Roberto Bolaño's Fiction

An Expanding Universe

Chris Andrews

Columbia University Press

Roberto Bolaño's Fiction

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Pub Date: December 2015

ISBN: 9780231168076

304 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $24.00£20.00

Pub Date: July 2014

ISBN: 9780231168069

304 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $80.00£67.00

Pub Date: July 2014

ISBN: 9780231537537

304 Pages

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Roberto Bolaño's Fiction

An Expanding Universe

Chris Andrews

Columbia University Press

Since the publication of The Savage Detectives in 2007, the work of Roberto Bolaño (1953–2003) has achieved an acclaim rarely enjoyed by literature in translation. Chris Andrews, a leading translator of Bolaño's work into English, explores the singular achievements of the author's oeuvre, engaging with its distinct style and key thematic concerns, incorporating his novels and stories into the larger history of Latin American and global literary fiction.

Andrews provides new readings and interpretations of Bolaño's novels, including 2666, The Savage Detectives, and By Night in Chile, while at the same time examining the ideas and narrative strategies that unify his work. He begins with a consideration of the reception of Bolaño's fiction in English translation, examining the reasons behind its popularity. Subsequent chapters explore aspects of Bolaño's fictional universe and the political, ethical, and aesthetic values that shape it. Bolaño emerges as the inventor of a prodigiously effective "fiction-making system," a subtle handler of suspense, a chronicler of aimlessness, a celebrator of courage, an anatomist of evil, and a proponent of youthful openness. Written in a clear and engaging style, Roberto Bolano's Fiction offers an invaluable understanding of one of the most important authors of the last thirty years.

Roberto Bolaño's Fiction is an engaging, original, and thoroughly successful attempt to interpret Roberto Bolaño's entire corpus of fiction. The questions Chris Andrews raises about ethics and the relationship of literature to life are timely and should appeal to a range of readers.

Ignacio López-Vicuña, Associate Professor of Spanish, University of Vermont

An amazing introduction to an amazing writer, touching upon all that makes Roberto Bolaño great: the romantic anarchism of his politics, the playfulness of his fiction, and the obsession with evil.

Siddhartha Deb, author of The Beautiful and the Damned

This book is a rare thing: a work of literary criticism that exhibits the very qualities it praises in the texts it analyzes. Chris Andrews's writing, like Roberto Bolaño's, expands horizons, opens up remarkable possibilities, sings like an angel, makes new and unexpected connections, quietly understates its immense erudition, and offers a ride through a 'utopia of unending narration' that is thrillingly free of obfuscation, lip service, sanctimony, grandiosity, and boredom.

Esther Allen, coeditor of In Translation: Translators on Their Work and What It Means

In this superb volume of criticism... Andrews, the English translator of ten of Bolaño's books, deftly analyzes the complex themes and narrative layers of Bolaño's fictional universe....An indispensable guide to navigating the rich world of Bolaño's fiction.

Publishers Weekly

Profusely documented and with a thorough bibliography, this full-length critical monograph is a great start to what will, one hopes, be a parade of analytical examinations of Bolaño's works.

Library Journal

Written in a clear and engaging style, Robert Bolaño's Fiction offers an invaluable understanding of one of the most important authors of the last thirty years.


[An] elegantly written literary analysis.

Lisa Locascio, Salon

A sharp and accessible guide to the literary style and narrative skills of this amazing novelist.

Sacramento News and Review

Andrews is not only the leading translator of Bolaño's work into English but also one of the leading scholars of Bolaño's fiction.


Andrews's book... is an ambitious and insightful take on what is sure to be an exciting area of study in the coming years.

Rain Taxi

[Andrews] examines Bolaño's 'fiction-making system' and ethical patterns with graceful, accessible erudition. The analysis of Bolaño's techniques helps us not only to understand our experience of reading him but also to fathom the writers he resonates with.

Lorna Scott Fox, Times Literary Supplement

Chris Andrews writes very fine prose... This book isn't just a translator's homage to his author (Andrews's affection for Bolano is obvious but does not interfere with his analysis) but an exceptional work of scholarship.

The Australian

The most important contribution to this field of scholarship. The singularity of Andrews's book lies in its sophisticated and subtle reading of Bolano's opus as a whole... Superbly written and meticulously researched.

Australian Book Review
List of Abbreviations
Note on Translations
1. The Anomalous Case of Roberto Bolaño
2. Bolaño's Fiction-Making System
3. Something Is Going to Happen: Narrative Tension
4. Aimlessness
5. Duels and Brawls: Borges and Bolaño
6. Evil Agencies
7. A Sense of What Matters
Appendix: Victims in "The Part About the Crimes" (2666) and Huesos en el desierto

Read the introduction:

Web Features:

Honorable Mention – 2015 PROSE Awards in Literature, Association of American Publishers

About the Author

Chris Andrews teaches at Western Sydney University, where he is a member of the Writing and Society Research Center. He has translated ten books by Roberto Bolaño. His book Lime Green Chair won the 2011 Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize.