Roberto Bolaño First Edition Books

Roberto Bolaño First Edition Books

Roberto Bolaño First Edition Books

Roberto Bolaño First Edition Books – I began to collect Bolaño after reading 2666. At the time, all of his books were available in first edition, first printing at publisher’s price, falling rapidly off the translator’s carousel, as they did in the decade or so after his death in 2003. Running to over 900 pages in English, 2666 is substantially concerned with violence and death and is divided into five sections, with section five, “The Part about the Crimes” chronicling the murders of hundreds of women in the fictional Mexican border city of Santa Teresa. But the femicides were never fictional.



Of 2666 J.S.Goldbach wrote,

“It is complete, achieved and satisfying, though there is an unignorable urgency to it that is truly mesmerizing and breathtaking (…..) Although existentially unsettling, 2666 is also funny, very funny, and oddly reassuring; no run-of-the-mill apocalypticist, Bolaño maintains a belief in art, in a “third leg,” even though so much conspires against it, like time and the ways it distorts and disintegrates everything. 2666 holds an “unquiet mirror” up to hell and stuns with its brilliance. It is a heroic achievement, a modern epic — a masterpiece.” 

Henry Hitchings wrote for the Financial Times that,

“2666… is a summative work – a grand recapitulation of the author’s main concerns and motifs. As before, Bolaño is preoccupied with parallel lives and secret histories. Largely written after 9/11, the novel manifests a new emphasis on the dangerousness of the modern world…. 2666 is an excruciatingly challenging novel, in which Bolaño redraws the boundaries of fiction. It is not unique in blurring the margins between realism and fantasy, between documentary and invention. But it is bold in a way that few works really are – it kicks away the divide between playfulness and seriousness. And it reminds us that literature at its best inhabits what Bolaño, with a customary wink at his own pomposity, called “the territory of risk” – it takes us to places we might not wish to go.”

Reading, and rereading “The Part about the Crimes” was and is one of the most viscerally horrible and disturbing experiences in literature that I have come across. It is an incessantly hellish lament  with hundreds of  variant femicidal choruses – akin to frequent but not nightly dreams of a slow, grisly asphyxiation caused by terrifying creatures unknown. The victims work mostly for a pittance as sewing machinists within the Maquilador sector. They are exploited, then raped, then murdered. Timelines and details are circumspectly revealed through a relentless series of banal and haphazard autopsies. Investigations are equally fruitless and negligent. Bolaño gives the reader little respite when he breaks the cycle of murderous narrative and introduces us to Officer Juan de Dios Martínez who is also investigating a suspect, “The Penitent” for defecating in churches. It is a simple reportage a la Mexicana moderna, on a grotesque and monumental scale.

“No one knew what she was doing in Colonia Hidalgo, although it was most likely, according to the police, that she’d been taking a walk and had come upon death purely by chance.”  

Santa Teresa is based upon Ciudad Juarez a place Bolaño apparently never visited.  He relied instead on newspaper detail and an intense collaboration with his friend Sergio González Rodriguez who published “Huesos en el Desierto” (Bones in the Desert, 2002). Between  1993 and 2005 according to Amnesty International there were 370 femicides in and around Juarez. Neither the City of Juarez, the State of Chihuahua nor the Government of Mexico demonstrated much beyond general apathy. 2066 seems to me at least to chime with the first verse of The Second Coming by Yeats. 

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.”

I travelled to most of the Mexican/US border cities in my early and mid 20s (early 90s) and have mescal fuelled recollections drifting from cantina to sawdust cantina in Juarez one weekend. The girls chewed Wrigleys and the boys wore Springsteen t-shirts. US College students flooded in from El Paso for cheap beer, tequila and pot. The old men played Dominoes. Squalor abounding, which suited my budget, I thought Juarez a largely songful, desolate city, populated by transient, generous souls, some who welcomed me warmly, never more so than after my leading a mariachi backed rendition of Penny Lane, during sunrise at the Kentucky Club.

“Eee lies de keep ees fire engeen cleeeen, eeet’s a cleeeen macheen.”

