Tuesday, July 15, 2008


UPDATE: I bow humbly and humbled to MBR and Fausto Maijistral -- see Comments #1 and #4. I let my original post stand below for purely historical reasons, then -- as if any further proof of my hotheadedness and literary illiteracy were necessary. Soon my shame will take over and it will be deleted. Historical sense doesn't last longer than a week in this country anyway, right? And here's to hoping that today's post (on a certain 'leaked' image from the ramp-up to the Dem convention, two entries up) will prove to be equally wrong -- the logos on that bag MUST be photoshopped, right? No? Please?


From the 'A note from the author's heirs' that opens the galleys of 2666, Roberto Bolaño's final novel:

Realizing that death would be near, Roberto left instructions for his novel 2666 to be published divided into five books corresponding to the five parts of the novel, specifying the order in which they should appear, at what intervals (one per year), and even the price to be negotiated with the publisher. [...] After his death respect for the literary value of the work [emphasis PV] [...] caused us [...] to reverse Roberto's decision and publish 2666 first in full, in a single volume [...]

In other words: You only
wrote this thing, so FUCK YOU and why should we respect your wishes?

I say: pox on Bolaño's moneygrubbing heirs and pox on his shithead publishers.

Art is free, the artist made his wishes more than clear, and all you care about is the quick buck.

See also: Nabokov's son and Nabokov.

There are of course bigger literary-heir fuck-yous to take care of -- George W. Bush and the Constitution, and Barack Obama and the Fourth Amendment, for starters -- but still: Kindly remind me to never publish with FSG. Or Anagrama.


MBR said...

I was under the impression that Bolano wanted the books to be divided in order to yield maximum profits for his heirs and not necessarily for artistic reasons. Hopefully FSG and NH have given Bolano's family adequate compensation.

How are you liking it so far?

Paul Verhaeghen said...

Ah, but look who's telling you that! ;)
Now, I personally am a control freak about my texts (which is why I translated that Omega Minor thing myself), and the broader point I was trying to make is that writers, as the producers of texts, are all too often treated by their publishers as no more than some form of necessary evil. This, I believe, is something that is discussed rather rarely.
Put bluntly: Writers are unique talents with unique voices who do something only they can do. (If Bolano's editor could write as well as Bolano, he would not be Bolano's editor. He'd be a writer.) The money, however, is made by the nameless/faceless/interchangable conglomerate. (I would be surprised if Bolano's editor at FSG wouldn't be making mucho mas dinero than Bolano himself was making. I would like for all of us literary types to sit down quietly for a second and reflect on how morally wrong it is that somebody who is basically leeching off somebody else's talents is more highly rewarded than the uniquely talented individual her/himself. Then we can think up the 10,000 reasons why this is the way it should be and all put our conscience back to bed.)
The point here is that important decisions about a work of art are made not by the one who labors in the field of creativity, but by the ones who own the means of production.
This, then, given Bolano's political leanings, is an ultimate irony.

MBR said...

Oh yeah, I absolutely agree!

Fausto Maijstral said...

Paul, mbr is right as confirmed by his friends. His decision to have it published in 5 tomes was motivated by the desire to make more money for his family. Had he lived, his intention clearly was to have it published as one single volume. This is widely documented. What happened is that his heirs actually said "screw the money, let's respect literature". Given the success of the book, they can hardly complain. You jumped the gun here. The points you're making in your comment are good but irrelevant to the initial point you were making, which was based on misunderstanding / lack of information. As for Bolaño's political leaning, let's just say that there is a big difference between the legend as pushed forward by him and the media and the reality -- firmly on the left, but much less than some would have you believe, especially in later years. According to people who really knew him, a lot of what was said in the US press is complete bullshit (the junky thing, for instance).
Let me just take this opportunity to congratulate you on your excellent book. Haven't read the first, but Omega was great.
Greetings from the other side of the frontière linguistique, as they say over here....