and he looks back at you with eyes of graphite, eyes murderous and leaden and perhaps long dead, and you smile in exasperation and you blink a long blink and you find yourself in a huge field of corn or wheat, in a desolate field of corn or wheat, where a silent UFO cleaves the sky, a silent UFO, well-lit phallus of the extraordinary, like the magnetic center of your dream's dream, and ki-ki-ki does your heart, and then you think of a Terrence Mallick movie and a Jia Zhangke movie and you know you have mixed the two in your head. A.V. is still there, spittle on his beard, exclaiming with great ferocity his intention to never pay the money back, and then he asks you if you think he will ever make a movie, and you say 'No' nonchalantly because you know that Kerouac was wrong, because great Roman candles that burn magnificently burn away, and you almost pat your back for sticking with the world, for having to wake up tomorrow in your own bed, the injunction of waking up in your own bed, and you want to say 'I'm an island, fuck you,' but you only say 'No' again, nonchalantly. A.V. goes away and you have other things to do, although you register the things he has stolen, wires and socks, cigarette lighters, a packet of muesli, et cetera, and you laugh imagining his stupid eyes and the stupid tragedy of his dreams, and you think of the hollowness of all dreams, the absent center of their miracles, the center from where the sirens sing, and tomorrow you will wake up in your bed after having dreamed of innumerable division of doves attacking the east, a fucking white blitzkrieg and its storms of shit, and under some shroud a general for those armies, a general dutiful, honest, merciless, and forever awake. ***

  6. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    I didn't want to be done reading this. The good news is that although I've turned the last page, and closed this book that has been haunting my dreams and memories and everyday experiences ever since I opened it, I do not feel like I'm done reading it. I struggle to write eloquently or seriously about Bolano, mainly because a lot of his writing's impact (whether poetry or fiction) on me is pure gut-level shit. I tried writing a review of 2666 once, and as soon as I was done I trashed it. I can t I didn't want to be done reading this. The good news is that although I've turned the last page, and closed this book that has been haunting my dreams and memories and everyday experiences ever since I opened it, I do not feel like I'm done reading it. I struggle to write eloquently or seriously about Bolano, mainly because a lot of his writing's impact (whether poetry or fiction) on me is pure gut-level shit. I tried writing a review of 2666 once, and as soon as I was done I trashed it. I can talk about this guy. I can ramble, even, but I can't really explain what I really dig about this guy's stuff, outside of just repeating the usual stuff you read about his writing. I guess one thing people don't often enough mention is how good a poet and writer of sex Bolano is. It's always rendered subjectively, heavy on sensuality, on the sense impression, but somehow also cerebral, or at least serious, real emotional. He can write about somebody's asshole for a full page and I'm still just going, "wow, that's pretty," y'know? So, instead, a list of my favourite poems from this collection: Occasionally it Shook The Redhead Like a Waltz Never Alone Again There Are No Rules Summer The Redhead (another one) Latin American Poetry The Detectives The Lost Detectives The Frozen Detectives Tough Guys Don't Dance... Lupe La Francesca Eyes Rain The Romantic Dogs Twilight in Barcelona Roberto Bolano's Return A note on the translation(s): because this includes prose poems translated earlier by Natasha Wimmer, reading The Unknown University really makes clear to us English-only philistines that our experience of Bolano's writings is heavily dependent on these two women. Wimmer's translated most of the fiction, I'm pretty sure (by page count, anyway, and I don't think it's a coincidence that all the Bolano stuff I haven't really dug was the Chris Andrews-translated stuff, though it's not bad), and Healy all the poetry except the aforementioned prose poems. And reading both translators at work in the same book, I definitely got a picture of how both went about their work, and how the similarities and differences etc. in our English reading of this poetry and the prose fiction depend on the personal styles of Healy and Wimmer respectively. I do think my awe of Bolano's fiction in English is somewhat dependent on Wimmer's work as translator. Healy's done some terrific work, too. Among my favourite couple lines from The Romantic Dogs, repeated here, is "And quick strokes of other less intimate adventures/Flashed in her wounded eyes like fireflies." Those lines are pretty different in the Spanish, and, working with a limited knowledge of Spanish, looking at the Spanish lines, it seems like Healy's done a great job of distilling what those lines were about and turning 'em into real pretty lines of English. So that's one example of Healy being pretty great too. So yeah, credit to Roberto, and to Natasha and Laura. It's been seriously great reading this stuff.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    As much as I find the commodification of Bolaño by western media conglomerates into a sort of cottage industry rather offensive, it is delightful to find the Bolaño universe still expanding. Just when I had reluctantly resigned myself to the fact that I would never again be able to read Bolaño's great novels, but would instead have to re-read them, a friend gave me this handsome book as a birthday present. Over 700 pages long, this bilingual volume of Bolaño's complete poems offers the fanatic a As much as I find the commodification of Bolaño by western media conglomerates into a sort of cottage industry rather offensive, it is delightful to find the Bolaño universe still expanding. Just when I had reluctantly resigned myself to the fact that I would never again be able to read Bolaño's great novels, but would instead have to re-read them, a friend gave me this handsome book as a birthday present. Over 700 pages long, this bilingual volume of Bolaño's complete poems offers the fanatic a great resource and the dilettante another fun chapter in the posthumous life of one of the 20th century's greatest writers. In excellent English translation facing the Spanish originals, The Unknown University offers both an important research tool and mesmerizing bedside reading. It is organized according to the unpublished poetry manuscripts Bolaño prepared before his death and has the wonderful immediacy of poetry left as the poet liked, that rough, rude-hewn state of poetry that is as it was meant to be -- the poetry of the 1855 Leaves of Grass or the early and out-of-print books of WH Auden. Perhaps that is another collateral positive of the Bolaño industry: that the editors and publishers are making such a fortune off of the raw goods that they don't feel compelled to clean it up or water it down. This book reads like someone neatly typed up a handwritten manuscript and put it in a very nice hard cover. The poems aren't tooled and accomplished like so much of what we read nowadays. Even much of the avant garde these days write poems that feel like they have been polished with bowling towels and edited by committee (CA Conrad being one exception that comes to mind). The Unknown University is full of poems written by a Bolaño in desperation, either, as in the first sections, because of the poverty, anonymity and rejection he experienced in his first years as an expatriate in Catalunya or, as in its last third, because he has been diagnosed with terminal liver disease. They are written from a place of extraordinary privacy, and read like snapshots of Bolaño's mind -- they are truly the occasions of their being: a starving Bolaño savoring a cup of coffee, Bolaño spying on the girls taking polo lessons at the stables beside the campground where he lives, Bolaño reminiscing about the Mexico of his youth in Spanish hospitals at the end of his life. We are privy to the arrival of ideas and motifs that feature prominently in the novels: Northern Mexico, Mario Santiago (the real life Ulises Lima), detectives, horror movies, road trips.... Anyone who is as crazy about Bolaño as I am will love this book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Francisco

