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Woes of the true policem.., p.1
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       Woes of the True Policeman, p.1

           Roberto Bolaño
 
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Woes of the True Policeman


  The author and publisher have provided this e-book to you for your personal use only. You may not make this e-book publicly available in any way. Copyright infringement is against the law. If you believe the copy of this e-book you are reading infringes on the author’s copyright, please notify the publisher at: us.macmillanusa.com/piracy.

  To the memory of Manuel Puig and Philip K. Dick

  CONTENTS

  Title Page

  Copyright Notice

  Dedication

  I. The Fall of the Berlin Wall

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  II. Amalfitano and Padilla

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  III. Rosa Amalfitano

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  IV. J.M.G. Arcimboldi

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  V. Killers of Sonora

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Editorial Note

  Also by Roberto Bolaño

  Copyright

  I. THE FALL of the BERLIN WALL

  1

  According to Padilla, remembered Amalfitano, all literature could be classified as heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual. Novels, in general, were heterosexual. Poetry, on the other hand, was completely homosexual. Within the vast ocean of poetry he identified various currents: faggots, queers, sissies, freaks, butches, fairies, nymphs, and philenes. But the two major currents were faggots and queers. Walt Whitman, for example, was a faggot poet. Pablo Neruda, a queer. William Blake was definitely a faggot. Octavio Paz was a queer. Borges was a philene, or in other words he might be a faggot one minute and simply asexual the next. Rubén Darío was a freak, in fact, the queen freak, the prototypical freak (in Spanish, of course; in the wider world the reigning freak is still Verlaine the Generous). Freaks, according to Padilla, were closer to madhouse flamboyance and naked hallucination, while faggots and queers wandered in stagger-step from ethics to aesthetics and back again. Cernuda, dear Cernuda, was a nymph, and at moments of great bitterness a faggot, whereas Guillén, Aleixandre, and Alberti could be considered a sissy, a butch, and a queer, respectively. As a general rule, poets like Blas de Otero were butches, while poets like Gil de Biedma were—except for Gil de Biedma himself—part nymph and part queer. Recent Spanish poetry, with the tentative exception of the aforementioned Gil de Biedma and probably Carlos Edmundo de Ory, had been lacking in faggot poets until the arrival of the Great Faggot of All Sorrows, Padilla’s favorite poet, Leopoldo María Panero. And yet Panero, it had to be admitted, had fits of bipolar freakishness that made him unstable, inconsistent, and hard to classify. Of Panero’s peers, a curious case was Gimferrer, who was queer by nature but had the imagination of a faggot and the tastes of a nymph. Anyway, the poetry scene was essentially an (underground) battle, the result of the struggle between faggot poets and queer poets to seize control of the word. Sissies, according to Padilla, were faggot poets by birth who, out of weakness or for comfort’s sake, lived within and accepted—most of the time—the aesthetic and personal parameters of the queers. In Spain, France, and Italy, queer poets have always been legion, he said, although a superficial reader might never guess. What happens is that a faggot poet like Leopardi, for example, somehow reconstrues queers like Ungaretti, Montale, and Quasimodo, the trio of death. In the same way, Pasolini redraws contemporary Italian queerdom. Take the case of poor Sanguinetti (I won’t pick on Pavese, who was a sad freak, the only one of his kind). Not to mention France, great country of devouring mouths, where one hundred faggot poets, from Villon to Sophie Podolski, have nurtured, still nurture, and will nurture with the blood of their tits ten thousand queer poets with their entourage of philenes, nymphs, butches, and sissies, lofty editors of literary magazines, great translators, petty bureaucrats, and grand diplomats of the Kingdom of Letters (see, if you must, the shameful and malicious reflections of the Tel Quel poets). And the less said the better about the faggotry of the Russian Revolution, which, if we’re to be honest, gave us just one faggot poet, a single one. Who? you may ask. Mayakovsky? No. Esenin? No. Pasternak? Blok? Mandelstam? Akhmatova? Hardly. There was just one, and I won’t keep you in suspense. He was the real thing, a steppes-and-snow faggot, a faggot through and through: Khlebnikov. And in Latin America, how many true faggots do we find? Vallejo and Martín Adán. Period. New paragraph. Macedonio Fernández, maybe? The rest are queers like Huidobro, fairies like Alfonso Cortés (although some of his poems are authentically fagotty), butches like León de Greiff, butch nymphs like Pablo de Rokha (with bursts of freakishness that would’ve driven Lacan himself crazy), sissies like Lezama Lima, a misguided reader of Góngora, and along with Lezama all the queers and sissies of the Cuban Revolution except for Rogelio Nogueras, who is a nymph with the spirit of a faggot, not to mention, if only in passing, the poets of the Sandinista Revolution: fairies like Coronel Urtecho or queers who wish they were philenes, like Ernesto Cardenal. The Mexican Contemporaries are also queers (no, shouted Amalfitano, not Gilberto Owen!); in fact Death Without End is, along with the poetry of Paz, the “Marseillaise” of the highly nervous Mexican poets. More names: Gelman, nymph; Benedetti, queer; Nicanor Parra, fairy with a hint of faggot; Westphalen, freak; Pellicer, fairy; Enrique Lihn, sissy; Girondo, fairy. And back to Spain, back to the beginning: Góngora and Quevedo, queers; San Juan de la Cruz and Fray Luis de León, faggots. End of story. And now, to satisfy your curiosity, some differences between queers and faggots. Even in their sleep, the former beg for a twelve-inch cock to plow and fertilize them, but at the moment of truth, mountains must be moved to get them into bed with the pretty boys they love. Faggots, on the other hand, seem to live as if a dick were permanently churning their insides, and when they look at themselves in the mirror (something they love and hate with all their heart), they see the Pimp of Death in their own sunken eyes. For faggots and fairies, pimp is the one word that can cross unscathed throug
h the realms of nothingness. But then, too, nothing prevents queers and faggots from being good friends, from neatly ripping one another off, criticizing or praising one another, publishing or burying one another in the frantic and moribund world of letters.

