Here’s another lyrical alignment from Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives.
I came across this paragraph “re-aligned” in some old notes from 2008. The scene is of the enigmatic Ulises character described via another character’s story of him. I often describe Bolaño as a poet’s poet. His writing, like that of Borges, is infused with signs of a rich reading life and often speaks on the craft in an infectious and serious way. The text below creates a fable out of thin air that evokes real places and real struggle.
Two Islands – Roberto Bolaño
a lyrical alignment*
One day I asked him where he’d been. He told me
that he’d traveled along a river that connects
Mexico and Central America. As far as I know,
there is no such river. But he told me he’d traveled
along this river and that now he could say he knew
its twists and tributaries. A river of trees
or a river of sand or a river
of trees that in certain stretches
became a river of sand. A constant flow of people
without work, of the poor and starving,
drugs and suffering. A river of clouds
he’d sailed on for twelve months,
where he’d found countless islands and outposts,
although not all the islands were settled, and sometimes
he thought he’d stay and live on one of them
forever or that he’d die there.
Of all the islands he’d visited, two stood out.
The island of the past, he said, where the only
time was past time and the inhabitants were bored
and more or less happy, but where the weight
of illusion was so great that the island
sank a little deeper into the river
every day. And the island of the future,
where the only time was the future,
and the inhabitants were planners and strivers, such
strivers, said Ulises, that they were likely
to end up devouring one another.
*text from The Savage Detectives