    Advierto que todavía no soy un experto en poesía así que cuando mucho puedo hablar de lo más superficial y de lo que me hizo sentir este trabajo. Este texto es un compendio de la poesía que Roberto Bolaño escribió en su errante vida, aparentemente la mayor cantidad de contenido la escribió estando en Cataluña. Según las notas los últimos poemas de este libro son de 1993 pero nunca fueron publicados en conjunto hasta 2007. Está compuesto de tres partes que tienen diferencias de estilo evidentes Advierto que todavía no soy un experto en poesía así que cuando mucho puedo hablar de lo más superficial y de lo que me hizo sentir este trabajo. Este texto es un compendio de la poesía que Roberto Bolaño escribió en su errante vida, aparentemente la mayor cantidad de contenido la escribió estando en Cataluña. Según las notas los últimos poemas de este libro son de 1993 pero nunca fueron publicados en conjunto hasta 2007. Está compuesto de tres partes que tienen diferencias de estilo evidentes pero también temporal. La primera parte es la más "poética" porque está compuesta de muchos poemas que tienen versos, aunque si esperas leer rimas, métricas no es el tipo de poeta que andas buscando. No es Miguel Hernández, tampoco Neruda, y como referencia, Bolaño admiraba a Parra. Pero repito, yo de poesía mucho no sé, prefiero dejar que los poemas hablen ellos mismos. Dentro de mil años no quedará nada de cuanto se ha escrito en este siglo Leerán frases sueltas, huellas de mujeres perdidas, fragmentos de niños inmóviles, tus ojos lentos y verdes simplemente no existirán. Será como la Antología Griega, aún más distante, como una playa en invierno para otro asombro y otra indiferencia Muchas son reflexiones así como éstas. Otros son textos para amigos o que recuerdan situaciones personales. Según Alain Resnais hacia el final de su vida Lovecraft fue vigilante nocturno de un cine en Providence. Pálido, sosteniendo un cigarrillo entre los labios, con un metro setenta y cinco de estatura leo esto en la noche del camping Estrella de Mar. No enfermarse nunca Perder todas las batallas Fumar con los ojos entornados y recitar bardos provenzales en el solitario ir y venir de las fronteras Esto puede ser la derrota pero también el mar y las tabernas El signo que equilibra tu inmadurez premeditada y las alegorías Ser uno y débil y moverse No es que por no rimar o por leerse de corrido los poemas no tengan ciertas estructuras. La segunda parte consta de una serie de textos que son más prosa en la estructura pero siguen siendo poéticos en el sentido de que evocan emociones y esconden significados. O sea, prosa poética de una plana o menos. Casi todos aluden a situaciones imaginables o vividas tal vez en su vida en España o a su vida. Hay un poema que se llama El Mar y que recuerda a algo que pasa en Los Detectives Salvajes. Voy a reproducir uno no más. Me quedé en silencio un momento y luego pregunté si él creía realmente que Roberto Bolaño ayudó al jorobadito sólo porque hacía años había estado enamorado de una mexicana y el jorobadito también era mexicano. Sí, dijo el guitearrista, parece mala literatura para enamorados , pero no encuentro otra explicación, quiero decir que en esa época Bolaño tampoco andaba muy sobrado de solidaridad o de desesperación, dos buenas razones para ayudar al mexicano. En cambio, de nostalgia... Desaparece el verso pero aparece la cotidianeidad convertida en motivo "lírico". Hay emoción pero esa emoción está ligada a un momento vital, no a una idea o a un concepto. De repente el contexto es una calle o una persona. Recuerdos vagos de México, el tipo que vio en la esquina en Barcelona, las "muchachas desconocidas" que se encontraba en el camping Estrella de Mar apenas con dinero. Ahí creo que se ve de dónde surge la prosa de Bolaño que aparece en su narrativa. Junto con eso uno siente que está conversando o mejor dicho, escuchando anécdotas de un poeta. Cómo ve el día a día un poeta? [...] Una muchacha que se ducha, su piel enrojecida por el agua caliente; sobre su pelo, como turbante, una toalla vieja, descolorida. De repente, mientras se pinta los labios delante del espejo me mira (estoy detrás) y dice que no hace falta que la acompañe a la estación [...] Para acercarse a la mujer desconocida es necesario dejar de ser el hombre invisible. Ella dice, con todos sus actos, que el único misterio es la confidencia futura. ¿La boca del hombre invisible se acerca al espejo? Sácame de este texto, querré decirle, muéstrame las cosas claras y sencillas, los gritos claros y sencillos, el miedo, la muerte, su instante Atlántida cenando en familia. En esta parte pero más adelante aprovecha de tirar palos a la poesía latinoamericana y española. Y cierra con un texto que se llama Manifiesto Mexicano que es en realidad un relato en prosa de una chica que conoció en México. La tercera parte es como una mezcla de las dos, es más legible pero vuelve (y con fuerza) el verso. Un verso bien libre eso sí. Recordando tanto momentos como conceptos y muchas mujeres. Te regalaré un abismo, dijo ella, pero de tan sutil manera que sólo lo percibirás cuando hayan pasado muchos años y estés lejos de México y de mí. Cuando más lo necesites lo descubrirás, y ése no será el final feliz, pero sí un instante de vacío y de felicidad Y tal vez entonces te acuerdes de mi, aunque no mucho. La poesía entra en el sueño como un buzo en un lago. La poesía, más valiente que nadie, entra y cae a plomo en un lago infinito como Loch Ness o turbio e infausto como el lago Balatón. Contempladla desde el fondo: un buzo inocente envuelto en las plumas de la voluntad. La poesía entra en el sueño como un buzo muerto en el ojo de Dios. Hay también un par de poemas dedicados a su hijo. Él parecía creer realmente que lo más importante que le podía legar era la literatura. «Desesperado con la perspectiva de no volver a ver a mi hijo, ¿a quién encargar de su cuidado sino a los libros? Es así de simple: un poeta pide a los libros que amó y que le inquietaron, protección para su hijo en los años venideros.» Para los lectores que están enamorados de la narrativa de Bolaño de verdad y quieren conocerlo más íntimamente creo que es obvio que tienen que leer sus poemas porque el narrador está ahí, uno lo puede sentir. Creo que se puede escarbar bastante ahí. Ese tipo que respiraba literatura y no se sentía realmente de ningún lugar (pero que soñaba con México). No sé qué tanto le puedan llegar a alguien que no haya leído la narrativa de Bolaño pero creo que al menos en el caso de la poesía es importante conocer al personaje detrás del poema y una vez que uno lo entiende puede meterse en los poemas. Para mi fue toda una experiencia leer tantos poemas de una misma persona juntos. Poemas tan personales también. Y cuando uno lee el éxito de Bolaño como novelista no se cree que él se veía a sí mismo como poeta pero ahí estaba. Era poeta.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Cristina

