Friday, June 14, 2013

The Skating Rink

by Roberto Bolaño

The Skating Rink is quite unlike any other Roberto Bolaño book that I've read.  To begin with, while two of the three narrators are poets, there is almost no discussion of poetry and writing in this book, a first in my experience.  Secondly, the plot is very tightly focused, and the book does not meander in the way that most of Bolaño's other novels do.

The Skating Rink is narrated by three men who live in Z, an unnamed town on the Costa Brava of Spain.  Their lives intersect in a number of ways, but most significantly because of a secret skating rink built in the ruins of an abandoned estate on the city's edge.  The book alternates in sequence through the narration given by Remo Morán, a Chilean writer and owner of various businesses in Z, his friend Gaspar Heredia, an illegal migrant and nightwatchman at a campsite Morán owns, and Enric Rosquelles, a functionary for the mayor and the person who built the skating rink.

You see, Rosquelles has fallen in love with Nuria Martí, a figure skater who has been dropped from the  Olympic team.  To help her, he builds the rink using embezzled money.  Morán begins to date Nuria, and Heredia falls for a homeless girl who begins to camp out in the estate.  Eventually, there is a murder at the rink, and things begin to fall apart for all of these characters.

This is easily the most mainstream of Bolaño's books, but that does not detract from his ability to create compelling characters and use some very interesting turns of phrase.  This is not the book he'll be remembered for, but it is a good place for a reader to start tackling his collected work, and it's an enjoyable read.

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