Friday, July 1, 2011

Roberto Bolaño

Roberto Bolaño, Chilean poet and writer, has just had a street named after him in Girona, where Bolaño lived the last five years of his life. Girona is a very interesting small city off the Costa Brava. It sits at the confluence of the Ter and Onyar Rivers, has a lovely old quarter which still has some original Roman wall and which includes what was a call (Jewish ghetto) before the Jews were thrown out of Spain in 1492. Although they say it is one of the best preserved ghettos in Europe, when I visited, I didn’t find much evidence of former Jewish existence except some depressions beside doorways where mezuzahs used to be. Then again, the buildings are still standing, and it did give me a special feeling walking those streets, knowing that once a thriving Jewish community walked on the same cobblestones through the same narrow streets. For no reason that I know of besides her dark coloring, my mother always thought she descended from Spanish Jews. Maybe my ancestors lived there? The Girona call was once home to one of the most important Kabbalistic schools, with Nahmanides (Ramban) as its leader. The Jewish Museum, housed with the former call, is well worth a visit.

Bolaño (who was not Jewish) has become one of the biggest names in Latin American literature in recent years, especially with what they say are his two masterpieces, 2666 and The Savage Detectives. I don’t know if he is considered postmodern or avant-garde, or what. I’ve never read him. I’m posting about him here because I know he is very popular among my online book buddies. But the report on TV announcing the new street said that its situation suits him. It is an unfinished street in an unfinished new urbanized area on the outskirts of Girona. Some day it will be a real part of the city, but right now, it is just on the fringe.