Who Is Zabala?

Roberto Bolaño, Javier Zabala, and Bruno Montané, Mexico City, 1975.
Zabala is virtually unknown. He was born in 1950 and died in 2002. He was a Mexican-American who lived in Florida and then moved to Matamoros and Mexico City. He later married a Cuban and settled in Cuba in 1976. According to his daughter, he worked on his novel from 1983 until his death in 2002. He knew Bolano from Mexico City.

I can also give you a little more info on his book. I am the publisher of River Boat Books and we are releasing Zabala’s book February 26, 2018. The Mad Patagonian is set primarily in Miami, Cuba, and Spain (though it literally goes all over the world) and is one of the most intriguing books to come along in years. It is a multi-generational family epic, a series of love stories, a philosophical contemplation of the power of the imagination to re-shape reality, a search for happiness, a testament to the enduring strength and beauty of the human spirit, and an exploration of how to strike a balance between ‘meaningful human activity in the temporal realm’ (the world that we see with our eyes) and ‘purposeful human activity in the mythic realm’ (the world that we see with our hearts).

The cast of characters includes an aging Basque immigrant who fought Franco, a World War One tank commander, Latin-American revolutionaries, mystics, soothsayers, CIA operatives, FBI agents, poets, ex-poets, ex-priests, philosophers, atheists, an internationally acclaimed porn star, an expert on Nazi mysticism and the occult, a modern-day saint, a Hollywood movie director who was nominated for an Academy Award, and a hairdresser from Buenos Aires who once cut the hair of Jorge Borges in a hotel room in New York City.

Pablo F. Medina, who was born in Havana, Cuba in the 1950s and is one of America’s best Cuban writers, said “The Mad Patagonian is a crazy, fun, profound, brilliant book.”

H. G. Carrillo, who was born in Havana in 1960 and is the author of Loosing My Espanish, said “The Mad Patagonian submerges its reader into seemingly bottomless seas of Cuban history, mythology, and chismes that surface as a rollicking, evocative, glistening, incomparable and peerless novel.”

According to the translator, Tomás García Guerrero, The Mad Patagonian could not have been written without Bolano. Guerrero says the novel is an effort on the part of Zabala to engage his friend Bolaño in a metaliterary conversation about the true nature of the world.  It provides a competing vision, a stark counterpoint to the darker vision of much of Bolaño’s work, particularly The Savage Detectives and 2666, but also Nazi Literature in the Americas. Guerrero also suggests that the subtextual interplay between Zabala’s vision and Bolaño’s is crucial to understanding The Mad Patagonian. I am not sure I entirely agree with Guerrero; Zabala vision is a response to a host of writers including Borges and Cortazar. But there is definitely a Bolanesque element to the book.

As I mentioned above, The Mad Patagonian is going to be officially released by River Boat Books on February 26, 2018. But if you are interested in reading it before that date, you can either purchase a Special Limited Edition directly from us, or you can download a free pdf.  Let me give you two links. The first is to the facebook page for The Mad Patagonian (click on the button below). 
If you click on the second button (below) you will be directed to an invitaiton only page on our website that will allow you to either download the FREE pdf of The Mad Patagonian, or purchase a Limited Special Edition. If you do download a free edition, please consider writing and posting a review of the book. Thanks!  ​​

All my best,
Peter Damian Bellis
Publisher & Editor
River Boat Books