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Autumn in Gerona

Last night, I read “Prose from Autumn in Gerona,” one of the three long poems in the new Bolaño collection New Directions just put out, Tres. “Gerona” is really a series of shortish prose pieces, ranging from a single sentence to a page, but I think of them as unified. Since every one  in the series is a consideration of broken love, and all refer to “the author,” “the protagonist,” and “the stranger.” It becomes apparent that the author writes the protagonist; the protagonist is seemingly part of the “text” the author and the stranger have fought about. Seemingly, but this is unclear. Both author and protagonist are out of work in Gerona, with visas soon to expire and no hope of employment. Both plod their empty room, postered over with abstract shapes, thinking of the stranger, a woman who briefly was in the room with them. We can wonder about Bolaño’s biography, where he was when he was 28 (the age of the protagonist; the author’s we do not know); we can wonder if there were (really) a stranger he called, feeding coins into a phone booth and getting no answer. These things are relevantly irrelevant. In the text, the author sees the stranger differently than the protagonist: he must be older, further winnowed. Crack goes both their heart, all the same.  Recurrent imagery. A kaleidoscope, through which the author and protagonist view themselves. Refractions, spinning, a grey thread running through it all. Recurrent moments. The stranger tells the protagonist that, no, really, it’s not necessary for him to walk her to the train. The author remembers this the same, but sees her face. She says she never intended to sleep with him. Unanswered phone calls. The empty streets of night towns. Last night, I read “Prose from Autumn in Gerona,” one of the three long poems in the new Bolaño collection New Directions just put out; it’s the best thing I’ve read in a long time.

Categories: Notes.

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