December 17th, 2010 / 12:39 pm
Power Quote

Roberto Bolaño: “Instead of waiting, there is writing.”

“The truth is, I don’t believe all that much in writing. Starting with my own. Being a writer is pleasant—no, pleasant isn’t the word—it’s an activity that has its share of amusing moments, but I know of other things that are even more amusing, amusing in the same way that literature is for me. Holding up banks, for example. Or directing movies. Or being a gigolo. Or being a child again and playing on a more or less apocalyptic soccer team. Unfortunately, the child grows up, the bank robber is killed, the director runs out of money, the gigolo gets sick and then there’s no other choice but to write. For me, the word writing is the exact opposite of the word waiting. Instead of waiting, there is writing. Well, I’m probably wrong—it’s possible that writing is another form of waiting, of delaying things. I’d like to think otherwise.”

from interview in Bomb, 2002

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  1. stephen

      i like bolaño

  2. letters journal

      Savage Detectives is awesome.

  3. Kristen Iskandrian

      yes. this. today.

  4. Janey Smith

      “All literature, in a certain sense, is political.”

  5. alanrossi

      i’m still a child playing on a more or less apocalyptic soccer team. except for right now, because i destroyed my ankle, which actually yes does feel a lot like growing up and is kind of terrible.

      it makes me know that if soccer can be taken away (or running or etc) so can writing and so can everything and so he must be right about waiting.

  6. stephen

      i like bolaño

  7. bo bo

      i can’t believe people read this clown

  8. Blake Butler

      i used to say the same thing incessantly, until i read 2666. the others of his i’ve tried made me write him off as a hack, but that one is truly a creation.

  9. Craig Davis

      I read 2666 and some of his stories and began loudly proclaiming Bolano to be the greatest thing I’d experienced since Sebald, to literally everyone I knew who reads books, foisting it upon people, bothering friends, etc. They all read other, shorter, Bolano books.

      Then I read 70-odd pages of the Savage Detectives and felt embarassed.

  10. letters journal

      Savage Detectives is awesome.

  11. Rion Amilcar Scott

      Savage Detectives, or what I’ve tried to read of it, is pretty bad. On the other hand, Nazi Literature in the Americas is a small little feat. I don’t think it’s for everyone though.

  12. Kyle Minor

      I didn’t really understand how to read The Savage Detectives until I read his other books. Now that I’ve read many (not all) of them, I’ve come to realize that he was, in a sense, writing one big book. They’re thematically interconnected, interconnected character-wise and event-wise, even implicitly in conversation (the title of 2666, for example, comes from Amulet.)

      As standalone works, I prefer 2666, Nazi Literature in the Americas, and By Night in Chile. But Savage Detectives became a pleasure only after I read the other books and revisited it. The first time I read it, I didn’t understand why people thought it was so good.

  13. letters journal

      I think Savage Detectives is a wonderful novel. It was the first of his I read, and I like it even more in the context of the rest of his books (Kyle Minor is exactly right about how interconnected they are). ‘Distant Star’, ‘By Night in Chile’, and ‘Antwerp’ were my favorite of his shorter novels, and the short stories are stunning. The only questionable part of his work is his poetry, but only a little bit of it is available in English. Too little to really know. (I do love his poem ‘Godzilla in Mexico’).

      Nothing is “for everyone”.

  14. Hank

      Interesting that Bolaño was “writing one big book,” as you say, since “2666” was originally going to be split up into novellas rather than as one big book, so that he could better provide for his kids after he was dead, but his publisher decided to put them all together as one. Would be neat to have all of Bolaño’s books collected together like the Library of America does (though, of course — obviously — Library of America wouldn’t be doing it).

      I thought “The Savage Detectives” was really fun, though. I’m probably going to re-read it during 20+ hours of Greyhound Bus-riding. Seems like it would be a good book to read on a bus.

  15. Roberto Bolaño « Raymond Roman's Visual Blog

      […] got this quote directly from but I wanted to post it here because it speaks truth!  It inspires me to want to write.  At times […]

  16. shmank

      So you only read the diary of the 17 year old wannabe poet? Just keep going. The first part only makes sense when it’s put next the huge middle section, which in it’s own way is the opposite of the intro.

  17. Jonny Ross

      I read 70 pgs of the Bible and felt embarrassed for humanity.


  18. Rjara62

      Your name is Bo Bo or Big jerk? You’ve probably not read a single of his works, your ignorance is evident and the mother of your disgrace.

  19. RGV

      The Savage Detectives is Bolaño’s Huckleberry Finn; 2666 is his Moby Dick.

  20. Paternoster99

      good. I will no longer think of you as that ‘bolaño dicksucking’ guy. 2666 is way ahead of the rest of his books, but some of his small novels are still better than most everything else i have read. the savage detectives is my least favorite. actually, i don’t like the savage detectives. had that been the first book of his i’d read (and not 2666, which was) i would have written him off as another hype machine.

  21. Ryan