Distant star

by Roberto Bolano

Hardcover, 2004




New York : New Directions Pub., c2004.


An unnamed narrator observes the progression of a young poet into an enigmatic officer and nationalist sky writer in Pinochet's air force with darkly creative aspirations.

User reviews

LibraryThing member jorgearanda
Bolaño transformed his last entry from "La Literatura Nazi en América," about the infamous Ramírez Hoffman, into a short novel that stands on its own. Snapshots of the life of a brutal Chilean poet in and around the time of Pinochet, imagined or glimpsed, detective-like, by the people that knew
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of his horrors. Concise and powerful.
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LibraryThing member bostonbibliophile
Strange, disturbing, absorbing and compulsively re-read-able modern take on the crime novel/noir about a poet who murders for Pinochet and the community he's a part of. Blood all around.
LibraryThing member Niecierpek
A short time before Pinochet’s military coup in Chile, a university poetry group is joined by an enigmatic student, Carlos Wieder, who is soon to explore various forms of poetry and meaning of art within the new Nazi parameters. The story is narrated through the eyes of one of the students of
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this workshop who is imprisoned shortly after the coup, then leaves the country for political reasons and lives in different places in Europe, but never completely loses sight of his friends and other members of the group.
I feel vaguely disappointed by this book. I read Bolano’s _By Night in Chile_, which was more interesting both in style and in its scope. The Distant Star is more popular and better known, and for some reason I expected it to be better than By Night, but it wasn’t.
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LibraryThing member sanddancer
I picked this up in my local library because of all of hype surrounding the publication in English of Bolano’s 2666. I shy away from long books at the best of times, but 2666 sounded particularly daunting. So I thought I would start with one of his shorter works.

It is about a mysterious poet who
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becomes both a celebrated artist for his sky-writing poetry and a murderous soldier in the early days of Pinochet’s regime. The early part of the book was excellent. The sinister atmosphere of this time and place in history where it became the norm for people to “disappear” was chilling, as was the glimpses we were given the central character.

Unfortunately, in the later part of the book becomes more concerned with endless literary name-dropping of mainly Latin American writers and poet, plus a chunk on Les Miserables too, which was completely lost on me. I imagine it is this high-brow stuff that earned Bolano his reputation but I preferred the atmospheric part with a plot!
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LibraryThing member lobotomy42
This was not my favorite of Bolaño's novels. Although it begins with an intriguing primary subject - a violently sociopathic poet, Carlos Wieder - it quickly branches out into the fates of various poets and friends of the narrator in the wake of the Pinochet coup. These tangents are one of
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Bolaño's strengths, as he weaves between real and fictional historical figures deftly enough that there is no clear line between the two. A couple of anecdotes about obscure journals or poetry movements do a great job of setting the mood or giving the reader a "general feel" of a time and place. However, in a book this short (my copy is about 150 pages) I can't help but feel that they also detract from what is ostensibly the main thrust of the novel. Wieder features prominently in only about half of the ten chapters, decreasingly important as the book goes on. I kept waiting for some kind of revelation or insight into Wieder's character that never came. Perhaps that's part of the book - that some people do terrible things and you'll never really know why.
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LibraryThing member soylentgreen23
An expansion of a chapter from 'Nazi Literature in the Americas', but so much more than that would suggest. Bolano is a writer whose style I envy, and this book is as good an introduction as any.
LibraryThing member PZR
It's Roberto Bolaño, but only three-star Bolaño...

Let it be known that I love this writer's works, and 'The Savage Detectives', in particular. However... this novella has its moments but it's inconsistent. And it's no surprise. It's another of the books based on an incident from a former work (in
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this case, the highly entertaining 'Nazi Literature in the Americas'). And Bolaño informs us in the preface that he and his fictional alter-ego, Arturo Belano, knocked out the text in six weeks. It shows.

The opening and ending are strong, as they always seem to be with Bolaño. One can envisage his starting with the two bookends then working out how to get from one to the other. There are some strong passages, notably those involving the anti-hero, a Chilean fascist named Carlos Wieder who is a memorably unpleasant sociopath. Then there are other passages where the virtues of this or that poet are mentioned but without giving the reader anything to go on, unless he/she happens to be an expert on Chilean poetry. There are unconvincing depictions of Soviet generals as film stars/heart throbs. These sections remind me of Murakami - and from this reader's perspective, that's not a good thing...

Overall, then, I found this readable but the slightest of Bolaño's works I've read so far.
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LibraryThing member csaavedra
The first chapter of this novel in itself makes it worth reading. If published by itself, it would be a perfect short-story. The rest of the book is no less, though, and there is a lot of what usually makes readers love or hate Bolaño, depending.

One of my favorite novels by Bolaño so far, not
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quite at the height of Los Detectives Salvajes or La Pista de Hielo but pretty close.
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