Thursday, April 7

Shit, Jara, It’s Me, Bolaño

"When I felt I’d had enough fresh air and it was time to get back to the bar, I climbed the steps up to the door (stone steps, single blocks of a stone that had a granitelike consistency and the sheen of a gem) and ran into a guy who was shorter than me and dressed like a fifties gangster, a guy who had something of the caricature about him, the classic affable killer, who got me mixed up with someone he knew and greeted me. I replied to his greeting, although from the start I was sure that I didn’t know him and that he was mistaken, but I behaved as if I knew him, as if I, too, had mixed him up with someone else, so the two of us greeted each other as we attempted ineffectively to climb those shining (yet deeply humble) stone steps. But the hit man’s confusion lasted no more than a few seconds, he soon realized that he was mistaken, and then he looked at me in a different way, as if he were asking himself if I was mistaken, too, or if, on the contrary, I had been having him on from the start, and since he was thick and suspicious (though sharp in his own paradoxical way), he asked me who I was, he asked me with a malicious smile on his lips, and I said, Shit, Jara, it’s me, Bolaño, and it would have been clear to anyone from his smile that he wasn’t Jara, but he played the game, as if suddenly, struck by a lightning bolt (and no, I’m not quoting one of Lihn’s poems, much less one of mine), he fancied the idea of living the life of that unknown Jara for a minute or two, the Jara he would never be, except right there, stalled at the top of those radiant steps, and he asked me about my life, he asked me (thick as a plank) who I was, admitting de facto that he was Jara, but a Jara who had forgotten the very existence of Bolaño, which is perfectly understandable, after all, so I explained to him who I was and, while I was at it, who he was, too, thereby creating a Jara to suit me and him, that is, to suit that moment—an improbable, intelligent, courageous, rich, generous, daring Jara, in love with a beautiful woman and loved by her in return—and then the gangster smiled, more and more deeply convinced that I was having him on but unable to bring the episode to a close, as if he had suddenly fallen for the image I was constructing for him, and encouraged me to go on telling him not just about Jara but also about Jara’s friends and finally the world, a world that seemed too wide even for Jara, a world in which the great Jara was an ant whose death on a shining stair would not have mattered at all to anyone, and then, at last, his friends appeared, two taller hit men wearing light-colored double-breasted suits, who looked at me and at the false Jara as if to ask him who I was, and he had no choice but to say, It’s Bolaño, and the two hit men greeted me. I shook their hands (rings, expensive watches, gold bracelets), and when they invited me to have a drink with them I said, I can’t, I’m with a friend, and pushed past Jara through the door and disappeared inside."

-Roberto Bolaño, "Meeting with Enrique Lihn," the final story in The Return. Originally published in The New Yorker.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just great (and hilarious)!!