02 August 2010

Corridor is Chile

It’s strange returning to Chile, the corridor country, but if you think about it twice or even three times, returning anywhere is strange. Provided, of course, you’re actually returning and not dreaming you’re returning. I returned after twenty-five years. The streets, actually, looked like they always had. So did the faces of the Chileans. That can lead to the most fatal sort of boredom or to insanity. So this time I kept calm for a change and made up my mind to wait for things to happen while seated in a chair, which is the best place to avoid being surprised by a corridor.

That's the start of Bolaño's essay on torture and the Chilean literary establishment, "The Corridor with No Apparent Exit," first published in Barcelona in May 1999. The English translation of the essay appeared in The Virginia Quarterly Review in 2008.

The first half of the essay (no translator was credited) is viewable online. Paying subscribers can view it in full.

In the same journal issue, a profile on Bolaño by the perceptive critic Marcela Valdes discusses the political-literary context of this essay and Bolaño's books, here.


  1. What a great intro, huh, Rise? That guy really knew how to hook you! I have a memoir, Jorge Edward's Persona Non Grata, about that Chilean novelist's experience as a diplomat in Allende's foreign service in the early '70s, that I've been meaning to read for a while but never seem to get around to. Now that I've become such a big Bolaño fan, though, Edward's book will prob. be even a bigger pleasure because of the background it will provide to that time period in Chilean history (clearly a big influence on Bolaño's own life/writings as an exile). Anyway, thanks for the links!

  2. You can say that, Richard. There is in the opening lines a quality of expecting more from the rest of the essay. It’s a good background to how Bolaño intentionally exploits the link between politics and literature. This surely lends another thread of inquiry to his work. The writer provoking the literati, stirring the moral-ethical field, literary compromises in times of historical crisis. It’s a fertile ground for investigation and your book seems to be spot on on the topic.

  3. Hi! Sorry for the totally random comment but I saw your blog in Honey's list of Filipino book bloggers and I was wondering if you'd like to join a directory of sorts that I created? You can learn more about it here: Filipino Book Bloggers :) I'm trying to come up with a comprehensive list of Filipino book bloggers and encourage discussion by posting a topic related to blogging every Friday, where everyone can leave comments.

  4. Thanks, Chachic. I'll check it out.