Thursday, June 05, 2008

Dust and literature

And they used to say to me, with that distinctive Spanish accent which they never lost, that prickly little music, as if they were circling the zs and ss, which made the ss seem lonelier and more sensuous, Auxilio, they'd say, that's enough bustling around, Auxilio, leave those papers alone, woman, dust and literature have always gone together. And I would look at them and think, How right they are, dust and literature, from the beginning, and since at the time I was avid for detail, I conjured up wonderful and melancholy scenes, I imagined books sitting quietly on shelves and the dust of the world creeping into libraries, slowly, persistently, unstoppably, and then I came to understand that books are easy prey for dust (I understood this but refused to accept it), I saw whirlwinds, clouds of dust gathering over a plain somewhere deep in my memory, and the clouds advanced until they reached Mexico City, the clouds that had come from my own private plain, which belonged to everyone although many refused to admit it, and those clouds covered everything with dust, the books I had read and those I was planning to read, covered them irrevocably, there was nothing to be done: however heroic my efforts with broom and rag, the dust was never going to go away, since it was an integral part of the books, their way of living or of mimicking something like life.


The dark night of the soul advances through the streets of Mexico City sweeping all before it. And now it is rare to hear singing, where once everything was a song. The dust cloud reduces everything to dust. First the poets, then love, then, when it seems to be sated and about to disperse, the cloud returns to hang high over your city or your mind, with a mysterious air that means it has no intention of moving.

— from Amulet, by Roberto Bolaño.

Have I mentioned lately how utterly amazing Bolaño is?

I have plenty of things to say about Bolaño. I will try to save them, sort them. There are things for me to learn from Bolaño, whether about reading, writing, or life. This cannot be rushed.

That ellipsis, for the record, represents about 8 pages. Should I have made it 2 separate quotations? But they're connected. Looking at it here, out of context, it's not even so stunning a quote as I thought. It's the fact that it pulls itself together after meandering for 8 pages that takes my breath away.

It's all connected, and it leaves me breathless and wanting to gulp down the universe.

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