Roberto Bolaño gives us 12 tips for writing stories

Roberto bolaño

Unfortunately, Roberto Bolaño left us a long time ago, specifically almost 13 years ago. But also luckily, in addition to his magnificent works such as "The Wild Detectives" o Killer whores (to name just two, for now), he left us a series of tips.

Roberto Bolaño gives us 12 tips for writing stories, the occasional rather "daring" advice ... The best thing is that you judge yourselves, our readers, especially those who dedicate themselves to the noble and delicate art of writing:

  1. Never tackle stories one at a time, honestly, one can be writing the same story until the day of his death.
  2. It is best to write the stories three at a time, or five at a time. If you see yourself with enough energy, write them down nine by nine or fifteen by fifteen.
  3. Careful! The temptation to write them two at a time is as dangerous as dedicating oneself to writing them one by one, but it carries within it the same dirty and sticky game of loving mirrors.
  4. You have to read Quiroga, you have to read Felisberto Hernández and you have to read Jorge Luis Borges. You have to read Rulfo, Monterroso, García Márquez. A short story writer who has a little appreciation for his work will never read Camilo José Cela or Francisco Umbral. Yes, he will read Cortázar and Bioy Casares, but by no means Cela and Umbral.
  5. I repeat it once more in case it is not clear: Cela and Umbral, not even in painting.
  6. A storyteller must be brave. It is sad to admit, but it is.
  7. Storytellers often boast of having read Petrus Borel. In fact, it is notorious that many storytellers try to imitate Petrus Borel. Big mistake: They should imitate Petrus Borel in dress! But the truth is that they hardly know anything about Petrus Borel! Not from Gautier, not from Nerval!
  8. Well: let's reach an agreement. Read Petrus Borel, dress like Petrus Borel, but read also Jules Renard and Marcel Schwob, especially read Marcel Schwob and from there go to Alfonso Reyes and from there to Borges.
  9. The truth is that with Edgar Allan Poe we would all have plenty.
  10. Think about point number nine. One should think of nine. If possible: on your knees.
  11. Highly recommended books and authors: De lo sublime, del Pseudo Longino; the sonnets of the unfortunate and brave Philip Sidney, whose biography Lord Brooke wrote; The anthology of Spoon Riverby Edgar Lee Masters; Exemplary suicidesby Enrique Vila-Matas.
  12. Read these books and also read Chekhov and Raymond Carver, one of the two is the best storyteller that this century has given.

Portrait de l'écrivain, Roberto Bolano (Chili 1953 - Barcelone 2003) © Effigie / Leemage

Looking at these tips, several things are clear to us:

  • Roberto bolaño I did not write a story, finish it and then start another, but I wrote several stories at the same time, from what he says in his tips 1 and 2.
  • Roberto Bolaño did not like the literature that Cela and Francisco Umbral wrote at all. To tell the truth, it seems rather that he detested her, for the fierce sentence he gives in his councils 4 and 5.
  • Roberto bolaño adored Edgar Allan Poe stories (I dare say, that as he talks about them, he reread them on several occasions).
  • He names Borges twice, so we deduce that he was a faithful follower of the work of this Argentine writer.
  • He was not a self-centered writer, like many others ... He does not recommend a single one of his storybooks.

Documentary about Roberto Bolaño

Next, we leave you this good documentary about Roberto Bolaño (uploaded to the YouTube channel: "Someday somewhere"). Its duration is 58:59 minutes. It was broadcast in its day on the show «Essential» of La 2 de TVE. In it, the people closest to his environment are interviewed, focusing especially on his last years in Spain. Meet here this "poor" writer who always led an austere and unpretentious life. Of course, one great literary wealth.

In the documentary you can also see authors such as Jorge Herralde, Vargas Llosa or Pere Gimferrer.

You will be able to know data as personal as the fact that when he was a child a doctor forbade him to read for a while because of his "unhealthy addiction to reading."

Phrases and quotes by Roberto Bolaño

Roberto Bolaño Caricature

Rayma Caricature

  • "Loneliness is capable of generating desires that do not correspond to common sense or reality."
  • We all have some stupid ancestor. We all, at some point in our lives, find the trail, the wavering traces of the most boring of our ancestors, and when we look at that elusive face we realize, with astonishment, with disbelief, with horror, that we are contemplating our own face that he winks at us and makes friendly faces at us from the bottom of a well.
  • "There are suicides that are masterpieces."
  • All Visceral Realism was a love letter, the insane strut of an idiot bird in the moonlight, something quite vulgar and unimportant.
  • The dead are shit. How are they shit? - All they do is screw the patience of the living.
  • «I get on the motorcycle and cross the streets where people stranger than you and me are getting ready to spend a fun Saturday, a Saturday that lives up to their expectations, that is to say, a sad Saturday that will never be embodied in what was dreamed of, meticulously planned, on a Saturday like any other, that is to say, a fierce and grateful Saturday, short and kind, vicious and sad ».
  • "My country is my son and my library."
  • «... in the nature of Borges poetry there is intelligence and also courage and despair, that is to say the only thing that incites reflection and that keeps a poetry alive».
  • "I don't believe in exile, especially I don't believe in exile when this word goes together with the word literature."
  • «From a writer like Günter Grass one can expect a masterpiece even on his deathbed, although for now everything seems to indicate that My century (Alfaguara) will be the penultimate of his great books ».

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  1.   Victor Hurtado Oviedo said

    Not reading Francisco Umbral? This council is the champion of the stupid. Paco Umbral has been the great master of Spanish prose since the early 70s. Of course, the bulky Bolaño was never a stylist, and it shows; and the envy of the noisy Bolaño is also noticeable. The grapes of the style were not green, Bolaño: you could never reach them.

  2.   Vivibabo said

    I think that having repeated twice is that they do not read Threshold is for everyone to run to read. Or nobody was curious? Bolaño is a writer of our time, he knows that advice in the negative is more effective. Sure.

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