“The true poet, he said, should abandon the coffeehouse and take the part of ‘the sharpshooters, the lonesome cowboys… the spat-upon supermarket shoppers in their massive individual collective disjunctives’ – the cunning, the lonely, the unnoticed and despised”

– from Natasha Wimmer’s “Afterword,” to Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives, trans. Natasha Wimmer, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2009, p. 579

for five days we swam at the beach, read in the shade on the porch in hammocks that hung from nails and gave way little by little until our backsides touched the floor, drank beer, and took long walks around a part of La Loma where there were lots of cliffs, and also locked fishermen’s huts, there on the edge of the woods by the beach, which a thief could have broken into with an expedient kick to one of the walls, a kick that we were sure would knock a hole or make the whole thing collapse.

The fragility of those shacks, though this only occurs to me now, gave me a funny feeling more than once, not of precariousness or poverty but of obscure tenderness and foreboding…

– Roberto Bolaño, The Savage Detectives, trans. Natasha Wimmer, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2009, p. 424

the same thing happened to them that almost always happens to the best Latin American writers or the best of the writers born in the fifties: the trinity of youth, love, and death was revealed to them, like an epiphany.

– Ibid., p. 468

In a brief moment of lucidity, I was sure that we’d all gone crazy. But then that moment of lucidity was displaced by a supersecond of superlucidity (if I can put it that way), in which I realised that this scene was the logical outcome of our ridiculous lives. It wasn’t a punishment but a new wrinkle. It gave us a glimpse of ourselves in our common humanity. It wasn’t proof of our idle guilt but a sign or our miraculous and pointless innocence. But that’s not it. That’s not it. We were still and they were in motion and the sand on the beach was moving, not because of the wind but because of what they were doing and what we were doing, which was nothing, which was watching, and all of that together was the wrinkle, the moment of superlucidity. Then, nothing. My memory has always been mediocre, no better than a reporter needs to do his job. Iñaki attacked the other guy, the other guy attacked Iñaki, I realised they might go on like this for hours, until the swords were heavy in their hands, I got out a cigarette, I didn’t have a light, I looked in all my pockets, I got up and went over to Quima, only to learn that she’d quit a long time ago, a year or an eternity. For a moment I considered going to ask Piña for a light, but that seemed excessive. I sat next to Quima and watched the duelers. They were moving in circles but they were slowing down. I also got the impression that they were talking to each other, but the sound of waves drowned out their voices. I said to Quima that I thought it was all a farce. You’re absolutely wrong, she answered. Then she said that she thought it was very romantic. Strange woman, that Quima. I wanted a cigarette more than before. In the distance, Piña was sitting in the sand like us now, and a trail of cobalt blue smoke issued from his lips. I couldn’t take it anymore. I got up and went over to him, going the long way around, to keep out of range of the duelers. A woman was watching us from the hill. She was leaning on the hood of a car and shading her eyes with her hands. I thought she was looking at the sea, but then I realised that she was watching us, of course.

Piña offered me his lighter without a word. I looked at his face: he was crying.

– Ibid., p. 454-455