It is entirely possible that I could make another list featuring my comfort-reading and that list would include every story in Bolaño’s much-revered collection Last Evenings on Earth.
The titular story, on the other hand, made me want to give it up a number of times when I first read it. There was this narrative voice, monotonously broadcasting B and his father’s lives in the hotel, day in, day out, like an old radio. Is this story ever going to end? I asked myself while trying not to skip to the last page.
Yet this is proven to be one of the stories whose landscape is totally transformed by its ground-shifting ending. Imperceptibly, we are led to a place where the stake suddenly multiplies and skyrockets. Petrified with disbelief, we watch, via the slightly removed narrative voice, B and his father walking into a calamity that cannot be averted and then we realise that all the previous banality and tedium were so invaluable, their meanings etched in our memories like the names on the gravestones.
For a long while, whenever I think of this story, tears well up in my eyes. “And then the fight begins.”
First published in Spanish as ‘Últimos atardeceres en la tierra’ in Putas asesinas, Anagrama, 2001. First published in English in ‘Last Evenings on Earth, New Directions, 2006