cover image The Insufferable Gaucho

The Insufferable Gaucho

Roberto Bolaño, trans. from the Spanish by Chris Andrews, New Directions, $22.95 (144p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1716-3

Seven tales by the amazingly prolific-in-death Bolaño (2666) explore themes of self-exile and illness. The two best stories concern conflicted Argentinean protagonists; in the title story, Hector Pereda, "an irreproachable lawyer with a record of honesty," leaves Buenos Aires after the death of his wife and the collapse of the country's economy to make a go as a gaucho on the pampas. Inhabiting a ruined ranch, with only the languid locals and predatory rabbits as company, Hector finds a welcome, near-poetic restoration of a society where self-reliance and egalitarianism reign. In "Alvaro Rousselot's Journey," an acclaimed Argentinean novelist sets out for Paris to confront a filmmaker who has blatantly plagiarized his books, though what really eats at the novelist is that the filmmaker has ignored the writer's recent works, leaving him with the sense that "he had lost his best reader." "Rat Police" reflects Bolaño's interest in fantasy and noirish crime fiction, while "Literature + Illness = Illness" is essentially an essay about terminal illness. Andrews is an excellent translator, and even if these are somewhat lesser works in the Bolaño pantheon, completists will snap this up. (Sept.)