"There are books that inspire fear. Real fear. More than books they seem like time bombs or like taxidermied animals that'll go for our throat when you're not looking. This is a feat I've known only twice. The first time was long ago, in 1977 or 1978; I was reading a novella in which, on a certain page, the reader is warned that he could die any moment. That is, he could die literally, fall to the floor and not get up. The novel was La asesina ilustrada [The Enlightened Assassin] by Enrique Vila-Matas, and as far as I know none of its readers died on the spot although many of us emerged transformed from our reading of it, conscious that something had changed forever in our relationship with literature. Along with Los dominios del lobo [The Wolf's Haunts], Javier Marias's first novel, La asesina ilustrada, marks the departure point for our generation.
The second novel that's truly frightened me (and this time the fear is much stronger, because it involves pain and humiliation instead of death) is Tadeys, the posthumous novel by Osvaldo Lamborghini. There is no crueller book. I started to read it with enthusiasm--and enthusiasm heightened by Lamborghini's original prose (with its sentences like something out of Flemish painting and a kind of improbable Argentine or Central European pop art) and guided as well by my admiration for César Aira, Lamborghini's disciple and literary executor as well as the author of the prologue to this unclassifiable novel--and my enthusiasm or innocence as a reader was throttled by the picture of terror that awaited me. There's no question that it's the most brutal book (that's the best adjective I can come up with) that I've read in Spanish in this waning century. It's incredible, a writer's dream, but it's impossible to read more than twenty pages at a time, unless one wants to contract an incurable illness. Naturally I haven't finished Tadeys, and I'll probably die without finishing it. But I'm not giving up. Every once in a while I feel brave a read a page. On exceptional nights I can read two."
-- Copyright © Roberto Bolaño, from between parentheses: Essays, Articles, and Speeches, 1998-2003, edited by Ignacio Echevarría and translated by Natasha Wimmer, New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2004. All rights reserved.