Bolaño’s literary kitchen


“In my ideal literary kitchen there lives a warrior, whom some voices (disembodied voices, voices that cast no shadow) call a writer. This warrior is always fighting. He knows that in the end, no matter what he does, he’ll be defeated. But he still roams the literary kitchen, which is built of cement, and faces his opponent without begging for mercy or granting it.”

— Roberto Bolaño

Echoes of silence



I imagined him leaning over the page by candlelight while the rest of the hospital slept, night after night, his true voice pouring from the pen in measured strokes, filling the void of sound in his throat and in that quiet building with the voices of multitudes. The cold winter months abated, new growth sprouted in the crystalline valley below Clyvesell, and Wade was there looking out the window and writing. Sun scorched the mountain relentlessly in the summers and Wade was there with his notepad, cloaked in the solitude of night, stealing sleep during the day when he could. He worked his jobs, he attended therapy sessions, events, activities when required, which was often. But he lived for the night, when the echoes of silence throughout Clyvesell could not hush his mind, his pen.

I Will Return (Neruda)


Some other time, man, or woman, traveler,

later, when I am not alive,

look here, look for me

between stone and ocean,

in the light storming

through the foam.

Look here, look for me,

for here I will return, without saying a thing,

without voice, without mouth, pure,

here I will return to the churning

of the water, of

its unbroken heart,

here, I will be discovered and lost:

here, I will, perhaps, be stone and silence.

— Pablo Neruda


Silent assassin


Down the hill to the shack

everything gray

clapboard and sheet metal

sagebrush, anthills

what tumbles clings

kill or subdue

gun barrel gleaming

knotted thorns

who is the

silent assassin

heels digging

steel intent,

is it he treading down the mountain

camouflaged, hunting

or she already there

lying in ambush?

The writer who does not write

He is the writer who does not write, though no one knows him by that name.

No one knows him. He does not write.

Perhaps he’d be known if others read him, but they don’t. He does not write.

By not writing, he deprives himself one of his greatest tools. He is a flightless bird.

No trace of him will remain.



Last week I drafted a short piece in my notebook about other people, namely my aversion to them. Today I read a passage in Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet that puts my piece to shame. This from Pessoa:

Isolation made me in its own image. The presence of another person — one person is all it takes — immediately slows down my thinking … When I am alone, I can come up with endless bon mots, acerbic ripostes to remarks no one has made, sociable flashes of wit exchanged with no one; but all this disappears when I’m confronted by another human being. I lose all my intelligence, I lose the power of speech, and after a while all I feel like doing is sleeping. Yes, talking to people makes me feel like sleeping. Only my spectral and imagined friends, only the conversations I have in dreams, have reality and substance, and in them the spirit is present like an image in a mirror.

The whole idea of being forced into contact with someone oppresses me. A simple invitation to supper from a friend produces in me an anguish difficult to put into words. The idea of any social obligation — going to a funeral, discussing something with someone at the office, going to meet someone (whether known or unknown) at the station — the mere idea blocks that whole day’s thoughts and sometimes I even worry about it the night before and sleep badly because of it. Yet the reality, when it comes, is utterly insignificant, and certainly doesn’t justify so much fuss, yet it happens again and again and I never learn.

‘My habits are those of solitude, not men.’ I don’t know if it was Rousseau or Senancour who said that, but it was some spirit belonging to the same species as me.

Churchill on landlords


Roads are made, streets are made, services are improved, electric light turns night into day, water is brought from reservoirs a hundred miles off in the mountains — all the while the landlord sits still. Every one of those improvements is affected by the labor and cost of other people and the taxpayers. To not one of these improvements does the land monopolist contribute, and yet, by every one of them the value of his land is enhanced. He renders no service to the community, he contributes nothing to the general welfare, he contributes nothing to the process from which his own enrichment is derived…The unearned increment on the land is reaped by the land monopolist in exact proportion, not to the service, but to the disservice done.

— Winston Churchill, 1909