cover image The Secret of Evil

The Secret of Evil

Roberto Bola%C3%B1o, trans. from the Spanish by Chris Andrews, with Natasha Wimmer. New Directions, $22.95 (160p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1815-3

This engaging posthumous collection from the prolific Chilean novelist and poet Bola%C3%B1o (2666) comprises the (largely unedited) vignettes, short stories, and speeches found on the author's computer at the time of his death in 2003. Characters and themes from his novels reappear in these stories: from The Savage Detectives's Arturo Belano, to musings on the state of Latin American literature, to the lives of tortured artists, including a disappeared British musician and a group of intellectuals in Paris caught in a "complex and subtle web of relations." Bola%C3%B1o's quiet, sparse prose is punctuated by moments of eruptive violence, including terrifying scenes from a disturbingly autobiographical "B-grade schlock" zombie film, or a journalist covering a gruesome murder, imagining herself in the victim's stead. Bola%C3%B1o crafts characters isolated from their surroundings and compellingly observing the humanity around them%E2%80%94a teenager "dissatisfied with everything" in his life stays up late and listens to his upstairs neighbors having sex in "Colonia Lindavista," while a recovering heroin addict spends his days observing beachgoers "with silent tears running down his face" in "Beach." As the narrator of the titular story declares, his tale is "incomplete, because stories like this don't have an ending;" nevertheless, Bola%C3%B1o's writing is reliably intriguing. (Apr. 30)