  “You missed the category of talking apes,” said Amalfitano when Padilla at last fell silent.

  “Ah, those talking apes,” said Padilla, “the faggot apes of Madagascar who refuse to talk so they don’t have to work.”

  2

  When Padilla was five his mother died, and when he was twelve his older brother died. When he was thirteen he decided that he would be an artist. First he thought he liked theater and film. Then he read Rimbaud and Leopoldo María Panero and he wanted to be a poet as well as an actor. By the time he was sixteen he’d devoured literally all the poetry that fell into his hands and he’d had two (rather unfortunate) experiences at the local community theater, but that wasn’t enough. He learned English and French, took a trip to San Sebastián, to the Mondragón insane asylum, and tried to visit Leopoldo María Panero, but once the doctors had seen him and listened to him talk for five minutes, they turned him away.

  At seventeen he was a tough, well-read, sarcastic kid, prone to bursts of anger that could lead to violence. Twice he resorted to physical aggression. The first time, he was walking through Parque de la Ciudadela with a friend, another poet, when two young skinheads insulted them. They might have called them faggots, something like that. Padilla, who was usually the one to taunt others, stopped, went up to the bigger kid, and punched him in the neck, making him gasp and choke; while the kid was trying to keep his balance and get his breath, he was felled by a swift kick to the groin; his friend tried to help but what he saw in Padilla’s eyes was more powerful than the bonds of friendship and he chose to flee the scene. It was all over very quickly. Before Padilla moved on, he had time to aim a few kicks at the bald head of his fallen opponent. Padilla’s young poet friend was horrified. Days later, when he took Padilla to task for his behavior (especially his final outburst, the gratuitous kicking of his enemy when he was down), Padilla answered that when fighting Nazis, everything was permitted. On Padilla’s adolescent lips, the word everything sounded luscious. But how do you know they were Nazis? asked his friend. They had shaved heads, said Padilla tenderly, what kind of world do you live in? Also, he added, it’s your fault, because that afternoon, remember, we were talking about love, Love with a capital L, and the entire time you just kept arguing with me, calling my ideas naïve, telling me to get my head out of the clouds; every word you said, sabotaging my dreams, was like a punch in the gut. Then the skinheads turned up, and added to all my pain and suffering, of which you were well aware, was the pain of ignorance.

