19 November 2009

The return of Roberto Bolaño

It seems like B's second collection of stories in English will be called The Return instead of Assassin Whores ("Putas asesinas"). I wonder why the publisher New Directions did not stick to the original title.

They called the first collection Last Evenings on Earth instead of Telephone Calls ("Llamadas telefónicas"). This could be justified by the jumbling of stories between the two books. The contents of Last Evenings are selected stories from each of the two collections in the original Spanish while the contents of The Return are presumably the remaining stories not collected in Last Evenings. But then, thinking hard of the adopted title, it does have its charm. Through these stories, B will "return" to us again. Anyway, I love the draft book cover:

Meanwhile, the cover art of Antwerp goes for an unassuming clean text look. This one obviously deviates from the usual font (see above) of the author's name in previous New Directions books.

Does the employment of translator affect the cover design of B's books? The books translated by Chris Andrews, such as the above book, have the distinctive font and font placement - the O's in "ROBERTO" and "BOLAÑO" aligning in a mysterious order - in the cover text, while the cover layout of those translated by Natasha Wimmer, as below, is different in the way the artworks of 2666 and The Savage Detectives (which are released by FSG) are. Too, the Chris Andrews translations have lately been featuring the photographs of Allen Frame, who I bet took the above photo.

In any case, I always love the tilde! (Wimmer's book covers always seem to emphasize the diacritic more.) And Antwerp is bound to be another idiosyncratic masterpiece. It was called the "Big Bang" of Bolañoverse.


  1. Chances are good they're not going with Assassin Whores because the original title, Putas Asesinas, has a double meaning: it can mean "assassin whores", but it can also be translated as "fucking assassins". In fact, the latter is what I took the title to mean before I read the eponymous short story. Calling it Assassin Whores sounds a bit jarring.

  2. Thanks for that, Michael. You made me more curious to discover the possible meanings of that phrase. I really must read that title story to get the context.

    I myself would have interpreted the double meaning from the fact that both assassins and whores are “hired”, and so killing (violence) and sex are in the same boat, in the way they mingle in some of Bolaño’s books. But really I must read the story.