Bolaño’s Patience

With this letter, the Chilean novelist Roberto Bolaño, invited to be a member of the jury for the 2001 Rómulo Gallegos International Novel Prize in Caracas, Venezuela, provides his blunt disassociation from the Rómulo Gallegos Center for Latin American Studies (CELARG) and its president.

                  [Photo taken from: http://www.enriquevilamatas.com/]

Due to health reasons I couldn’t travel to Caracas. My physical absence doesn’t mean, however, that I gave the jury carte blanche to decide for me. The declarations by the president of the CELARG, whose name and person are unknown to me, were already more than enough reason, at least as far as I’m concerned, for me to attend my appointment in Caracas, at the very least, with a sense of apprehension. The emergence later of rumors of the type such as that I haven’t travelled to Venezuela because the CELARG refused to pay the plane fare for my wife and son, which more than a rumor is slander or defamation, and in other circumstances would have merely made me laugh, simply increases my doubts regarding this case. As a parenthesis I have to say that if anyone owes someone money it’s the CELARG to me: three thousand dollars for having read 250 books, and as far as I’m concerned, needless to say, they can shove it up their ass. Just like that. I don't have much patience for Neo-Stalinists (or pseudo gangsters or corrupt functionaries). So let’s clear this up once an for all, no matter who wins, whether it’s a good or bad novel, it has nothing to do with my criteria as a reader, for the simple reason that my opinion has never been sought and it has never been in confrontation with the rest of the judges. My disassociation from the judges is total. The CELARG lies when it places my name in front of the successive lists of finalists. I haven’t had anything to do with that decision. There are four judges for the current Rómulo Gallegos Prize, not five. The Neo-Stalinist commissaries will surely say much worse things tomorrow, because that’s their job, but if my non-participation in the prize is made sufficiently clear, whatever they might say will merely provoke my laughter.

Roberto Bolaño

I’m happy that Enrique Vila-Matas has won. Regardless, I still hope it’s clear for those in Caracas that I haven’t had anything to do with this decision, which seems good to me, but which, according to how the wind might have blown, could have been very bad. Just like I said in my note: the responsibility of the selection, correct or mistaken, has absolutely nothing to do with me.

{ Roberto Bolaño, Tal Cual, 9 July 2001 }

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