    “Mi carrera literaria Rechazos de Anagrama, Grijalbo, Planeta, con toda seguridad también de Alfaguara, Mondadori. Un no de Muchnik, Seix Barral, Destino… Todas las editoriales…Todos los lectores… Todos los gerentes de ventas… Bajo el puente, mientras llueve, una oportunidad de oro para verme a mí mismo: Como una culebra en el Polo Norte, pero escribiendo. Escribiendo poesía en el país de los imbéciles. Escribiendo con mi hijo en las rodillas. Escribiendo hasta que cae la noche Con un estruendo de mil de “Mi carrera literaria Rechazos de Anagrama, Grijalbo, Planeta, con toda seguridad también de Alfaguara, Mondadori. Un no de Muchnik, Seix Barral, Destino… Todas las editoriales…Todos los lectores… Todos los gerentes de ventas… Bajo el puente, mientras llueve, una oportunidad de oro para verme a mí mismo: Como una culebra en el Polo Norte, pero escribiendo. Escribiendo poesía en el país de los imbéciles. Escribiendo con mi hijo en las rodillas. Escribiendo hasta que cae la noche Con un estruendo de mil demonios. Los demonios que han de llevarme al infierno, Pero escribiendo” Compré La Universidad Desconocida después de haber quedado fascinada por la exposición que sobre Roberto Bolaño organizó el Centro de Cultura Contemporánea de Barcelona del 5 de marzo al 30 de junio de este año. Este poema inédito con el que Carolina López, la que fuera esposa de Bolaño y madre de sus hijos, introduce el libro representa para mí la esencia de Bolaño: pura pasión por escribir pese a todas las adversidades. Si antes de acercarme a la exposición tan sólo conocía al Bolaño narrador de 2666, Estrella distante o el Tercer Reich, después de la exposición y de haber leído La Universidad Desconocida , Roberto Bolaño aparece ante mí como EL ESCRITOR (en mayúsculas, sí) y ello por dos razones principalmente. La primera por su inmensa capacidad imaginativa y la forma tan magnífica que tiene de crear ambientes, dibujar personajes, y engancharte al relato sin que te des cuenta (aunque él se viera a sí mismo poeta considerando la prosa siempre como un género menor.) Pero ¿cómo llega a tal dominio del lenguaje? Dos factores son fundamentales: talento, sensibilidad, necesidad según Rilke, duende para Lorca, por una parte, y muchísimo trabajo, por otra. Hay escritores que se centran en su mundo interior y desmenuzándolo llegan a comprender un poco más el entorno que les rodea y, otros, en cambio, como es el caso de Bolaño, a los que cualquier situación, por insulsa que parezca, les impulsa a escribir, de tal forma que todo puede servirles como objeto susceptible de ser convertido en obra de arte. Amo eso. Pero en la exposición también se pone de manifiesto que el arquetipo de artista romántico no existe puesto que junto a esa necesidad o impulso deben sumarse horas y horas de esfuerzo y trabajo. Así, en la exposición se podían observar los cuadernos de Bolaño con multitud de anotaciones cuidadosamente ordenadas, esquemas de los espacios que después aparecen en sus novelas, recortes de periódico referidos a sucesos que eventualmente podrían llegar a ser utilizados en alguno de sus libros. Me sorprendió, y mucho, un manuscrito que había expuesto en el que el escritor describía la pintura románica que representaba un nacimiento que aparecía en una caja de cerillas, que de acuerdo con la información que él mismo daba en el texto, había escrito mientras trabajaba de vigilante nocturno en un camping de la costa catalana. Me parece alucinante imaginar a Bolaño encendiéndose un cigarrillo en medio de la noche, y entreteniéndose describiendo la imagen de la caja de cerillas. Escribir por encima de todo, lo que sea, donde sea. La segunda razón por la que lo admiro es por su coherencia vital, por su absoluta libertad y por su autenticidad. Para mí es Bolaño el ejemplo claro de lo que significa ser libre, pero no sólo mediante la palabra sino a través de la acción por varios motivos. El primero por vivir al máximo, pues puede deducirse que durante su juventud debió vivir un sinfín de experiencias en Chile y posteriormente en el D.F, que le marcaron profundamente y que después plasmará sobre el papel (principalmente en su novela Los detectives salvajes, que tengo pendiente); el segundo por priorizar durante toda su vida el hecho de escribir sin importarle lo más mínimo la opinión de les demás, por lo que se dedica a trabajar de cualquier cosa que le permita mantenerse sin más, circunstancia que por otra parte le recompensa con poder disfrutar de plena libertad para poder decir exactamente lo que quiere decir sin tener que someterse a los editores o a los gustos del mercado, lo que le permite, a su vez, ser muy crítico pero también tener que pagar el precio de sentirse solo y rechazado por no acceder a venderse; y el tercero, por la preocupación mostrada por el bienestar futuro de sus hijos cuando supo que estaba gravemente enfermo, escribiendo hasta el final su novela 2666 que finalmente no pudo acabar y dejando instrucciones concretas de cómo quería que se fuera publicando para asegurar que los beneficios económicos que se generaran cubrieran los gastos de los niños. Yendo al contenido del poemario citaré como ejemplo de texto crítico el siguiente: La Poesía Latinoamericana Algo horrible, caballeros. La vacuidad y el espanto. Paisaje de hormigas. En el vacío. Pero en el fondo, útiles. Leamos y contemplemos su diario discurrir: Allí están los poetas de México y Argentina, de Perú y Colombia, de Chile, Brasil Y Bolivia Empeñados en sus parcelas de poder En pie de guerra (permanentemente), dispuestos a defender Sus castillos de la acometida de la Nada O de los jóvenes. Dispuestos a pactar, a ignorar, A ejercer la violencia (verbal), a hacer desaparecer De las antologías los elementos subversivos: Algunos viejos cucú. Una actividad que es fiel reflejo de nuestro continente. Pobres y débiles, son nuestros poetas Quienes mejor escenifican esa contingencia. Pobres y débiles, ni europeos Ni norteamericanos, Patéticamente orgullosos y patéticamente cultos (Aunque más nos valdría aprender matemáticas o mecánica, ¡Más nos valdría arar y sembrar! ¡Más nos valdría Hacer de putos y putas!) Pavos rellenos de pedos dispuestos a hablar de la muerte En cualquier universidad, en cualquier barra de bar. Así somos, vanidosos y lamentables, Como América Latina, estrictamente jerárquicos, todos En fila, todos con nuestras obras completas Y un curso de inglés o francés Haciendo cola en las puertas De lo Desconocido: Un Premio o una patada En nuestro culo de cemento. Epílogo: Y uno y dos y tres, mi corazón al revés, y cuatro y cinco y seis, está roto, ya lo veis, y siete y ocho y nueve, llueve, llueve, llueve… Otro poema que me ha encantado ha sido el que sigue: Lola Paniagua Contra ti he intentado irme alejarme La clausura requería velocidad Pero finalmente eras tú la que abría la puerta. Estabas en cualquier cosa que pudiera Caminar llorar caerse al pozo Y desde la claridad me preguntabas por mi salud Estoy mal Lola casi no sueño. También este: Tu lejano corazón No me siento seguro En ninguna parte. La aventura no termina. Tus ojos brillan en todos los rincones. No me siento seguro En las palabras Ni en el dinero Ni en los espejos. La aventura no termina jamás Y tus ojos me buscan. Y podría añadir aquí cualquier fragmento de Prosa del otoño en Gerona. Un ejemplo: “La pasión es geometría. Rombos, cilindros, ángulos latidores. La pasión es geometría que cae al abismo, observada desde el fondo del abismo.” Esto no es finalmente una reseña de la Universidad Desconocida, es mi tributo personal a Roberto Bolaño porque lo merece. Lo seguiré leyendo sin duda alguna.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    GENIUS.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Howard

