Roberto Bolaño

From ANTWERP (New Directions 2010, translated by Natasha Wimmer)



I wrote this book for myself, and even that I can’t be sure of .…



1.         FAÇADE


Once photographed, life here is ended. It is almost symbolic of Hollywood. Tara has no rooms inside. It was just a façade.

—David O. Selznick


The kid heads toward the house. Alley of larches. The Fronde. Necklace of tears. Love is a mix of sentimentality and sex (Burroughs). The mansion is just a façade—dismantled, to be erected in Atlanta. 1959. Everything looks worn. Not a recent phenomenon. From a long time back, everything wrecked. And the Spaniards imitate the way you talk. The South American lilt. An alley of palms. Everything slow and asthmatic. Bored biologists watch the rain from the windows of their corporations. It’s no good singing with feeling. My darling, wherever you are: it’s too late, forget the gesture that never came. “It was just a façade.” The kid walks toward the house.






Twin highways flung across the evening, when everything seems to indicate that memory and finer feelings are kaput, like the rental car of a tourist who unknowingly ventures into war zones and never returns, at least not by car, a man who speeds down highways strung across a zone that his mind refuses to accept as a barrier, vanishing point (the transparent dragon), and in the news Sophie Podolski is kaput in Belgium, the girl from the Montfaucon Research Center (a smell unbefitting a woman), and the spent lips say “I see waiters, hired for the summer, walking along a deserted beach at eight o’clock at night” … “Slow movements, real or unreal I don’t know” … “A sandswept group” … “For an instant, a fat eleven-year-old girl lit up the public pool” … “So is Colan Yar after you too?” … “The highway, a black-topped strip of prarie?” … The man sits at one of the cafes in the hypothetical ghetto. He writes postcards because breathing prevents him from writing the poems he’d like to write. I mean: free poems, no extra tax. His eyes retain a vision of naked bodies coming slowly out of the sea. Then all that’s left is emptiness. “Waiters walking along the beach” … “The evening light dismantles our sense of the wind” …



35.       A HOSPITAL


The girl weighs 60 pounds now. She’s in the hospital and it seems she’s losing ground. “Destroy your stray phrases.” I didn’t understand what she meant until much later. Doubt was cast on my honesty, my reliability: they said I slept while I was on guard duty. Really, they were after someone else and I happened to show up at the wrong time. The girl weighs 60 pounds now and she probably won’t leave the hospital alive. (Someone applauds. The hall is full of people who open their mouths without a sound.) A girl I knew? I don’t remember anyone with that face, I said. On the screen there’s a street, a drunk kid is about to cross, a bus appears. The prompter said, “Sara Bendeman?” Still, I couldn’t understand anything at the time. All I remember is a skinny girl with long freckled legs, undressing at the foot of the bed. The scene continues in a dimly lit alley: a woman, forty, smokes a cigarette on the fourth floor, leaning on the windowsill. Up the stairs comes a panting cop in civilian clothes, his features like mine if I’d overdosed on cortisone. (The one person who applauded closes his eyes now. In his mind something takes shape, something that might be a hospital if the meaning of life were different. In one of the rooms the girl is in bed. The curtains are open and light spills into the room.) “Destroy your stray phrases” … “A policeman climbs the stairs” … “In his gaze there is no hunchback, no Jewish girl, no traitor” … “But we can still insist” …