At The New York Times, Michael Greenberg tries to unpack the recent explosion of Roberto Bolaño books now available to English-reading audiences, including Antwerp, The Insufferable Gaucho, and The Return. From Greenberg’s review–
The Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño has to be one of the most improbable international literary celebrities since William Burroughs and Henry Miller, two writers whose work Bolaño’s occasionally resembles. His subjects are sex, poetry, death, solitude, violent crime and the desperate glimmers of transcendence that sometimes attend them. The prose is dark, intimate and sneakily touching. His lens is largely (though not literally) autobiographical, and seems narrowly focused at first. There are no sweeping historical gestures in Bolaño. Yet he has given us a subtle portrait of Latin America during the last quarter of the 20th century — a period of death squads, exile, “disappeared” citizens and state-sponsored terror. The nightmarish sense of human life being as discardable as clay permeates his writing.