By 2010, Ciudad Juarez commanded the accolade of most dangerous city on the planet. Thirty years previous, it was just dangerous. Not that I would ever have had the wherewithal to notice. As a note, avoiding a violent Juarez hardly reduced any physical risk for Bolaño. Whilst redrafting 2666 in Girona, he suffered liver failure and died in 2003. He was fifty years old and three short in the queue for a transplant. He had spent most of his life as a largely solitary and unheralded writer. The bibliography below is enlightening. Virtually none of his novels were published until his 40s and none of his work was published in English before his death. 

I am not alone in fixating on part five. It is an epochal rendering of all that is best in Bolaño’s work. Stephen King, wrote of 2666,

“This surreal novel can’t be described; it has to be experienced in all its crazed glory. Suffice it to say it concerns what may be the most horrifying real-life mass-murder spree of all time: as many as 400 women killed in the vicinity of Juarez, Mexico. Given this as a backdrop, the late Bolaño paints a mural of a poverty-stricken society that appears to be eating itself alive. And who cares? Nobody, it seems.”

Allegedly, Bolaño left no clue as to why he named his unfinished novel 2666. The title has confounded critics since publication. The most common hypothesis is that 2666 refers to an apocalyptic date in the future. Personally, I will always, and only ever imagine that he was surveying the devil’s handicraft. Dos veces.

Fine Firsts stocks multiple first editions by Roberto Bolaño at,   

Prices of Roberto Bolaño First Edition Books are still relatively inexpensive, although collectible quality first printings are becoming more sought after. 



Roberto Bolaño’s Bibliography


English title Original Spanish title Translator
The Skating Rink La Pista de Hielo (1993) Chris Andrews, August 2009
Nazi Literature in the Americas La Literatura Nazi en América (1996) Chris Andrews, February 2008
Distant Star Estrella Distante (1996) Chris Andrews, December 2004
The Savage Detectives Los Detectives Salvajes (1998) Natasha Wimmer, April 2007
Amulet Amuleto (1999) Chris Andrews, January 2007
Monsieur Pain Monsieur Pain (1999) retitled reprint of small-press
La senda de los elefantes (1984, written 1981-1982)
Chris Andrews, January 2010
By Night in Chile Nocturno de Chile (2000) Chris Andrews, December 2003
Antwerp Amberes (2002, written 1980) Natasha Wimmer, April 2010
A Little Lumpen Novella Una Novelita Lumpen (2002, written 2001) Natasha Wimmer, September 2014
2666 2666 (2004, written 1999-2003) Natasha Wimmer, November 2008
The Third Reich El Tercer Reich (2010, written 1989) Natasha Wimmer, November 2011
Woes of the True Policeman Los Sinsabores del Verdadero Policía (2011, written 198x-2003) Natasha Wimmer, November 2012
The Spirit of Science Fiction El espíritu de la ciencia-ficción (2016, written 1984) Natasha Wimmer, February 2019
[Diorama] Diorama (not yet published or translated)


Short story collections

English title Original Spanish publication Translator
Last Evenings on Earth Selection of stories from Putas Asesinas (2001)
and Llamadas Telefónicas (1997)
Chris Andrews, April 2007
The Return Stories from Putas Asesinas and Llamadas Telefónicas
not collected in Last Evenings on Earth
Chris Andrews, June 2010
The Insufferable Gaucho El Gaucho Insufrible (2003) Chris Andrews, August 2010
The Secret of Evil El Secreto del Mal (2007) Chris Andrews, April 2012
Cowboy Graves Sepulcros de vaqueros (2017) Natasha Wimmer, February 2021


Poetry collections

English title Original Spanish title Translator Notes
Reinventing Love Reinventar el amor (1976)   20-page booklet in México (first publication)
Fragments from the Unknown University Fragmentos de la Universidad Desconocida (1992)   Poems (1978–1992), reprinted in La Universidad Desconocida
The Romantic Dogs Los Perros Románticos:
Poemas 1980-1998
(revised from Los Perros Románticos: Poemas 1977-1990, 1993)
Laura Healy, 2008 43 poems written from 1980 to 1998
The Last Savage El último salvaje (1995)   Poems (1990-1993), reprinted in La Universidad Desconocida
Tres Tres (2000) Laura Healy, September 2011 Three poem sequences written in 1981, 1993, and 1994
The Unknown University La Universidad Desconocida (2007) Laura Healy, July 2013 Includes selection from the previous collections, uncollected poetry
and the novella Antwerp (under the title “People Walking Away”)


Paul Caldwell-Jones

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