Un ensayo de Roberto Bolaño

A propósito de robar libros y devorarlos, en el blog de The New York Review of Books se publica un ensayo de Roberto Bolaño, tomado del libro Between Parentheses: Essays, Articles and Speeches (1998–2003), que comenzará a circular el próximo 30 de mayo en los Estados Unidos, en el que nos cuenta y reflexiona acerca de libros que robó y leyó en una famosa librería de México (Librería de Cristal), ubicada en la Alameda, así como de otros que compró en Chile. Comienza Bolaño:

The books that I remember best are the ones I stole in Mexico City, between the ages of sixteen and nineteen, and the ones I bought in Chile when I was twenty, during the first few months of the coup. In Mexico there was an incredible bookstore. It was called the Glass Bookstore and it was on the Alameda. Its walls, even the ceiling, were glass. Glass and iron beams. From the outside, it seemed an impossible place to steal from. And yet prudence was overcome by the temptation to try and after a while I made the attempt.

The first book to fall into my hands was a small volume by [the nineteenth century erotic poet] Pierre Louÿs, with pages as thin as Bible paper, I can’t remember now whether it was Aphrodite or Songs of Bilitis. I know that I was sixteen and that for a while Louÿs became my guide. Then I stole books by Max Beerbohm (The Happy Hypocrite), Champfleury, Samuel Pepys, the Goncourt brothers, Alphonse Daudet, and Rulfo and Areola, Mexican writers who at the time were still more or less practicing, and whom I might therefore meet some morning on Avenida Niño Perdido, a teeming street that my maps of Mexico City hide from me today, as if Niño Perdido could only have existed in my imagination, or as if the street, with its underground stores and street performers had really been lost, just as I got lost at the age of sixteen.

From the mists of that era, from those stealthy assaults, I remember many books of poetry. Books by Amado Nervo, Alfonso Reyes, Renato Leduc, Gilberto Owen, Heruta and Tablada, and by American poets, like General William Booth Enters Into Heaven, by the great Vachel Lindsay. But it was a novel that saved me from hell and plummeted me straight back down again. The novel was The Fall, by Camus, and everything that has to do with it I remember as if frozen in a ghostly light, the still light of evening, although I read it, devoured it, by the light of those exceptional Mexico City mornings that shine—or shone—with a red and green radiance ringed by noise, on a bench in the Alameda, with no money and the whole day ahead of me, in fact my whole life ahead of me. After Camus, everything changed.

I remember the edition: it was a book with very large print, like a primary school reader, slim, cloth-covered, with a horrendous drawing on the jacket, a hard book to steal and one that I didn’t know whether to hide under my arm or in my belt, because it showed under my truant student blazer, and in the end I carried it out in plain sight of all the clerks at the Glass Bookstore, which is one of the best ways to steal and which I had learned from an Edgar Allan Poe story.

After that, after I stole that book and read it, I went from being a prudent reader to being a voracious reader and from being a book thief to being a book hijacker. I wanted to read everything, which in my innocence was the same as wanting to uncover or trying to uncover the hidden workings of chance that had induced Camus’s character to accept his hideous fate. Despite what might have been predicted, my career as a book hijacker was long and fruitful, but one day I was caught. Luckily, it wasn’t at the Glass Bookstore but at the Cellar Bookstore, which is—or was—across from the Alameda, on Avenida Juárez, and which, as its name indicates, was a big cellar where the latest books from Buenos Aires and Barcelona sat piled in gleaming stacks. My arrest was ignominious. It was as if the bookstore samurais had put a price on my head. They threatened to have me thrown out of the country, to give me a beating in the cellar of the Cellar Bookstore, which to me sounded like a discussion among neo-philosophers about the destruction of destruction, and in the end, after lengthy deliberations, they let me go, though not before confiscating all the books I had on me, among them The Fall, none of which I’d stolen there

About Irad Nieto

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