Monday, April 15, 2013

Review: "The Savage Detectives" by Roberto Bolano

Reading a Bolano book is quite the experience, and I stress the need for everyone who loves to read to pick up one of his books. It may be cheap sentiment, since the weight of literary importance kind of rest on two books, 2666, and the one that I am reviewing today, The Savage Detectives, but you cannot have two better cornerstones to your legacy than what Bolano produced before his untimely death from liver failure in 2003. It also greatly saddens me that while these two novels are untouchable in terms of immortality (I hope), the process of reading them is very short, even if the books are long, being 900 and 650 pages respectively. They are finite experiences, and painfully so. Even with a few odd novellas and short story collections, as well as a large collection of his poetry (being released this year) existing in translation, I am very doubtful they have the power of these two monolithic achievements in modern literature. In looking at these two books together, they present a very similar view of the world, but tell very different stories. While 2666 is almost apocalyptic in its narrative, if you can call it that, The Savage Detectives is a much more fun and upbeat book, but even that seems very rudimentary for a book that inspires this kind of feeling. It really is a book about hunger and lust for life, while 2666 is about impending death and finding whatever kind of hope you can in a harsh world. The loose plot of this novel can be divided into three parts. The first one concerns a young student poet named Garcia Madero as he falls into a group of vagabond poets calling themselves the “visceral realists” and their experiences leading up to a violent encounter. The middle, and real meat of the novel, talks about the events after, where the two founding members of the movement, Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima (two thinly veiled homages to Bolano himself and his friend Mario Santiago Papasquiaro, who formed the infrarealist poetry movement in the 1970’s) travel the world, and their experiences documented by a wide array of weird people, who all seem a bit bitter about being in their presence. The third and final sections picks up after the events of the first section, as Madero along with Lima and Belano, flee into the desert to search for the founder of their literary movement, pursued by a pimp and a corrupt policeman who want to kill Lupe, a prostitute who is with them. A lot of this book has to be experienced to get fully what the book is about. You will encounter stories that seem to have little to do with each other, until Arturo or Ulises pops in. But that doesn’t really matter when you have stories involving a gross blow job contest, an absurd sword fight between critic and writer, as well as a creepy story involving a boy falling down a well that may be inhabited by Satan. And in the end, when the visceral realists find themselves in that hell on Earth Santa Teresa from 2666, it can be downright creepy. Whether you read this first or 2666, both of which add new plateaus to one another, I can’t recommend enough that you read these two books. They are one of the literary zeitgeists of our times, and you will be viewing the world in a new light after doing so.
Rating: 5/5

No comments:

Post a Comment