  Padilla’s friend never knew whether he was serious or not, but from then on, in certain circles, going out late at night with him became a guarantee of safety.

  The second time, he hit his lover, a kid of eighteen, good-looking but not too bright, who one night transferred his affections to a rich architect, thirty and not too bright, either, with whom he was indiscreet enough to make the rounds of the places he used to hang out with Padilla, flaunting his happiness plus a weekend jaunt to Thailand and summer in Italy and a duplex complete with Jacuzzi, which was more than Padilla—who was only seventeen at the time and lived with his father in a dark three-bedroom apartment in the Eixample—could take. This time, however, Padilla acted with premeditation: he waited until five in the morning, hiding in a doorway, for his ex-lover to come home. Once the taxi had gone he was on him, and the attack was swift and brutal. He didn’t touch his face. He hit him in the belly and the genitals and, once his ex-lover was on the ground, aimed kicks at his legs and rear. If you turn me in I’ll kill you, baby, he warned before he vanished down the dark streets, gnawing his lip.

  His relationship with his father was good, though somewhat distant and perhaps a little sad. The abrupt and enigmatic messages they flung at each other with seeming carelessness tended to be misinterpreted on both sides. Padilla’s father believed that his son was very intelligent, of higher-than-average intelligence, but at the same time deeply unhappy. And he blamed himself and fate. Padilla believed that his father might long ago have been an interesting person or might have had the chance to become one, but the deaths in the family had turned him into a spiritless, resigned man, sometimes mysteriously happy (when a soccer match was on TV), but usually quiet and hardworking, a man who demanded nothing of Padilla beyond perhaps the occasional bit of trivial conversation. Nothing more. They weren’t rich, but since his father owned the apartment and hardly spent a thing, Padilla always had a decent amount of money at his disposal. With it he bought movie and theater tickets; went out to dinner; bought books, jeans, a leather jacket with metal studs, boots, sunglasses, a small weekly supply of hash, very occasionally some cocaine, albums by Satie; paid for his college tuition, his metro passes, his black and purple blazers, the rooms in Distrito V where he brought his lovers. He never went on vacation.

  Padilla’s father never went on vacation, either. When summer came, Padilla and his father slept until late, with the blinds down and the apartment plunged into a gentle dusk, redolent of the previous night’s dinner. Then Padilla would go out to roam the streets of Barcelona, and his father, after washing the dishes and giving the kitchen a once-over, would spend the rest of the day watching television.

  At eighteen Padilla completed his first book of poetry. He sent a copy to Leopoldo María Panero at the Mondragón asylum, put the original in a drawer in his desk—the only one with a lock and key—and forgot all about it. Three years later, when he met Amalfitano, he retrieved the poems from the drawer and begged him to read them. Amalfitano thought they were interesting, maybe too faithful to certain conventions, but elegant and polished. Their subjects were the city of Barcelona, sex, illness, crime. In one of them, for example, the poet described in perfect alexandrines some fifty ways of masturbating, each more painful and terrible than the last, as a nuclear twilight settled slowly over the city’s suburbs. In another he minutely chronicled the death of his father, alone in his room, as the poet cleans the house, cooks, rations out the provisions (ever dwindling) in the pantry, searches for good music on the radio, reads curled up on the sofa in the living room, and tries in vain to reorder his memories. His father takes his time dying, of course, and stretching between his sleep and the poet’s wakefulness, lost in the mist, is a ruined bridge. Vladimir Holan is my model in the art of survival, he told Amalfitano. Wonderful, thought Amalfitano, one of my favorite poets.

