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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: September 2019

Part Four

  • Jonathan Beck Monroe, Cornell University, New York
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • pp 153-197


Begun in the late 1980s, but appearing only in 2011, a year after The Third Reich and seven years after the monumental 2666, Bolaño’s third posthumously published novel, Woes of the True Policeman, pivots decisively from the ideological conflicts of the twentieth century to a pronounced post-Cold War emphasis on questions of identity. Reframing Bolaño’s investigation of what counts, and what doesn’t, as poetry, as an inquiry into the elaboration of literary taxonomies and the aesthetics and politics of their particular ways of making visible, it orients its concerns with genre, gender, sexuality, and identity after “The Fall of the Berlin Wall” (the title of its opening chapter) toward a profound questioning of what progress we may claim to have made in negotiating conceptual, epistemological, ideological binaries. Through its central characters, the Chilean, Spanish, Mexican literature professor Óscar Amalfitano (who appears in 2666 as professor of philosophy), Amalfitano’s former lover, the poet turned novelist Juan Padilla, and the writer J.M.G. Arcimboldi (2666’s Benno von Archimboldi), Bolaño explores the degree to which, post -1989, post-9/11, in reimagining poetry, the novel, history, literary history, ideology, and politics, we may find it possible to develop a poetics of apposition rather than opposition.