"The melancholy folklore of exile," as Roberto Bola?o once put it, pervades these fourteen haunting stories. Bolano's narrators are usually writers grappling with private (and generally unlucky) quests, who typically speak in the first person, as if giving a deposition, like witnesses to a crime. These protagonists tend to take detours and to narrate unresolved efforts. They are characters living in the margins, often coming to pieces, and sometimes, as in a nightmare, in constant flight from something horrid.
In the short story "Silva the Eye," Bola?o writes in the opening sentence: "It's strange how things happen, Mauricio Silva, known as The Eye, always tried to escape violence, even at the risk of being considered a coward, but the violence, the real violence, can't be escaped, at least not by us, born in Latin America in the 1950s, those of us who were around 20 years old when Salvador Allende died." Set in the Chilean exile diaspora of Latin America and Europe, and peopled by Bola?o's beloved "failed generation," the stories of Last Evenings on Earth have appeared in The New Yorker and Grand Street.