Bolaño’s radical first novel makes its audiobook debut as a New Directions Pearl.
Written when he was only 27, Antwerp can be viewed as the Big Bang of Roberto Bolano’s fictional universe. This novel presents the genesis of Bolano’s enterprise in prose; all the elements are here, highly compressed, at the moment when his talent explodes. From this springboard—which Bolano chose to publish in 2002, 20 years after he’d written it (“and even that I can’t be certain of”)—as if testing out a high dive, he would plunge into the unexplored depths of the modern novel.
Voices speak from a dream, from a nightmare, from passersby, from an omniscient narrator, from "Roberto Bolaño". Antwerp’s fractured narration in 54 sections moves in multiple directions and cuts to the bone.
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I'm a big fan of Bolano and certainly intend to read more of his work. David Crommett does just fine as a narrator, the problem here is the material.
After Bolano became a sensation, publishers apparently scooped up every scrap of paper they could find with text scribbled on it and released it. This is great for collectors and I would like the opportunity to examine the text on paper. But to charge the full price of a novel for a short, incomplete work with no real, through story line - I feel that my genuine admiration of a writer is being exploited.
The performance was fine, although there is a certainly a chance that a more genuine representation of Bolano's voice would have brought out aspects of the text I failed to appreciate.
I am now afraid to purchase any of the other in this crop of newly published works in fear that they will be equally incoherent.
The worst part of a listen like this is like a lackluster romantic encounter. You think "maybe it's me." Maybe I wasn't in the right mood and I let it wash over me and the fault is mine for not being more in the moment. I've certainly had to start audio books over again until I felt them grip me and get sucked in to the story. But I don't think this is case of that phenom.
- Alicia Grega