The Skating Rink, or La Pista Del Hielo, was Roberto Bolaño’s first novel. It was published in Spanish in 1993 and released in Chris Andrews’ English translation in 2009, after the author’s later works (and tragic death) had made him an international literary star.
It is a short book (as most of his are*), and familiarly takes multiple narrators. There is blood, there are South American poets in Catalonia, there are some beautiful non-sequiteur descriptive passages, there are arresting images, and there is a pounding, pumping, plot and enough strong characters to keep a reader “hooked” throughout.
The narrative centres on a civil servant who embezzles a huge amount of money from the local government in order to build an ice rink in an abandoned palace so that the beautiful, international-standard local-born Catalan skating queen he is in unrequited love with can practice close to home. However, various aspects of his life, the life of the skater’s lover and the ramblings of his (the skater’s lover’s) former friend, “poet” and current employee** combine and collapse and eventually result in a murder occurring on the ice. The expected embezzlement scandal breaks, the civil servant is accused of a murder he denies, the reader is bounced between various theories – the victim’s identity is held back for almost as long as the perpetrator’s…
It’s a fun, mysterious novel, and as I warm to the stylings of Bolaño (my first review here, my second review here), this really hit all of the aching buttons I was hoping it would. Particularly the Gothic descriptions of the palace the rink is built within, culminating in that of the blood-streaked ice…
But yes, good stuff. Don’t regret it for a second. Particularly not as a relaxing read after all of the school-related books from the last few weeks. Yes.
*Except for The Savage Detectives and 2666, both of which are HUGE.
**Who works as a night watchman on a camping ground. Sound familiar, Bolañofans???