Although I liked this story much more than “The Insufferable Gaucho,” the Bolaño story from a few weeks ago, this still doesn’t appeal to me greatly. One reason is that the climax is unsatisfactory and another is the wealth of irrelevant detail. This is the story of Russelot, a young Argentine novelist who travels to a conference in Germany and then visits Paris. His motivation for going to Paris is that a filmmaker appears to have plagiarized two of Russelot’s novels and although the writer has no plans to take legal action, he does want to come to some kind of closure with the other man over what has happened. While in France, Russelot has various adventures and finally tracks the filmmaker down to a country town in Normandy. The confrontation with Morini is very brief – too brief to really make sense in the context of the story, I thought – and then Russelot returns to Paris having come to some kind of understanding about himself as an Argentine writer. All of which is interesting, but there is some suggestion of a greater truth about Argentine literature here that it is lost on me. Russelot is one of the leading lights of Argentine literature, and he reveres older writers from his country. He meets up in Paris with a writer he admires. He discovers that the French translations of his work have not sold very well, but that doesn’t seem to matter to him or, for that matter, the publishers. So this is a pleasant enough read, but it feels like something is lost in the cultural translation.
November 26, 2007: “Álvaro Russelot’s Journey” by Roberto Bolaño