You never can tell, when reading a story by Roberto Bolano, what it’s actually about. Take this story for example. Ostensibly, it’s about Clara. Its title is “Clara”. It has a protagonist named Clara whose melancholy story fills its few pages.
But that actually isn’t the case. The protagonist is in fact the narrator and he tells us about Clara from his own, very egocentric perspective. Then again, he has a lot to tell us, about Clara. On the other side – or is this actually a third side, how many sides have we accumulated? – everything he tells us about her remains a sort of mystery, to him and to us. So maybe the story is not about him or her but about the inability to truly know another person? Or perhaps it’s a confession about his own personal inability to know someone else; that is, that it’s a story of alienation and loneliness that celebrate their victory in the midst of the one experience that should be able to overcome them – love. And maybe it’s actually about writing, about the inability to tell a “true” story, even if you are the writer, narrator and protagonist in one.
You never can tell, when reading a story by Roberto Bolano, what it’s actually about. Maybe because he himself doesn’t know, but lives in peace with – no, celebrates! – that unknowingness. Maybe that is why I admire him so much.