I've begun reading Roberto Bolaño's final, posthumous novel, 2666 (Editorial Anagrama, 2004). I can safely say already that it's a supremely erudite and masterful novel (actually, it's five novels within one). It remained unfinished at the time of his death but this edition is over 1000 pages long.
The novel begins with an epigraph by Charles Baudelaire:
Un oasis de horror en medio de
un desierto de aburrimiento.
Which could obviously describe our current situation in Latin America and, yes, most especially here in the U.S. As Guy Debord so aptly described it, we live in an age of the spectacle, with its endless wars, the intoxicating and deadly effects of populism, the noxious mood of virulent anti-intellectualism, a culture of addiction and escapism where the role of the poet is merely to survive. I agree with Mark when he writes at his blog recently: "Populism is fascism without a state."
And one can be grateful for poets such as Bolaño who see this and try to write against the forces of idiocy and despair. Aside from his brilliant prose, I respect Bolaño because he had no qualms about denouncing the farce of Chavismo publicly and without restraint.
One wonders why only one of his books has been translated into English so far. It's undeniable that English-speaking readers need to see what's being done in Los detectives salvajes (1998) and in 2666. I haven't read his other novels yet, so I can't speak for those. But it seems to me that Bolaño will remain a crucial reference point not only in Latin American letters but in world literature as well. His work must be translated into English (and other languages) as soon as possible. Proof once again that so much of Latin American literature remains invisible within the literary centers of Europe and the United States.