Part of Bolaño’s genius is to ask, via ironies so sharp you can cut
your hands on his pages, if we perhaps find a too-easy comfort in art,
if we use it as anesthetic, excuse and hide-out in a world that is very
busy doing very real things to very real human beings. Is it courageous
to read Plato during a military coup or is it something else?
That’s from one review of the newly translated Roberto Bolaño book. (Might it have been titled "Conservative Fascism"?) This work is not a structured narrative but rather a series of impressionistic portraits of how easy it is for some people to slip into being horrible and stay that way. Imagine a fictional bestiary of creepy aesthetes who are playing at human relationships, sleepwalking through their dreamlike yet trivial obsessions, and in the meantime pledging allegiance to tyranny. Literature is a "surreptitious form of violence" throughout.
Here are excerpts from other reviews. At this point it goes without saying that everything by Bolaño is essential reading; however you may find many parts baffling if you don’t have a strong background in things Latin American.