    Any honest collection of poetry--and what should poetry be but honest--will read more like a collection of who its author is than like what its author is capable of. This isn't such a radical pronouncement, obviously. It might even be wrong. But that, also, is what poetry is. A willingness to be wrong in an attempt, not to be right, but to (and if I had some more honest way to express this I would) find a little bit of truth. I've heard others say that this should be read as a relic of Bolaño fr Any honest collection of poetry--and what should poetry be but honest--will read more like a collection of who its author is than like what its author is capable of. This isn't such a radical pronouncement, obviously. It might even be wrong. But that, also, is what poetry is. A willingness to be wrong in an attempt, not to be right, but to (and if I had some more honest way to express this I would) find a little bit of truth. I've heard others say that this should be read as a relic of Bolaño from the days in which he was a savage detective. Sure, also true. But it isn't so much just source material fallen from the heart for us to know the author more. Maybe for us to know the man more. Or the boy, for in a way is that not what he was? A bit like Chris McCandless, who might also be called a savage detective, an enrollee of the unknown university, but at its satellite campus, rather than its flagship, which sailed a different course to find its way home. I don't think I've really said anything about this collection of poetry, but if I may, I might simply blame the book itself, rather than my own incompetence, for the ramblings. I think honest ramblings are a good thing to blame Bolaño for causing, anyway. I'll try to write more when I am able to.

