A nice pile of books arrives from New Directions, one of my favourite publishers. Included are César Aira's How I Became a Nun (whose Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter I enjoyed so much back in October) and Wilhelm Genazino's The Shoe Tester of Frankfurt ("This brief and poignant novel from Germany explores existential questions as its 46-year-old narrator reflects on broken relationships and other failures, and struggles to come to terms with life.")
Also included is Roberto Bolaño's Amulet. Bolaño is getting a lot of press at the moment for The Savage Detectives (out in the UK in July from Picador). Here is a quote from a recent review in the Washington Post (via 3 Quarks):
Bolaño not only wrote exactly what and how he pleased; he also viciously attacked figures such as Isabel Allende and Octavio Paz, accusing them of being conformists, more interested in fame than in art. In poems, stories (some of them included in his Last Evenings on Earth), novellas (such as Distant Star and By Night in Chile), two mammoth narratives (one under review here and 2666, scheduled for publication next year in English translation), and an essay collection (called, in Spanish, Entre paréntesis), he cultivated such a flamboyant, stylistically distinctive, counter-establishment voice that it's no exaggeration to call him a genius.
The Savage Detectives alone should grant him immortality. It's an outstanding meditation on art, truth and the search for roots and the self, a kind of road novel set in 1970s Mexico that springs from the same roots as Alfonso Cuarón's film "Y tu mamá también." Its protagonists are Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima, fringe poets professing an aesthetics they describe as "visceral realism." Their hunt for a precursor by the name of Cesárea Tinajero takes them to the Sonora Desert, portrayed by Bolaño as a land of amnesia.