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The Savage Detectives: A Novel Paperback – March 4, 2008
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“An utterly unique achievement--a modern epic rich in character and event. . . . [He is] the most important writer to emerge from Latin America since García Márquez.” ―San Francisco Chronicle
“My favorite writer . . . The Savage Detectives is an ark bearing all the strange salvage of poetry and youth from catastrophes past and those yet to come.” ―Nicole Krauss, author of The History of Love
“The Savage Detectives is deeply satisfying. . . . Bolaño's book throws down a great, clunking, formal gauntlet to his readers' conventional expectations. . . . A very good novel.” ―Thomas McGonigle, Los Angeles Times
“One of the most respected and influential writers of [his] generation . . . At once funny and vaguely, pervasively, frightening.” ―John Banville, The Nation
“A bizarre and mesmerizing novel . . . It's a lustful story--lust for sex, lust for self, lust for the written word.” ―Esquire
“Roberto Bolaño's masterwork, at last translated into English, confirms this Chilean's status as Latin America's literary enfant terrible.” ―Vogue
“Combustible . . . A glittering, tumbling diamond of a book . . . When you are done with this book, you will believe there is no engine more powerful than the human voice.” ―Emily Carter Roiphe, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
“An exuberantly sprawling, politically charged picaresque novel.” ―Elle
“Wildly enjoyable . . . Bolaño beautifully manages to keep his comedy and his pathos in the same family.” ―The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Natasha Wimmer is a translator who has worked on Roberto Bolaño’s 2666, for which she was awarded the PEN Translation prize in 2009, and The Savage Detectives. She lives in New York.
- Item Weight : 1.1 pounds
- Paperback : 656 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0312427484
- ISBN-13 : 978-0312427481
- Dimensions : 5.69 x 1.16 x 8.27 inches
- Publisher : Picador (March 4, 2008)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #62,988 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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That background is useful to know before one launches into reading The Savage Detectives. Hailed as “the first great Latin American novel of the 21st century,” the book tells of two renegade poets—Arturo Belano, a Chilean ex-pat, and Ulises Lima, a Mexican national—who start a literary movement in Mexico City in 1975. They call themselves the “Visceral Realists,” resurrecting a short-lived group from the 1920s, and stand for whatever isn’t the current literary fashion. The ostensible plot of the story is the search that Belano (who is Bolaño’s alter ego) and Lima conduct for Cesárea Tinajero, the elusive founder of the original Visceral Realists, who long ago disappeared into the Sonoran desert. Their search takes them from the heart of Mexico City to the northern border of the country (accompanied by a prostitute and a young acolyte of the movement, all while being followed by two men intent on killing them), before they eventually scatter to Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
If that sounds like reasonably direct story-telling, rest assured that The Savage Detectives is anything but straightforward. The novel is divided into three parts, spread over a span of about two decades. The first and third sections involve the first-person narration of Juan García Madero, the young want-to-be Visceral Realist, who tells of how he got involved with Belano and Lima, how they came to leave Mexico City in a stolen car with a prostitute in tow, and their adventures in Sonora. These events are relayed as diary entries over a three-month period from late 1975 to early 1976. The middle section, comprising the bulk of the novel, adopts a completely different stylistic tone. Spread between 1976 and 1996, this part of the book chronicles a series of “interviews” with about forty people who had some sort of contact with Belano and Lima over the years following their trip to the desert. Of course, each of these narrators has a different opinion of the poets and their abortive movement and, collectively, their vignettes provide the reader with a not-quite-complete view of the rest of the story.
I found this novel to be always interesting and often thrilling, with only occasional stretches that dragged on too long (almost all of these were in the middle section of the book). Bolaño’s language is simply electric and the frenetic way he paces the story captures perfectly the passion and angst of a generation of young artists who likely never find what they are searching for. In that regard, The Savage Detectives has been likened to some of the great Beat Generation works (e,g, On the Road, Howl) that caught the spirit of a different place and time, and I think that comparison is apt. To be sure, though, this is an author with his own voice and the way he is able to mash up so many interrelated personal stories with themes involving politics, sex, philosophy, violence, and literary references into an almost-coherent story is simply amazing. This is a book that I really enjoyed reading and it ranks right beside the magnificent and harrowing 2666 as the best work this talented writer produced.
Several times, they list writers of their time. Since a few obscure real-life writers' names show up, I assume all these are real. If I were more familiar with these writers, I would probably get the satire, but I am not so I didn't get it.
On the other hand, the story is fascinating! And though I was disappointed when the narrator disappeared, I did find it fun to follow these characters all over the world. And you won't understand the title at all until then end. And even then, not completely.
Bolaño is a genious. Or he was. It's tragic that he died so young, just when he was picking up speed. So many stories we will miss out on.
Any writer who wants instruction in how to orient the reader to time and place should take this book as the only lesson they will need. Also, in a novel about poets, not one line of poetry from the main characters...fantastic device. No, this is not a character-driven book: it is about the life and death of a way of life and way of seeing the world, of a time and place that the author misses very much. If you view Visceral Realism in Mexico City in the late 1970's as a character in its own right, you will be just as saddened to see it unraveling, along with its leaders, as you would with any other literary character.
This edition is worth reading for the author's comments in interviews on Latin American literature alone....never liked Vargas Llosa or Isabel Allende, or Laura Esquivel, and I now feel freed.