Last Words on Earth
“More than a novel about Roberto Bolaño, Last Words on Earth is a story about passion, sacrifice, and the uncompromising pursuit of literature. Not simply for fans of the writer, but anyone touched by the power of books and writing.”
—Mark Haber, author of Reinhardt’s Garden
In exile from his home country of Peru, Ricardo Funes embodies the ultimate starving artist. Fired from almost every job he’s held—usually for paying more attention to literature than work—he sets himself up in a rundown shack where he works on writing stories to enter in regional contests across Spain, and foisting his judgements about literature on anyone who will listen as one of the last remaining members of the negacionismo poetry movement. Completely dedicated to an unwavering belief in his own art, Funes struggles in anonymity until he achieves unbridled success with The Aztec and becomes a legend . . . at least for a moment. Diagnosed with lung cancer a few years later, Funes will only be able to enjoy his newfound attention for a short time.
Told through the voices of Funes’s best friend, his wife, and himself, Last Words on Earth looks at the price—and haphazard nature—of fame through the lens of a Bolaño-esque writer who persevered just long enough to be transformed out of obscurity into a literary legend right at the end of his life.
Translated from the Spanish by Katie Whittemore
About the Author:
Javier Serena was born in Pamplona, Spain in 1982. He has published Las torres de El Carpio, La estación baldía, Last Words on Earth, and Atila (forthcoming from Open Letter). He has stayed at writers residences with the Fundación Antonio Gala (Córdoba, Spain) and Les Rècollets (Paris, France).
About the Translator:
Katie Whittemore is graduate of the University of NH (BA), Cambridge University (M.Phil), and Middlebury College (MA), and was a 2018 Bread Loaf Translators Conference participant. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Two Lines, The Arkansas International, The Common Online, Gulf Coast Magazine Online, The Los Angeles Review, The Brooklyn Rail, and InTranslation. Current projects include novels by Spanish authors Sara Mesa, Javier Serena, Aliocha Coll, Aroa Moreno Durán, Nuria Labari, Katixa Agirre, and Juan Gómez Bárcena.
Praise for Javier Serena:
“Last Words on Earth is a wistful, admirative novel inspired by the life of Roberto Bolaño. . . . Serena's novel, at times somber, at others exuberant, captures well the ambiguities, the inconsistencies, and the dualities of all lives, in a way that's simultaneously both a lauding and a lament. Last Words on Earth slips behind the authorial façade, positing impermanence as the protagonist all must reckon with sooner or later.”—Jeremy Garber, Powell's Books
“[Atila] is a book that opens the doors to a kind of narrative very unusual in our country. A novel about passion and negativity (so opposed at first sight), but very stimulating.”—Enrique Vila-Matas
“This is a story told by three different points of view that moves and intrigues us and that places Javier Serena among the most challenging and talented young Spanish narrators of our country.”—Ben Clark, Nou Diari