The Spirit of Science Fiction

Roberto Bolaño, trans. from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer. Penguin Press, $24 (208p) ISBN 978-0-7352-2285-4
This striking, meandering novel from Bolaño (2666), written toward the beginning of his career, follows the coming-of-age of two young writers in Mexico City. Aspiring writers Jan and Remo get an apartment together. Jan spends his days holed up in the apartment, reading books and penning letters to sci-fi authors he admires, such as Ursula K. Le Guin and Fritz Leiber. Jan’s solitude is contrasted by Remo’s social jaunts around the city: he joins a poetry workshop, falls in love with a young woman named Laura, and rides a motorcycle. Remo’s involvement in the city’s literary scene exposes the reader to a number of digressive stories (one particularly memorable aside features Georges Perec unwittingly defusing a duel between poets Isidore Isou and André Vernier in Paris). Meanwhile, the reader also sees Jan’s searching letters, scattered throughout: “Oh, Ursula, it’s actually a relief to send out messages and have all the time in the world,” he writes. Though more a collection of scenes and impressions and thinner than his other novels, this is an intriguing and dreamy portrait of two writers taking different paths in their pursuit of their love of literature, hoping to discover their voices. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/19/2018
Release date: 02/05/2019
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 208 pages - 978-0-7352-3353-9
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