Of Pedro Lemebel, Roberto Bolaño has said:
There is no battlefield on which Lemebel—cross-dresser, militant, third-world champion, anarchist, Mapuche Indian by adoption, a man reviled by an establishment that rejects the truth he speaks, possessor of a painfully long memory—hasn’t fought and lost. *Before going on to say: In my opinion, Lemebel is one of Chile’s best writers and the best poet of my generation, though he doesn’t write poetry.
Bolaño recalls a conversation with Lemebel:
They can’t forgive me for having a voice, Robert, says Lemebel at the other end of the line. Santiago glitters in the night. It looks like the last great city of the southern hemisphere. Cars pass under my balcony and Pinochet is in prison in London. How many years has it been since the last curfew? How many years will it be until the next? They can’t forgive me for remembering all the things they did, says Lemebel. But you want to know what they really can’t forgive, Robert? They can’t forgive me for not forgiving them.There’s an authenticity in the narrative that provokes the feeling of an autobiographical novel. The language is, at times, bewildering—the gaudy, overstated description of the rooftop apartment seems decorated, like the apartment, a poverty-stricken attempt at beauty—the blatancy of the artifice constitutes the success of the art. Readers are privy to the Queen’s voice and vision. The mundane at the border of the sublime.
So lonely, so trapped within his own cocoon that he can’t even cry without a spectator to appreciate the effort it takes to shed a tear onstage.The impoverished life of the protagonist, the Queen of the Corner, is set against the excess of Pinochet’s opulence. Her (his) nosy neighbors and meddlesome ‘sisters’ are preferable to the constant nagging of Pinochet’s wife. A feeling of dread pervades the novel—something as inevitable as Pinochet’s fall. But, then there’s Carlos…
Some readers will find Lemebel’s longish paragraphs, with multiple voices and without the benefit of the conventions of written dialogue (quotation marks, indication of who’s speaking) confusing or some fault of the translator’s. I, on the other hand, thought it was perfect. Just perfect.
*All Bolaño quotes liberated from [b:Between Parentheses: Essays, Articles, and Speeches, 1998-2003|9550623|Between Parentheses Essays, Articles, and Speeches, 1998-2003|Roberto Bolaño|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41YogrOZDFL._SL75_.jpg|1332036]