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Monsieur Pain Hardcover – January 12, 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
But I'm reluctant to recommend this short (134-page) novel to a novice reader. The reason is this: Bolaño's strength is in what one critic called his "summative" powers -- his ability to encompass a mass of subjects, to assemble a formidable mountain of prose that draws you into a relentlessly engrossing world.
There are writers who excel at shorter forms (short stories; sonnets) but who fail at more sustained efforts (novels; epic poems). Bolaño may be an example of the opposite -- an author who is most convincing when creating lengthy works of cumulative power, but who may strike you as meandering, indulgent, and unfulfilling, when he invites you on a shorter excursion. I suspect many new readers will find "Monsieur Pain" to be a fragment-like experience without much pay-off. In short, this is not the best of Bolaño.
That is not to say the book lacks felicities apt to please a new reader. If you are comfortable with unconventional fiction, tolerant of detours and ambiguity, and intrigued by what happens when Poe meets Borges meets Paul Auster meets Thomas Pynchon -- then take the plunge.Read more ›
The plot, such as it is, concerns the eponymous character, a doctor specializing in alternative medicines, who is called on to treat the Peruvian poet, César Vallejo, during his final days in 1938 Paris. Vallejo, an actual figure from history, was an outspoken anti-fascist, and decidedly on the side of the Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War, and the novel appears to conform to the conventions of historical intrigue when two mysterious Spaniards visit Doctor Pain and try to dissuade him from seeing the poet. Pain takes their bribe money, but sees Vallejo anyway, whom he feels as though he has a chance of curing.Read more ›
The novel is drenched in Kafka allusions of isolation, surrealism, the pall of unspecified dread everywhere. And certainly, the time in which the novel takes place...the Spanish Civil War raging, and the marching jackboots of Hitler's troops throughout Europe...is enough to inspire very REAL fearfulness.
Yet, there was never enough cohesion to instill a point of lucidity, a place to attach all of that dread. Undoubtedly, that was Bolano's point, his plan. After all, he experienced his own personal Kafkaesque period living under the dictatorship of Pinochet. I've no question that the free-floating anxiety that infuses "Monsieur Pain" was a very real way of life in Chile during those horrific years.
All in all, I can recommend this book with the qualifier that the reader may or may not know anything more by the time s/he reaches the final page. But, again, it can be read in a single sitting, so perhaps the solution is to turn back to page 1 and try again!!
None of this is actually explained by Bolaño, who concentrates instead on the obscure Monsieur Pain (though also apparently a real figure), a practitioner of mesmerism and acupuncture who, at the request of the poet's wife, attends Vallejo just once before his death. Incapacitated by gas at Verdun in 1916, Pain lives on an army pension. He is a relative mediocrity, achieving little, not even the love of the widowed Madame Reynaud, despite her obvious attraction to him at first. But the novella, a sort of cross between Kafka and Alan Furst, maintains a curious noir suspense throughout. Pain is being followed, for example, by two mysterious Spanish men, and other parallel pairs of mysterious characters crop up throughout. The Clinique Arago, where Vallejo is being held, though also a real place, is described in surreal terms with featureless spiraling corridors and doors numbered out of sequence. The surreal air is further intensified by Pain's dreams, a midnight refuge in a huge warehouse full of junk, and an art film he watches in an almost-empty cinema. It is mildly disturbing stuff, but difficult to connect together, and leaving me unclear as to its ultimate intention. I can only guess that it is an oblique response to the Spanish Civil War.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Some years ago, in either 1981 or 1982, Roberto Bolano wrote a novel called The Elephant Path and entered it for the Felix Urubayen prize for a short novel, awarded by the Toledo... Read morePublished on November 26, 2013 by Erin Britton
This book will be most attracting to readers who have tackled and enjoyed Bolaño's mature novels, especially the mountainous "2666" and "The Savage Detectives" -- readers... Read morePublished on November 22, 2013 by Michael J. Ettner
I had never heard of this author, but the references to Borges and Poe piqued my interest. This is really a short novella, set in Paris in 1938. Read morePublished on June 5, 2013 by adorian
As a long-time Bolano fan, I might seem a biased. When measured up against 2666 or Savage Detectives, it doesn't quite hit such legendary status. Read morePublished on April 29, 2013 by Vincenzo Bilof
This is a novella that plays around with coincidence and accidental synchronicity. Bolano is intrigued by the way the lives of people from different spheres cross over and... Read morePublished on October 25, 2011 by Jacob King
This is among Bolano's first novels and possibly one of his most confusing. The basic plot is this, Pierre Pain is a poet and a Mesmerist that has been called to treat the husband... Read morePublished on September 27, 2011 by Brooks Williams
After my AP English teacher told us about how Bolano is a fantastic and highly appraised author, I was excited to read this book. I'm sorry to say i was disappointed. Read morePublished on February 23, 2011 by Colleen
A small book and worthy of your time. If you have not read Bolano you should. If you have read Bolano you should read Monsieur Pain. Read morePublished on December 31, 2010 by sculler
3.5 out of 5: Set in Paris in 1938, Monsieur Pain is the first-person account of a series of strange events in the life of a practitioner of animal magnetism (a mesmerist). Read morePublished on July 1, 2010 by G. Dawson