Henri Simon Leprince is a short story from Roberto Bolano’s collection, Last Evenings on Earth. The story itself revolves around the life of a man named Henri Simon Leprince ‘before, during and shortly after the Second World War’ and follows his exploits as a failing writer in those times.
The first thing of note about Henri Simon Leprince and of Bolano’s collection as a whole is his unique and unusual writing style. Instead of writing in the form of a proper story, Bolano’s writing appears in a less descriptive style of writing that one might expect more from a notebook or a diary. Because of this more fluid style, the barrier of formality between reader and writer seems to almost disappear. Whilst reading Last Evenings on Earth, I felt as I was being told a story by a close friend and surprisingly enjoyed Bolano’s divergence away from the traditional writing style.
The theme of insignificance and the misunderstood is a main focus of Bolano’s work, featuring heavily within the stories of Last days on earth. In particular, Henri Simon Leprince describes a failing writer, the titular character, who aids the French Resistance in smuggling aspiring writers away from the country and the Nazi presence. Despite his kind deeds, however, the people Leprince rescue show nothing but disinterest for his work as a poet. In this way, Henri Simon Leprince is a tragic tale of an unappreciated hero, though it is unclear whether a writer known as Henri Simon Leprince ever existed. It seems to be one of the only few stories within Bolano’s collection that is not entirely autobiographical. Where as most of the stories within Last Evenings on Earth either features Bolano narrating in the first person, or referring to a character of B, implied to be himself, Henri Simon Leprince is narrated from a third person perspective and occurs during a time frame before Bolano’s birth, making it a stand out story to the usual format. Whether the experiences of the story are Bolano’s or not is ultimately irrelevant as the events within each story all work well to build a better scope of the characters within the stories and the places they inhabit.
Overall, Henri Simon Leprince was a fairly enjoyable story and the collection of Last Evenings on Earth is definitely a worthwhile read, if only to try and taste some variety of other forms of writing and storytelling. I can quite clearly say that I like Last Evenings on Earth as a whole. Some of the stories got a little repetitive.
Last Evenings on Earth can be purchased here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Last-Evenings-Earth-Roberto-Bolano/dp/0099469421/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1360599879&sr=8-1