  12. 4 out of 5

    César Galicia

    Un libro que comprueba tres cosas: 1.- Con sus altibajos, Bolaño lo supo hacer todo bien. Crónica, cuento, ensayo, reseña, poesía. Una mezcla de talento, disciplina, valentía, lectura como adicción y profundo respeto a la literatura. 2.- Bolaño era capaz de llevar sus obsesiones hasta las últimas consecuencias. 3.- A pesar de que su obra poética es la menos conocida, Bolaño, antes que cualquier otra cosa, es poeta.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Arlo

    If you've read Bolano's oeuvre and you enjoyed both his prose and poetry than you are in for a treat. A collection of poetry and vignettes with familiar scenarios and characters that appear through out his novels and poems. I'd suggest reading the "author's notes" and "brief history of the book" that appear at the end of the book early on in your reading just to give you a reference point of these writings. Good stuff and something I may go back to sporadically for a reread.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    ( 3.5 stars) "Poetry that might champion my shadow in days to come when I’ll be just a name not the man who wandered with empty pockets, worked in slaughterhouses on the old and on the new continent. I seek credibility not durability for the ballads I composed in honor of very real girls. And mercy for my years before 26." Bolaño's talent for story-telling is evident in his poetry, just like his poet's voice is evident in his fiction. Rough, fresh and full of colours, his poems are honest, often vulgar ( 3.5 stars) "Poetry that might champion my shadow in days to come when I’ll be just a name not the man who wandered with empty pockets, worked in slaughterhouses on the old and on the new continent. I seek credibility not durability for the ballads I composed in honor of very real girls. And mercy for my years before 26." Bolaño's talent for story-telling is evident in his poetry, just like his poet's voice is evident in his fiction. Rough, fresh and full of colours, his poems are honest, often vulgar and always vibrant. Word-drunk, far from refined, but still with their own rhythm, the thoughts of a 20-something old Bolaño are spilled in free-form 3-page long stories in some of the poems or in perfect two-line gems in others. Young, hungry, egoistic. Realist, relentless. Too much too soon or too little too late - with Roberto you never quite know. I prefer his fiction far more than his poetry. He had other opinions, but then again, he had turned stubbornness into a habit. You decide.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Pedro Areal

    A poesia de Bolaño, que se considerava poeta e não romancista. Magnifico. Os poemas de Bolaño vão dando pistas sobre a vida nas margens da sociedade (guarda de campismo, colher fruta, viver frugalmente como artista aqui e ali, beber copos, corre riscos, etc) que constitui a tal universidade desconhecida onde se pode aprender algo com relevância real para a vida.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Eric Lopez

    You must read through its entirety to find the diamonds buried among the large amount of average poems. Perhaps reading each page allows the reader to truly appreciate the great poems and ideas sleeping deep within these pages. Fans of Bolano must read, but do not expect the wonder that exists in his other works.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Richard Shea

    One of the finest, truest books of poetry I've ever read. Maybe Bolaño was right: poetry is braver than anything.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Clara Olausson

    det går fort när man har roligt

  19. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    I feel two categories of things reading The Unknown University by Roberto Bolaño. The first is confused (a good thing – means there is room to learn). The second: privileged. The privilege and the confusion come from the same source. I haven't done the research, so I have no idea what preparation work went into the translation and the resulting manuscript, but the book reads as if his journals were gathered by his heirs after his death and published pretty much as they happened to be shelved. I am I feel two categories of things reading The Unknown University by Roberto Bolaño. The first is confused (a good thing – means there is room to learn). The second: privileged. The privilege and the confusion come from the same source. I haven't done the research, so I have no idea what preparation work went into the translation and the resulting manuscript, but the book reads as if his journals were gathered by his heirs after his death and published pretty much as they happened to be shelved. I am not complaining. Having come to Bolaño through 2666: A Novel and The Savage Detectives, I recognize characters, settings, and above all, poetic strategies, which in the case of The Savage Detectives, is apparently called “visceral realism”. That recognition—the endurance of themes, characters and attitudes—alone makes me feel as if I've peeked into his private files. I don't think there's a single book of poetry that I've read where the author (or the author's publisher/editor) hasn't gone to enormous trouble to make a clear emotional or narrative path—a guided tour—for me to follow. In the cases/books where I like where the path is heading, I'm OK with that. Where it isn't, I put the book down. But Bolaño. Well, it's more like standing at some half buried ancient ruin on the side of a mountain or on a beach. There's no path, but rather a climate, with weather coming and going at rates far beyond my control. The climate, of course, is his history as a Chilean outcast from the Latin American writer's clique (we all have them). Weather: the hunchback that pops up over and over; references to defecation, penises, drug use, political horrors, city streets, pastoral longings, loved men and women, the hurt and rage of being laughed at by his writerly peers, and the sly wit, the moments when the text spits at me, a clown in the guise of a rain cloud. For me, the thing that sets The Unknown University apart from other books of poetry—there is a man behind the curtain, his pants hastily donned, and he is winking at me. Other books pretend there is a poet writing. I suspect this unrepentant humanity describes “visceral realism”, although to be honest I haven't looked it up yet. I find the world confusing. It is also interesting in the same way dung beetles are interesting when they roll up shit balls. In The Unknown University there are the poems that just sit there staring at you. Dung beetles don't always roll shit. Sometimes they sleep. I don't actually believe the Nature Channel when it implies that the life of the dung beetle is represented by the 8 second visual wonders of it walking on 2 legs whilst rolling its prize with the others. I also don't believe poets write poetry books, no matter how much the artiste the person responsible presents to us through the pages. Consequently, I feel privileged to be given the great honour of watching the dung beetle sleeping. It lets me in on the secret of a lived reality instead of being given the longed for one. No matter how tragic, beautiful or despairing, if it is longed for, it isn't real. Reality is more often like the lull at the beach, when it isn't so hot you can sleep wonderfully in the shade, or so cold you have to run to stay warm. I do wonder if the book as I've come to have it is the result of the author's intent or just an accident that worked. Either way, it fits into the larger world of his other writings, feeds them, and is fed by them, much, I suspect, as both poetry and prose fed the results we know as his books. In the way an oak tree isn't a forest without the “trash” trees, there is an ecology to the whole of the work, as well as the single book. In other words, one weak poem is the habitat for many a hidden life. And as to whether he's a novelist or a poet, that's not a useful question I think. Like, is the forest the oak or the alder? I don't really think either “poetry” or “prose” fit as terms to describe his writing. We need a new idea about how narratives work in the mind. Both the “novels” and the book of “poetry” mix metaphorical and linear logic and thus mix the standard bearers of poetry and prose. Not that this is new in contemporary writing, but somehow with Bolaño it has taken on a new energy, a “real worldness” that I find mostly lacking in the books I read. I'd love to know how he did that. I don't know, haven't figured it out, and so I'm happy to be wandering looking at all the oddities, still confused, and therefore still learning. Consequently, I'll keep reading Bolaño long after I'm done with the guided tours.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Angelique

    Roberto Bolaño, en varias entrevistas, confiesa que su entrada a la literatura fue en manos de la poesía. En sus libros de prosa, de cuentos, en sus novelas nos encontramos con figuras líricas recurrentes, que traman por debajo de la historia principal todo un hilaje pictórico, sensitivo, que posee su condensación en la imagen de la Universidad Desconocida, recinto pesadillezco detenido en el tiempo, como las experiencias policromas que sacuden a Amparo en su novela Amuleto, encerrada en un baño Roberto Bolaño, en varias entrevistas, confiesa que su entrada a la literatura fue en manos de la poesía. En sus libros de prosa, de cuentos, en sus novelas nos encontramos con figuras líricas recurrentes, que traman por debajo de la historia principal todo un hilaje pictórico, sensitivo, que posee su condensación en la imagen de la Universidad Desconocida, recinto pesadillezco detenido en el tiempo, como las experiencias policromas que sacuden a Amparo en su novela Amuleto, encerrada en un baño mientras la dictadura daba sus primeros puntapiés en el sistema universitario. El libro La universidad desconocida cristaliza, así, todo un universo poético del cual ya hemos tenido muestras en varias novelas, en conocidos cuentos- pero con una libertad desbordante, casi infantil, que recurre a imágenes constantes para construir un espectro global del terror. Por qué Bolaño destaca como el narrador por excelencia del horror, de lo ominoso escindido de la experiencia cotidiana, pero que está ahí agazapado dentro de cada gesto, aguardando el extrañamiento que lo despierte. En este libro, ese horror se narra de diversas maneras. Nos encontramos al principio una serie de poemas, pronto seguidos por un extracto titulado GENTE QUE SE ALEJA, en el cual una serie de impresiones nos describen el mundo particular del escritor, centrado en su experiencia en Chile. Estas impresiones, evidentemente, pueden hermanarse con aquellas del poeta maldito Rimbaud, pero con respecto a su contraste, ya que las de Roberto Bolaño están subsumidos por la atmósfera tétrica, horrorizada, de toda una generación que pertenece a esa Universidad Desconocida de la incertidumbre y lo terrible, de lo marginal y lo que casi se declara ilegítimo. A estas impresiones, le sigue un cuento alucinante, encastrado en una atmósfera turbia y cristalina, que posee ciertas ideas excéntricas y maravillosas, centrando a los baños públicos de Chile como los recintos que poseen la parte misteriosa, oculta, sucia de la ciudad- pero también la parte más verdadera, la que promete cierta revelación, sin jamás presentarla sino mediante indicios. Los últimos poemas son una Advertencia. Es posible decir, a quien dude si leer o no este libro, si encontrara o no a Bolaño como poeta, si vale la pena (criterio horrible) o no recorrer sus hojas, que lea La universidad desconocida al revés, que comience con los últimos alegatos, estos últimos manifiestos del mundo lírico de Bolaño. Si hay alguna duda con respecto a este libro, se podría decir que debe empezarse a leer desde la página 391, terminarlo, volver al inicio. Será suficiente para convencerse. Para entrar en las inmediaciones, en los pasillos interminables que recorren la universidad desconocida, la que adiestró a toda una generación, la silenciosa, que posee una anatomia propia, que encadena los cuerpos a su ritmo salvaje, adormecedor, alienante y en oportunidades, terrible y verdadero.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Arif Abdurahman

