Woes of the True Policeman is a novel by Roberto Bolaño and translated by Natasha Wimmer, © FSG 2012
Interesting stuff! I haven’t read Woes of the True Policeman yet (though I’ve read The Savage Detectives and 2666) and I’m surprised to hear you say that academia comes out positively in this book. Amalfitano’s a major character in 2666 (as is Archimboldi) but in that book he comes off as more of a parody of academia, a fretful nervous weirdo that winds up being a pretty terrible tour guide to the European critics in town (who are, in turn, further parodies of academia). One of the main things I see people getting at with Bolaño is how he’s obsessed with meaninglessness, like the list of Archimboldi’s books, but I definitely agree with you that there’s an element of celebration there. So many of his stories take meaninglessness and nihilism as a given (I’m VERY interested to hear your opinion on The Savage Detectives) that when any of the characters bring themselves to care about anything at all it’s a triumph.
Ah, you made me super interested to read his other books! I do think there is an exaggerated nature to everything that suits your point about a “parody of academia,” like how Amalfitano is never in the right place at the right time. Still, I do think there’s a celebration of specificity that lends itself to an academic setting, as if there’s something wonderful about a really niche area of interest or study.
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