To be married to a writer can be a peculiar kind of torture. Carolina Lopez saw her husband, the late Chilean novelist and poet Roberto Bolaño, take up with another woman for the final years of his life. (He died in 2003.) Lopez deserves credit for helping Bolaño become the first dead superstar of 21st century literature. Next month, New Directions will release Bolaño's 19th book in English, "The Unknown University," a collection of poetry assembled from the archives Lopez oversees.
Now, Lopez has opened up those archives to a cultural center in Barcelona (Bolaño lived his final years and died in a seaside resort not far from the Catalan capital). The exhibit, "Bolaño Archive, 1977–2003," runs at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) until the end of this month. It offers a fascinating and intimate window into the life and writing process of the critically acclaimed novels "2666," "The Savage Detectives" and many other works.
In a long report on the exhibit for the Los Angeles Review of Books, Lisa Locascio quotes curator Valerie Miles as she describes the process by which Lopez has kept her late husband's works alive. Lopez, she says, "belongs to another tradition, that of the practical genius whose role has been instrumental in creating an environment for a writer to work. She brought economic and emotional stability, the framework of a family, grounding, and encouraged him through the days of fasting in the desert when his manuscripts were being rejected by editors and agents alike."
The exhibit itself offers a look at several Bolaño manuscripts, including the notebook where he outlined “2666.” That novel includes more than 300 pages about the killing of women in Ciudad Juarez, a city Bolaño never visited: The exhibit reveals how he put that section together, with several pages of his Internet research assembled into a collage. There’s also the writer’s copy of the board game “Third Reich,” which he used to write the novel of the same name, and poems he wrote in the 1970s in