    Mungkin Bolaño benar: puisi lebih berani dari apapun. Meski, saya bukan pembaca puisi yang baik.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    Some of this collection of Bolano's surrealistic beat poetry is excellent. I loved People Walking Away, a series of hallucinatory fragments, which as you read them cohere into a sort-of-story about a death at a camp-site where Bolano was working as a nightwatchman. The way something approaching a narrative emerged from these fragments was fantastic (in more than one sense) and will stay with me as an example of real sustained artistry. There's also a great short story (I guess Bolano was stretchi Some of this collection of Bolano's surrealistic beat poetry is excellent. I loved People Walking Away, a series of hallucinatory fragments, which as you read them cohere into a sort-of-story about a death at a camp-site where Bolano was working as a nightwatchman. The way something approaching a narrative emerged from these fragments was fantastic (in more than one sense) and will stay with me as an example of real sustained artistry. There's also a great short story (I guess Bolano was stretching the definition of 'poetry' here) about some notably seedy adventures in Barcelona bathhouses with an ex-lover; and a great longer poem about a time he toured South America as a kid, which is full of the same sad nostalgia for lost countries and women as a lot of the book. Sometimes I found reading the weirder poems a bit too much like hard work - I was okay with them not making literal sense, but I would have liked to be rewarded with a few more moments of inspired imagery or something in exchange for that. I suspect some of these poems would make much more sense to somebody with a better understanding of Bolano's reference points and life story; they may also have made more sense in Spanish, as sometimes I feel he was making a point about a particular Spanish word, and this was lost in translation. While reading this I began toying with the idea of reading nothing but poetry next year. We'll see.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Quiver

    A long work because it's bilingual: the first half is in Spanish, the second in English. I read the English. Consists of three parts: poems, poetic prose, lost poems. The first part was my favourite: full of images and ideas that struck a chord. I found myself highlighting lines in most poems. "Trust me: it isn't love that's drawing near but beauty with its stole of dead dawns." "Abstract pianos in silence's ambushes, my own muteness that envelopes the writing." Some lines could conjure up whole storie A long work because it's bilingual: the first half is in Spanish, the second in English. I read the English. Consists of three parts: poems, poetic prose, lost poems. The first part was my favourite: full of images and ideas that struck a chord. I found myself highlighting lines in most poems. "Trust me: it isn't love that's drawing near but beauty with its stole of dead dawns." "Abstract pianos in silence's ambushes, my own muteness that envelopes the writing." Some lines could conjure up whole stories and recall long-forgotten emotions: I value that in poetry, especially in this kind of dreamy, magical-realism. I will be returning to this part to look for inspiration and imaginative leaps. The second part: The poetic prose had its moments, but it was either too dense, too loose, or too filled with ellipses for me to appreciate its worth. The third part: The lost poems didn't strike me as powerfully as those in the first part. I was drawn to the book by the blurb where it says that 'Roberto Bolaño touted poetry as the superior art form, able to approach an infinity in which "you become infinitely small without disappearing."' Nicely put. His towering poetic images made me feel small indeed. Five stars for the poems, two or three for the rest. Four in total.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Josue Olvera

    Toda la poesía de Bolaño reunida en un solo documento. Es maraviloso. Es cierto que no fue un poeta convencional, tuvo su propia tradición, sus propios maestros, no por ello menos bello, elocuente y sorprendente. Es un libro lleno de versos que son capaces, al menos de mi caso, de sacarme una sonrisa, una poesía con la que me puedo identificar, donde puedo comprender también la vida de Bolaño, sus tristezas y las cosas simples que le dieron alegrías. Lector inmenso que siempre me ha dado leccion Toda la poesía de Bolaño reunida en un solo documento. Es maraviloso. Es cierto que no fue un poeta convencional, tuvo su propia tradición, sus propios maestros, no por ello menos bello, elocuente y sorprendente. Es un libro lleno de versos que son capaces, al menos de mi caso, de sacarme una sonrisa, una poesía con la que me puedo identificar, donde puedo comprender también la vida de Bolaño, sus tristezas y las cosas simples que le dieron alegrías. Lector inmenso que siempre me ha dado lecciones y me ha presentado una multitud de excelentes escritores, y así mismo era un amante de los libros. Uno de mis escritores más queridos. Aquí un pequeño ejemplo de algo de su poesía: "Te regalaré un abismo, dijo ella, pero de tan sutil manera que sólo lo percibirás cuando hayan pasado muchos años y estés lejos de México y de mí. Cuando más lo necesites lo descubrirás, y ése no será el final feliz, pero sí un instante de vacío y de felicidad. Y tal vez entonces te acuerdes de mí, aunque no mucho.” Roberto Bolaño. Mi vida en los tubos de supervivencia. La universidad desconocida. Pág. 352.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Víctor

    Tal vez el mayor merito de la poética de Bolaño es que lo llevó a la narrativa, un juicio tal vez algo injusto pero natural para alguien que, como yo, encontró ahí un profundo affaire literario. Con esto no quiero decir que fuese un mal poeta, como él mismo llegó a considerar, pero adentrarse en su estética supone rechazar casi cualquier preconcepción sobre lo que significa la poesía, salvo la dimensión de lo bello. Vale considerar que el volumen agrupa tres décadas de la obra de un escritor que Tal vez el mayor merito de la poética de Bolaño es que lo llevó a la narrativa, un juicio tal vez algo injusto pero natural para alguien que, como yo, encontró ahí un profundo affaire literario. Con esto no quiero decir que fuese un mal poeta, como él mismo llegó a considerar, pero adentrarse en su estética supone rechazar casi cualquier preconcepción sobre lo que significa la poesía, salvo la dimensión de lo bello. Vale considerar que el volumen agrupa tres décadas de la obra de un escritor que murió siendo aun joven, lo que no significa que exista un notorio trastocamiento de su sensibilidad por la madurez, con la valida excepción de sus poemas escritos luego de ser padre, pero es innegable que conforme los años pasaron, el poeta debió abrir pasó al narrador, o quizás nunca existió esa dicotomía. En general este es un libro que me parece más bien dirigido para incondicionales de Bolaño, o para anarquistas del canon.

  26. 4 out of 5

    James

    I really have to separate this volume into two sections: the bulk of the book are Balaño's umpublished poems, the other half are "poems" in very loose sense; they resemble more of a prose designation. The first part I would give anywhere between 2-3 stars. Balaño's poetry is heavily influenced by Beat poetry, which often works to detriment. There are fragments of brilliance, but most often he reproduces their tropes way too much. The section which deserves the most attention is the middle sectio I really have to separate this volume into two sections: the bulk of the book are Balaño's umpublished poems, the other half are "poems" in very loose sense; they resemble more of a prose designation. The first part I would give anywhere between 2-3 stars. Balaño's poetry is heavily influenced by Beat poetry, which often works to detriment. There are fragments of brilliance, but most often he reproduces their tropes way too much. The section which deserves the most attention is the middle section that resembles Balaño's prose. This section deserves 4 stars easily. What this collection highlights is how poetry influences Balaño's prose. Having the two side-by-side is quite informing. I cannot view Balaño as a poet. That being said, this volume represents an interesting literary experiment. Whatever the deficiencies may be, and there are ones to be found, it rises well above Mexico City Blues.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Brandon

    This a collection of Bolaño's poetry from the early eighties up to the late nineties. One of the books in this, The Romantic Dogs, is coming out in English soon if its not out already. You should buy it. He was really into Parra and Efrain Huerta and Gilberto Owen and Vallejo. It's not stuff that's going to appeal, I don't think, to most American poets. At least, if some American was writing poems as simple, linguistically, as a lot of these are people would probably laugh, but it isn't about th This a collection of Bolaño's poetry from the early eighties up to the late nineties. One of the books in this, The Romantic Dogs, is coming out in English soon if its not out already. You should buy it. He was really into Parra and Efrain Huerta and Gilberto Owen and Vallejo. It's not stuff that's going to appeal, I don't think, to most American poets. At least, if some American was writing poems as simple, linguistically, as a lot of these are people would probably laugh, but it isn't about that so much as the mood he can make inside a poem and they way he can stack images up and juxtapose them to whatever the desired effect is. There's a poem in this book where he meets Ernesto Cardenal in a dream and is asking him who will get into Communist heaven and Cardenal assures him that everyone will. It's sad and beautiful and ugly, as are his novels.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Seamus Thompson

    Gave this collection a pretty good going over. Often with collections rating/reviewing can be a difficult proposition: I loved several of the poems in here, failed to connect with many more, and probably missed many as I skipped around. So, I'll simply say that I definitely prefer Bolaño's prose -- a preference that is probably informed by my being limited to English translations. That said, I even preferred the prose poems in this collection to much of the verse. I also appreciated that this is Gave this collection a pretty good going over. Often with collections rating/reviewing can be a difficult proposition: I loved several of the poems in here, failed to connect with many more, and probably missed many as I skipped around. So, I'll simply say that I definitely prefer Bolaño's prose -- a preference that is probably informed by my being limited to English translations. That said, I even preferred the prose poems in this collection to much of the verse. I also appreciated that this is a bilingual edition, so I could at least get a stronger sense of the original word order and sound of Bolaño's writing.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lily

    The Unknown University is the 800 page bilingual totality of Roberto Bolano's poetry. The range and diversity of the collection is immense; some poems read like movie scenes and others like surreal and loosely connected prose vignettes. There are poems both personal and philosophical, beautiful and grotesque, and formal and experimental. These inspired ramblings can make the mundane and personal more profound and even seedy darkness seem lighter and more endearing through Bolano's lens. Review po The Unknown University is the 800 page bilingual totality of Roberto Bolano's poetry. The range and diversity of the collection is immense; some poems read like movie scenes and others like surreal and loosely connected prose vignettes. There are poems both personal and philosophical, beautiful and grotesque, and formal and experimental. These inspired ramblings can make the mundane and personal more profound and even seedy darkness seem lighter and more endearing through Bolano's lens. Review posted on the Denver Library website

  30. 5 out of 5

    World Literature Today

    "Bolaño’s writing wraps us in a ghostly embrace that refuses to let go. This beautiful oblivion that is the body of work that is in turn Roberto Bolaño forces us to stare into the void after him. What we find are not exemplary experiences but ghostly encounters with our other, darker selves." - Andrew Martino, Southern New Hampshire University This book was reviewed in the November 2013 issue of World Literature Today. Read the full review by visiting our website: http://bit.ly/1i3Zz3k

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