Cleaving Writing Disappearing

The Disappear(ing) Writer

“they have the dilapidated,
shipwrecked beauty of
Pessoa’s heteronyms.”
—Wayne Koestenbaum

In Nazi Literature in the Americas—
Robert Bolaño’s entries—concerned with
Max Mirebalais—plagiarist (“he decided
to spare himself—the difficult years of
apprenticeship”)—like Pessoa the
moody melancholy Portuguese
inventor of heteronyms…

“Bolaño casts these figures as
martyrs, perversely sanctified
by mediocrity and anonymity…
Like a John Gilbert fading with
the advent of the talkies is
Bolaño’s mournful, sepia-tinted
depiction of a poet’s disappearance”
—Wayne Koestenbaum

Is it possible—Bolaño implies
writing a fiction—so true it dies into
poetry—a prose that loses its
identity or goes—underground
to perform another—secret service?

“Bolaño’s stories assert that
literature, as a martyr’s vocation,
has more to do with ignominy than
with accolades. Forced into exile,
Bolaño found a way to love
displacement, to find philosophical
comfort in dwelling’s vertigo.”
—Wayne Koestenbaum

Does literary exile ever end?
Is writing—a martyr’s vocation?
To be a joiner or sycophant—sitting
Complacently within a an influential
Literary movement to be scorned?
When does writerly refusal end—
And collaboration begin? Borges
In his old age—erasing Peron for
Another dictator. This time bought
Off with luxurious coffee table
Books and Nazi accolades?

“For Bolaño, only the erased
and forgotten figure glows”
—Wayne Koestenbaum

Bolaño’s avatars—are they
Like Pessoa’s heteronyms?
B or Arturo Belano—more
Like intellectual detective
Fiction—unhindered by
Pessoa’s Lisbon junk and
Undertow. Like Saramago—
Isn’t it The Year of the
Death of Ricardo Reis?
Revisiting the scene of
The crime—the slow
Disappearance of the
Dead calm writer?

“Bolaño’s greatness lies in
the distance between the
horror of the alluded-to
event and the imperturbable
lucidity of his narrative tone,
as if every newsreel or
flashback of catastrophe
could be intellectualized
into fable or turned into
chill synopsis”
—Wayne Koestenbaum

The Boom Lit Bubble—
Popped over the scummy
Whirlwind engulfing Chile,
Argentina and Central
America. Who could speak
Or write of Death quickly
Enough—without fleeing
The bloody occurrences
Glimpsed thru the eyes
Of that young generation.
Mexico City, Allende,
Kent State, Chicago…
The Americas opened
Up like a cave bigger
Than earth—so big that
There was no difference
Between screaming and
Not screaming anymore…

“I am addicted to the haze
that floats about Bolaño’s
fiction—a trance, a sense
that every divination occurs
underwater, in halflight”
—Wayne Koestenbaum

Some things don’t disappear—
Like torture in Chile, Argentina,
Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad,
Guantánamo. We think that our
Capacity to suffer is immense—
But we’re not the ones being
Water-boarded, electrocuted,
Tortured with stilettos, drugged
And thrown from helicopters
To sharks below. You’re reading
This in you home—but down
There in your basement there’s
A torture salon going on. Bodies
Are being beaten—while you
Watch FOX-News fake it. Were
We too young, remote, naïve—
Were we too trusting, complacent,
Fearing what was going on—we
Listened but was it close enough?
Now that we know—so what?

“Bolaño practices an art of
resistance—against punishment
and police and dictatorship”
—Wayne Koestenbaum

Power and decadence—at once
Baroque and attenuated. Does
It give us a model—for Literature?
When we disappear—do we flee
From our voice? Only to return
To it later—with the blankness
Of pure attentiveness? Is it
Possible to write Fiction—as if
We’re dying into Poetry? As we
Phase out of prose—do we have
Time to do the Detective work?
To lose our identity—and go
Underground inside ourselves?
To do what poets—have always
Done? Lowering one’s voice—
Before raising it once again?

—quotes from Wayne Koestenbaum,
“Dead Calm: Roberto Bolaño’s
imperturbable style,” Bookforum

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