Finally English speakers can read Roberto Bolaño’s masterpiece novel “The Savage Detectives. Translated into English in 2007 by Natasha Wimmer, “The Savage Detectives” is an epic story spanning two decades and multiple continents.
“The Savage Detectives” has no set, easy to explain plot. It tells the stories of the Visceral Realists, a group of Latin American poets that exist on the fringe of Mexican literary society.
The strange Ulises Lima and Arturo Belano lead the group in between their disappearances. But it is about much more than the poets and their small stories.
The reader is taken from country to country, year to year through interviews with various people who came into contact with Lima and Belano.
They try to understand Lima and Belano, often sidetracking into their own stories. Throughout the book Lima and Belano search for Cesárea Tinajero, a lost founder of the Visceral Realists.
Bolaño divides the book into three sections. The first and third are comprised of diary entries from one of the youngest visceral realists as he becomes a part of the group.
He embodies all that it means to be a young poet, lost and confuse and stumbling into new experiences.
With him the reader enters the deeply sensuous, at times erotic, world of the visceral realists. Juan García Madero throws himself into their scene with abandon. He leaves school and spends all his time hanging out in restaurants and bars writing poetry, or sleeping with members of the group.
He sets off into the desert with Lima and Belano on their quest for Cesárea Tinajero.
The middle section holds all of the interviews in the book. Friends, lovers, and acquaintances of Lima and Belano from around the world talk about how the pair affected their lives.
The reader must piece together all the small pieces of information to get a hazy picture of the pair. They often contradict themselves, make mistakes, and fool people.
The overall feel is one of real people with real stories.
Little to no actual poetry makes its way into the book. “The Savage Detectives” is a book about poets. It tries to capture their strange scene, and bring it to life on the page. There is no other book out there like “The Savage Detectives”
While it is a good book, “The Savage Detectives” is not a book to begin reading lightly. All 648 pages are packed with complex stories within stories, and keeping up with it all can be difficult at times. Despite that, it’s a worthwhile read.