WOES OF THE TRUE POLICEMAN
Begun in the 1980s and worked on until the author's death in 2003, The Woes of the True Policeman is Roberto Bolaño's last, unfinished novel.
The novel follows Amalfitano—an exiled Chilean university professor and widower with a teenage daughter—as his political disillusionment and love of poetry lead to the scandal that will force him to flee from Barcelona and take him to Santa Teresa, Mexico. This border town is haunted by dark tales of murdered women and populated by characters such as Sorcha, who fought in the Andalusia Blue Division in the Spanish Civil War, and Castillo, who makes his living selling his forgeries of Larry Rivers paintings to wealthy Texans. It is here that Amalfitano meets Arcimboldi, a magician and writer whose work highlights the provisional and fragile nature of literature and life.
Woes of the True Policeman is an exciting, kaleidoscopic novel, lyrical and intense, yet darkly humorous. Exploring the roots of memory and the limits of art, it marks the culmination of one of the great careers of world literature.
According to Padilla, remembered Amalfitano, all literature could
be classified as heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual. Novels, in
general, were heterosexual. Poetry, on the other hand, was completely
homosexual. Within the vast ocean of poetry he identified
various currents: faggots, queers, sissies, freaks, butches, fairies,
nymphs, and philenes. But the two major currents were faggots
and queers. Walt Whitman, for example, was a faggot poet. Pablo
Neruda, a queer. William Blake was definitely a faggot. Octavio
Paz was a queer. Borges was a philene, or in other words he might
be a faggot one minute and simply asexual the next. Rubén Darío
was a freak, in fact, the queen freak, the prototypical freak (in
Spanish, of course; in the wider world the reigning freak is still
Verlaine the Generous). Freaks, according to Padilla, were closer to
mad house flamboyance and naked hallucination, while faggots and
queers wandered in stagger- step from ethics to aesthetics and back
again. Cernuda, dear Cernuda, was a nymph, and at moments of
great bitterness a faggot, whereas Guillén, Aleixandre, and Alberti
could be considered a sissy, a butch, and a queer, respectively. As a
general rule, poets like Blas de Otero were butches, while poets
like Gil de Biedma were—except for Gil de Biedma himself—part
nymph and part queer. Recent Spanish poetry, with the tentative
exception of the aforementioned Gil de Biedma and probably
Carlos Edmundo de Ory, had been lacking in faggot poets until
the arrival of the Great Faggot of All Sorrows, Padilla’s favorite
poet, Leopoldo María Panero. And yet Panero, it had to be admitted,
had fits of bipolar freakishness that made him unstable, inconsistent, and hard to classify. Of Panero’s peers, a curious case
was Gimferrer, who was queer by nature but had the imagination
of a faggot and the tastes of a nymph. Anyway, the poetry scene
was essentially an (underground) battle, the result of the struggle
between faggot poets and queer poets to seize control of the word.
Sissies, according to Padilla, were faggot poets by birth who, out
of weakness or for comfort’s sake, lived within and accepted—most
of the time—the aesthetic and personal parameters of the queers.
In Spain, France, and Italy, queer poets have always been legion,
he said, although a superficial reader might never guess. What
happens is that a faggot poet like Leopardi, for example, somehow
reconstrues queers like Ungaretti, Montale, and Quasimodo, the
trio of death. In the same way, Pasolini redraws contemporary
Italian queerdom. Take the case of poor...
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Roberto Bolaño was born in Santiago, Chile, in 1953. He grew up in Chile and Mexico City, where he was a founder of the Infrarealist poetry movement. He is the author of The Savage Detectives, which received the Herralde Prize and the Rómulo Gallegos Prize, and 2666, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Bolaño died in Blane, Spain, at the age of fifty.