  Up until this point, Amalfitano had hardly seen Padilla, who only very rarely showed up in class. After the reading and the favorable comments, he was never absent again. Soon they became friends. By then Padilla wasn’t living with his father anymore; he had rented a studio near the university, where he hosted parties and gatherings that Amalfitano soon began to attend. Poems were read and later on in the evening the guests put on little plays in Catalan. Amalfitano found it charming, like the tertulias of South American literary circles in the old days, but with more style and taste, more flair, something like what the tertulias of Mexico’s Contemporáneos might have been if the Contemporáneos had written plays, which Amalfitano doubted. Also: there was a lot of drinking and sometimes one of the guests had a breakdown that usually ended—after much screaming and sobbing—with the sufferer shut in the bathroom and two volunteers trying to calm him down. Every so often a woman made an appearance, but usually it was just men, most of them young, students of literature and art history. A painter also came, a strange man, maybe forty-five, who wore only leather and who sat silently in a corner during the tertulias, not drinking, chain-smoking little hash cigarettes that he selected, pre-rolled, from a gold cigarette case. And the owner of a pastry shop in Gracia, a cheerful, animated fat man who talked to everyone and who was, as Amalfitano soon realized, the one bankrolling Padilla and the other boys.

  One night, as they were performing on
e of the Dialogues with Leucò translated into Catalan by a very tall, fair-skinned boy, Padilla surreptitiously took one of Amalfitano’s hands. Amalfitano didn’t let go.

  The first time they made love was one Sunday morning, with the dawn light filtering through the lowered blinds, when everyone else had gone and all that was left in the studio were cigarette butts and a jumble of glasses and scattered cushions. Amalfitano was fifty and it was the first time he had slept with a man. I’m not a man, said Padilla, I’m your angel.

  3

  At some point, as they were coming out of a movie theater, remembered Amalfitano, Padilla confessed that in the not-too-distant future he planned to make a movie. The movie would be called Leopardi, and according to Padilla it would be a Hollywood-style biopic about the famous and multidisciplinary Italian poet. Like John Huston’s Toulouse-Lautrec movie. But since Padilla’s movie wouldn’t have a big budget (in fact it had no budget), the main roles would be played not by great actors but by fellow writers, who would work for the love of art in general, love of the gobbo in particular, or simply to be included. The role of Leopardi was reserved for a young poet and heroin addict from La Coruña whose name Amalfitano had forgotten. The role of Antonio Ranieri was reserved for Padilla himself. It’s the most interesting of all, he declared. Count Monaldo Leopardi would be played by Vargas Llosa, who, with a brooding look and some talcum powder, would be perfect for the role. Paolina Leopardi would go to Blanca Andreu, and Carlo Leopardi to Enrique Vila-Matas. The role of Countess Adelaida Antici, mother of the poet, was to be offered to Josefina Aldecoa. Adelaida García Morales and Carmen Martín Gaite would play peasants from Recanati. Giordani, faithful friend and epistolary confidant—a bit of a drip, really—would go to Muñoz Molina. Manzoni: Javier Marías. Two Vatican cardinals, tremulous Latinists, loathsome Hellenists: Cela and Juan Goytisolo. Uncle Carlo Antici was reserved for Juan Marsé. Stella, the publisher, would be offered to Herralde. Fanny Targioni, the fickle and too-human Fanny, to Soledad Puértolas. And then there were some of the poems, which—to make them more comprehensible to the audience–would be played by actors. That is, the poems would be given physical presence instead of being ladders of words. Example: Leopardi is writing “The Infinite” and from beneath the table springs Martín de Riquer, in a small but effective role, though Padilla doubted that the eminent academic would accept the ephemeral glory of the cinema. The “Night Song of a Wandering Shepherd in Asia,” Padilla’s favorite poem, would be played by Leopoldo María Panero, naked or in a tiny bathing suit. Eduardo Mendicutti would play “To Silvia.” Enrique Vila-Matas: “The Calm After the Storm.” “To Italy,” the poet Pere Girau, Padilla’s best friend. He planned to shoot the interiors in his own Eixample apartment and at the gym of an ex-lover in Gracia. The exteriors: Sitges, Manresa, the Barrio Gótico of Barcelona, Girona, Olot, Palamós. He even had a completely original and revolutionary idea for re-creating Naples in 1839 and the cholera epidemic that ravaged the city, an idea that he could have sold to the big Hollywood studios, but Amalfitano couldn’t remember what it was.

 
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