The Savage Detectives


It took me awhile, but I finally finished reading The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño. It’s a novel I’ve been recommending to everyone I know.

The first chapters actually affected me physically and I felt almost buoyant and youthful while reading them. Bolaño was able to capture that heady sensation of being in your early 20s and and feeling as if your challenge to the world, to the institutions around you, could result in their demise. It’s a time I truly miss.

The novel is a series of remembrances about a group of Surrealist influenced Mexico City poets called the Visceral Realists. They are a 1970s incarnation of a previous Visceral Realist poetry movement from the 1920s, a group they revere for their outsider literary world status. The poets are on a quest to find the original Visceral Poet, Cesarea Tinajero an elusive figure who holds a mythical position in their pantheon of writers.  The book is so chockful of symbolism, literary and political references and countless sidestreet narratives that it probably deserves a second read. I’m quite happy to have gotten through one read for now. Next on the list,  Bolaño’s , 2666.

New York Times review of The Savage Detectives.

One more thing, while I wouldn’t dare attempt to read the book in Spanish (I don’t have the skills for it) if you can read it in Spanish, I’m sure it’s even better. I kept finding myself translating dialogue into Mexico City slang while I was reading. For instance, what is ‘Luscious Skin’ in Spanish? I’m eager to know.