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

Chapter 4 - Poetry at the Ends of Its Lines

from Part Two


The manuscript of collected verse and prose poems Bolaño began assembling in 1993 under the title “Fragmentos de la Universidad Desconocida,” published posthumously in 2007 as The Unknown University, marks a pivotal moment in his career. Bringing to a close his lifelong aspiration to gain recognition primarily as a poet, its three-part construction, with Antwerp at its center (recycled and retitled as People Going Away), signals a decisive transition and reorientation of Bolaño’s writing priorities over the course of his final decade. Positioning as “one of the wings / of the Unknown University!”–but only one–the verse poetry he had loved all his life but come to find as limiting as Poe, Baudelaire, and Rimbaud had found it to be a century-and-a-half earlier, The Unknown University sets the stage for one of the most productive decades any writer has known. Following quite logically on the farewell to poetry as verse that is The Unknown University, Bolaño published only three years later, in 1996, the breakthrough year of his career, the condensed, prose-poetic fiction of Nazi Literature of the Americas and the novel of poetic apprenticeship this is in fundamental respects both its companion text and its sequel, Distant Star.