This essay examines a selection Roberto Bolaño's fiction (Chile, 1953-2003) considering its utopian impulse and elements of the absurd. The novel Estrella distante (1996) and the short story “Sensini” published in the volume Llamadas telefónicas (1997) reflect the destruction of human life and society during the dictatorships of the Southern Cone while casting a distrustful glance towards any potentially redeeming discourses. By comparing these narrative works, I will focus on Bolaño’s absurd gestures and variations on the concept of utopia. Basing my readings on Lyman Tower Sargent’s recent contributions to utopian thought and Albert Camus’ The Myth of Sysiphus, this essay will address the questions: does utopia in these works signify an earnest desire for a better way of being, or is it a variation on the theme of the absurd? Also, how do these narratives use the elements of utopia and absurdity in order to confront dystopian circumstances? In “Sensini,” utopia and the absurd are developed through issues of loss, exile, and the task of the writer as the characters resist apathy. In Estrella distante, utopian projects are carried out in absurd ways that question the roles of art, literature, justice, and morality in society. The narrative themes of Bolaño’s fiction wrestle with the absurdity of a cruel society in a way that addresses ethical and ideological questions in a utopian, justice-seeking sense.
- Roberto Bolaño,
- Estrella distante,
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/lilacarlsen/3/