The Skating Rink
by Roberto Bolaño
Translated from the Spanish by Chris Andrews
Set in the seaside town of Z, on the Costa Brava, north of Barcelona, The Skating Rink oscillates between two poles: a camp ground and a ruined mansion, the Palacio Benvingut. The story, told by three male narrators, revolves around a beautiful figure skating champion, Nuria Martí. When she is suddenly dropped from the Olympic team, a pompous but besotted civil servant secretly builds a skating rink in the ruined Palacio Benvingut, using public funds. But Nuria has affairs, provokes jealousy, and the skating rink becomes a crime scene. A mysterious pair of women, an ex-opera singer and a taciturn girl often armed with a knife, turn up as well. A complex book, The Skating Rink’s short chapters are skillfully broken off with questions to maintain the narrative tension: Who was murdered? Who was the murderer? Will the murderer be caught? All of these questions are answered, and yet The Skating Rink is not fundamentally a crime novel, or not exclusively; it’s also about political corruption, sex, the experience of immigration, and frustrated passion. And it’s an atmospheric chronicle of one summer season in a seaside town, with its vacationers, its drifters, its businessmen, bureaucrats and social workers.