By Night In Chile

Added December 17, 2012
  • Roberto Bolano
  • By Night in Chile
  • The Harvill Press, U.K. 2003

This book is very intriguing to me. To start off with a slight aside, like many serious book collectors, I do not understand why advance readers copies are not more valuable than they usually are. Also called uncorrected proofs, or advance review copies, these really are the most rare and the earliest version of a book. These are the true, true first editions, and there are certainly far fewer advance copies printed than even smallest run of published books.

Roberto Bolano died in July, 2003. By Night in Chile was to be his first English language translation, set to be published in December that same year. Sadly, between the time this uncorrected proof copy was distributed and the time the book was published, Bolano had succumbed to a long-term illness, only 50 years old.

If you read the author information toward the bottom of the top picture to the right, you will see that it states Bolano… lives in Spain… is widely regarded as one of the foremost Latin American writers…. by-night-front-cover Once the book was published, of course, the author blurb had been changed to reflect his passing. Not to put too fine a point on it — these proof copies are the only English language translations printed while Bolano was still alive.

So, that is one very unusual thing. Another is the book itself. The pictorial cover is stapled to the book’s blank front cover and simply wrapped around. The back of the wrapped book has the advance readers information, including three reviews, a short overview of the story, and the author info, while the back of the wrap-around (below) has the same blurb about the story, with just a single review, and credits Chris Andrews as the translator.

There is no copyright page, only a Chesterton quote on the front free endpaper.  by-night-back-cover

I have never seen another uncorrected proof like this one. First off, I have never seen another proof copy without some kind of a copyright page. Secondly, most titles come either in plain white printed paper wraps, or in the same pictorial paper wraps as the book has when it hits the book store shelves. This book is like a hybrid of the two versions.

By the way, like many book people, even publishers, I am using the terms uncorrected proof and advance readers/review copy interchangeably. If you look up these terms on the AbeBooks glossary page, you will see that there is technically a difference between them, but I assume most sellers simply go by whatever the book happens to say on its cover.

Keep in mind when searching websites that sellers frequently use the incorrect terminology advanced readers copy, as if only the most brilliant readers are welcome to try the book out.

by-night-dedication One last thing I want to mention is that in the ten-ish years that I have been collecting Bolano, I have never seen another proof copy of By Night in Chile. As a matter of fact, I have never even seen a true first edition for sale. This could be the kind of book that a lucky collector might have more success finding on a dusty shelf in their neighbourhood used book store, rather than on the internet.

With yet another unfinished novel recently released (Woes of the True Policeman), Bolano’s best work is definitely set to stand the test of time, and this near fine condition novel could well become one of my most valuable.

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