I recently finished “Murdering Whores” a short story collection by Roberto Bolaño. I think he is a masterful narrator, his prose is smooth and informal, like having a chat with a close friend; his use of language (and his ability to switch back and forward between Spanish regional dialects) is astonishing. But, plot-wise… his stories can seem quite mundane. Rarely does he make use of Latin-American writers magic wand: magical realism, but when he does, he excels. There is only one story in this collection which magical realism characteristics: Buba. This is the story of three professional soccer players in Barcelona: a Chilean, an African and a Spanish. They start off the season in mediocrity until Buba, the African player, involves them in a black-magic ritual. Then, they become superstars and cannot fail. I loved this story, but felt guilty for loving it.
Is the idea of an African soccer player engaging in black magic reinforcing negative stereotypes or am I being over-sensitive? At one point, the Chilean and Spanish players ask a Brazilian singer about black magic. It could only have been worse if the singer was Haitian. What does it say about the association between African communities (including communities in Latin America with a strong African influence) and black magic? Is it hurtful to portray Africans in this way? Or do all stories deserve to be told? If we focus only in representation (especially representation of people of difference), are we casting aside really good stories? Are we sacrificing art for the sake of political correctness?
There are so many stories by masterful storytellers that we all hate to love. For example, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Memories of my melancholy whores”, a story about an old man wishing to spend his birthday by sleeping with an underage virgin – for money. He turns this despicable idea into a beautiful love story.
So, I guess we are destined to hate loving questionable stories, for the sake of art.