Huzzah! There’s a new Roberto Bolaño short story, “Scholars of Sodom,” in the New York Review of Books:
It’s 1972 and I can see V.S. Naipaul strolling through the streets of Buenos Aires. Well, sometimes he’s strolling, but sometimes, when he’s on his way to meetings or keeping appointments, his gait is quick and his eyes take in only what he needs to see in order to reach his destination with a minimum of bother, whether it’s a private dwelling or, more often, a restaurant or a café, since many of those who’ve agreed to meet him have chosen a public place, as if they were intimidated by this peculiar Englishman, or as if they’d been disconcerted by the author ofMiguel Street and A House for Mr. Biswas when they met him in the flesh and had thought: Well, I didn’t think it would be like this, or: This isn’t the man I’d imagined, or: Nobody told me.
They’re seated. They’re looking at the camera. They are captioned, from left to right: J. Henric, J.-J. Goux, Ph. Sollers, J. Kristeva, M.-Th. Réveillé, P. Guyotat, C. Devade, and M. Devade.
There’s no photo credit.
They’re sitting around a table. It’s an ordinary table, made of wood, perhaps, or plastic, it could even be a marble table on metal legs, but nothing could be less germane to my purpose than to give an exhaustive description of it. The table is a table that is large enough to seat the above-mentioned individuals and it’s in a café. Or appears to be. Let’s suppose, for the moment, that it’s in a café.
The eight people who appear in the photo, who are posing for the photo, are fanned out around one side of the table in a crescent or a kind of opened-out horseshoe, so that each of them can be seen clearly and completely. In other words, no one is facing away from the camera. In front of them, or rather between them and the photographer (and this is slightly strange), there are three plants—a rhododendron, a ficus, and an everlasting—rising from a planter, which may serve, but this is speculation, as a barrier between two distinct sections of the café.
The photo was probably taken in 1977 or thereabouts.
But let us return to the figures. On the left-hand side we have, as I said, J. Henric, that is, the writer Jacques Henric, born in 1938 and the author of “Archées,” “Artaud Travaillé par la Chine,” and “Chasses.” Henric is a solidly built man, broad-shouldered, muscular-looking, probably not very tall. He’s wearing a plaid shirt with the sleeves rolled halfway up his forearms. He’s not what you would call a handsome man; he has the square face of a farmer or a construction worker, thick eyebrows, and a dark chin, one of those chins which need to be shaved twice a day (or so some people claim). His legs are crossed and his hands are clasped over his knee.
Next to him is J.-J. Goux. About J.-J. Goux I know nothing. He’s probably called Jean-Jacques, but in this story, for the sake of convenience, I’ll continue to use his initials. J.-J. Goux is young and blond. He’s wearing glasses. There’s nothing especially attractive about his features (although, compared with Henric, he looks not only more handsome but also more intelligent). The line of his jaw is symmetrical and his lips are full, the lower lip slightly thicker than the upper. He’s wearing a turtleneck sweater and a dark leather jacket.
Beside J.-J. is Ph. Sollers, Philippe Sollers, born in 1936, the editor of Tel Quel, author of “Drame,” “Nombres,” and “Paradis,” a public figure familiar to everyone. Sollers has his arms crossed, the left arm resting on the surface of the table, the right arm resting on the left (and his right hand indolently cupping the elbow of his left arm). His face is round. It would be an exaggeration to say that it’s the face of a fat man, but it probably will be in a few years’ time: it’s the face of a man who enjoys a good meal. An ironic, intelligent smile is hovering about his lips. His eyes, which are much livelier than those of Henric or J.-J., and smaller, too, remain fixed on the camera, and the bags underneath them help to give his round face a look that is at once preoccupied, perky, and playful. Like J.-J., he’s wearing a turtleneck sweater, though the sweater that Sollers is wearing is white, dazzlingly white, while J.-J.’s is probably yellow or light green. Over the sweater Sollers is wearing a garment that appears at first glance to be a dark-colored leather jacket, though it could be made of a lighter material, possibly suède. He’s the only one who’s smoking.
“I hate to think that our industry’s going to end up all online. People still really love books, feeling the paper in their hands. Even if the Kindle were to go full-color, it’s just going to be this image on the screen. It pains me.”
Brazilian edition of Roberto Bolaño’s 2666.