Telepathy, Power, and Lonko Kilapan in Roberto Bolaño’s 2666

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The first and only edition of this obscure and strange work concerning telepathy and the proposed Araucanian heritage of Bernardo O’Higgins. The book plays a significant part in the unfolding of Roberto Bolaño’s novel 2666, where the character Amalfitano, who had been given it as a joke, reads it. In his reading Amalfitano – with reference to Julio Cortazar’s concept of the active reader – begins to suspect that Lonko Kilapan may be a pseudonym for an unnamed Chilean politician, or perhaps even Pinochet. Moreover, Amalfitano decides that telepathy may have been what allowed the Mapuche to resist the Spaniards, and concludes that he himself may be a telepath – a conclusion which reassures him in the face of the voices that have been following him in the previous pages of the novel, and will play an important role in the narrative.

On first reading 2666 we were certain that this book must be fictitious, but it is the second book which plays a pivotal role in the novel which actually does exist – see the previous DL post on Rafael Dieste’s Testamento Geometrico.  To the best of our knowledge, there’s not yet been a study of this strange sort of intertextuality in the novel or Bolaño’s work. Here’s hoping somebody takes up the challenge.

Kilapan, Lonko. O’Higgins es Araucano: 17 Pruebas, Tomadas de la Historia Secreta de la Araucania. Santiago de Chile: Editorial Universitaria, 191978. First edition. 8vo, 61 pp, perfect bound in wraps. Inscribed by the author at the first blank. With the rubberstamp of the Instituto O’Higginiano de Chile at the first blank and index page, and with the business card of Sergio E. Lopez Rubio laid in, with a holograph message at verso.

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David Markson, Women and Vodka

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The first edition of this unusual anthology, in which short stories and excerpts from larger works (including a piece by Isaac Babel) are collaged together and commercially packaged into a convenient narrative of female decline. The cover features an illustration by the illustrator Lou Marchetti, who lent his distinctive style to many crime fiction and western pulps of the era.  Mark Merrill was a pseudonym of David Markson, and this is his first published book. The anthology was re-released in 1963 under the less titillating, but perhaps equally convenient title Great Tales of Old Russia.

While the primary motive behind the book may have been financial, as with his other early detective novels, the collage aspect of the book and the excellent selection of Russian works are the beginning of a trajectory that would culminate in Markson’s great, last collage novels.

I never knew Markson well, but when I worked at the Strand in the early aughts I sometimes used to talk to him about books in the evenings when he would come in and make his rounds. This wasn’t unusual; Markson’s well-known affection for the bookstore extended to many of the employees. I remember that he was the first person to mention the works of Isaac Babel to me. I was foolish enough to wait a few years to read Babel, just as I foolishly delayed reading Markson’s own work until after my acquaintance with him . Seeing Babel’s work here reinforces that particular regret of reading a book later then one would like.

The cover art of this book has a resonance to me that goes back even further. My first foray into bookselling was at the age of 9. I specialized in Louis L’amour books, a natural decision because at the time he was my favorite author. I discovered I could buy them at garage sales for 10 cents and sell them for 25 to 50 cents – a significant amount of money in rural Oregon during the decline of the timber industry in the 1980’s. I judged the salability of a western largely on the cover art. Marchetti’s work on the cover of a L’Amour made it eminently saleable. Seeing his work more than a quarter century later, on the cover of a work by somebody who has since become one of the my favorite writers, gives me that particular sense of vertigo one feels when disparate strands of time suddenly elide. This feeling is so often caused by the physical fact of books, and is one of the great pleasures of reading that I don’t think will ever transfer to their electronic counterparts. -Adam Davis

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Merrill, Mark, ed. [pseudonym of David Markson]. Women and Vodka. New York: Pyramid Books, 1956. First edition. 12mo, 190 [2] pp, wraps [illustrated by Lou Marchetti].

OCLC locates only five holdings of the first edition.

A square, near fine copy with some light creasing and toning to the wraps. 

Purchase.

More books by David Markson.