To talk of the transnational is to accept that borders – the skipping over them in life and on the page – is a messy business. It’s understandable that writers such as Roberto Bolaño, usually labelled ‘a Chilean exiled to Mexico’, shouldn’t be included in discussions of contemporary European short fiction. Understandable, but not inevitable. Bolaño left Chile at 15, only returning briefly post-Pinochet before ‘co-founding a Surrealist-influenced, anti-status-quo school’ of writers in Mexico. It wasn’t until Bolaño got clean, got married and settled down in Europe (he moved there in 1977) that he produced the prose which is now his legacy. This article argues that aside from the European novellas (Antwerp, Monsieur Pain), there are three key collections which deserve to be included in European literary discussions, having been composed in Europe and having gone on to make Bolaño’s name. They have also served to move the form forward in the continent he made his home: Bolaño was responding largely to a European tradition. He wouldn’t limit himself to one continent – as Kerr puts it, Bolaño had ‘a deep scepticism about national feeling, and it has been said that his work starts to point the way to a kind of post-national fiction’ – but there’s no doubt that for 25 years, Bolaño was essentially a European with a transnational outlook. For these reasons and others, I argue for Bolaño’s inclusion in European short fiction discourse.
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