Selected Shorts: Roberto Bolaño and the Writers He Admired

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Roberto Bolaño is best known to American audiences as the author of the prodigious novel "2666." But this cosmopolitan Latin writer, who lived in Paris, Barcelona, and Mexico City before his death at the age of 50 in 2003, also wrote short stories and had eclectic tastes ranging from hard-boiled crime fiction to the fiercely dreamy works of Borges. This program begins with Borges’ “The Shape of the Sword,” read by SHORTS regular Charles Keating.

SHORTS literary commentator notes: “What’s interesting about 'The Shape of the Sword' is that Borges wrote himself as a character in the story, hearing the tale, using his own name. In fact, the narrator even calls Borges his 'confessor,' making this story tread the line of non-fiction.”

Less well known than Borges, but also partaking of the Latin tradition’s admixture of fantasy and reality, is the Madrid born writer Javier Marias, whose “On the Honeymoon,” is a haunting tale of a powerful, and accidental encounter. Tinti notes: “Marias builds such a complex, emotional mood that by the end I was sure that anything could have happened between these two characters and I would have believed it.”  “On the Honeymoon” was translated into English by Margaret Jull Costa and was read by Ivan Hernandez.

We complete this Roberto Bolaño program with a story by Bolaño himself. “William Burns” reflects the writer’s interest in crime fiction and the noir tradition. Tinti notes: “I think William Burns is a perfect combination of the first two stories we heard on the program. It brings the dream-like qualities of Marias’s 'On the Honeymoon' and mixes them with the hard-nosed action and story-within-a-story structure of Borges’s 'The Shape of the Sword.' Bolaño’s love of the detective novel also shines through, with a mystery presented but never quite resolved." The reader is Michael Stuhlbarg. 

The musical interludes are from “The Grifters,” by Elmer Bernstein and “Sunroof,” by Marcio Montarroyos, from “Brazilian Contemporary Instrumental Music” (Black Sun.) The SELECTED SHORTS theme is Roger Kellaway’s “Come to the Meadow.” For additional works featured on SELECTED SHORTS, please click here.

We’re interested in your response to these programs. Please comment on this site below or visit the SELECTED SHORTS Web page.

Announcing the 2011 Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story Prize: this year's theme is stories set in restaurants and bars. The judge is the author Jennifer Egan and the deadline is March 1, 2011.