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The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño

The Savage Detectives (1998)

by Roberto Bolaño

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (69)  Spanish (10)  Italian (3)  German (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (85)
Showing 1-5 of 69 (next | show all)
Several of my friends have recently posted the same photo on Facebook. It's a very intelligent-looking cat reading a copy of 'To Kill a Mockingbird'. The cat is saying "what the hell! There's nothing in this book about killing birds". I feel the same about this novel - "what the hell! There's precious little savagery and no detectives" - although I have just abandoned it with 250 pages to go, so maybe they are still to make an appearance.
For a while, I quite enjoyed the slow pace and the multiple narrators but 560 pages is far too much and I started to lose track as more and more new characters were introduced, none of which I could feel any connection with. Apart from Borges, I can't think of a South American writer whose work I have enjoyed (including Gabriel Garcia Marquez). It may be because it's a sub-continent I've never been to and can get no feel for. In this novel, I could not get any real impression of Mexico City despite the lengthy passages set there - as much my own fault.as the author's, I'm sure. Having failed to finish it, I feel it would be unfair to give it a star rating. But, if the idea of a long meandering novel about the lives, loves and non-adventures of young Mexican poets is your thing, then don't let me put you off.
  stephengoldenberg | Apr 6, 2016 |
This book is an extraordinary work of art, bewildering, baffling, coherent and incoherentat the same time. All the pieces fragment and cohere and the book is experienced as being both loosely and very tightly structured at the same time. I wonder if it would be best read slowly, in a hot country, perhaps with some mind altering substance at hand....
  otterley | Mar 6, 2016 |
A study in perceptual bias and how the same story is different depending on who tells it. Another good novel in this same vein is Fowles' _A Maggot_. Bolano makes us realize that "truth" is a relative thing that can only be partially revealed. Along the way, we meet a gloriously diverse group of people, each with his/her own take of things. Bolano is a master!! ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
A fantastic trip. This book starts as the diary entries of a young poet who joins an avant-garde poetry collective and then the book turns into something almost indescribable, taking the reading from Mexico to South America to Europe and Africa and back, finally ending in the Sonora desert. Full of amazing characters and places and a free, adventurous feel, this book is my favorite read from 2007. A great and thrilling ride. -Matthew ( )
  BooksOn23rd | Nov 25, 2015 |
Fictional literary biography told round-robin: call it panopticon, call it crime drama eye witness interviewing, call it shameless gossip among a close circle of friends. Bolaño shows how the story of a man's life (or two men's lives, or the life of a failed literary movement) is really the story of hundreds of people's lives, constructed from narratives tiled like a cubist painting, like the imagery of a surrealist poem, like the diary of an excitable and naive teen with a poor memory. The glimpses into Belano and Lima's lives are riveting, awful, exhilarating, heartbreaking -- and the gaps between accounts compelling and haunting.

As countless others have noted before me, a masterpiece. ( )
  ronhenry | Nov 17, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Roberto Bolañoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Natasha, WimmerIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wimmer, NatashaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Do you want Mexico to be saved? Do you want Christ to be our king?"
-Malcolm Lowry
For Carolina López and Lautaro Bolaño, who have the good fortune to look alike.
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I've been cordially invited to join the visceral realists.
You can woo a girl with a poem, but you can't hold on to her with a poem. Not even with a poetry movement.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312427484, Paperback)

Amazon Significant Seven, May 2007: The late Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño has been called the García Marquez of his generation, but his novel The Savage Detectives is a lot closer to Y Tu Mamá También than it is to One Hundred Years of Solitude. Hilarious and sexy, meandering and melancholy, full of inside jokes about Latin American literati that you don't have to understand to enjoy, The Savage Detectives is a companionable and complicated road trip through Mexico City, Barcelona, Israel, Liberia, and finally the desert of northern Mexico. It's the first of Bolaño's two giant masterpieces to be translated into English (the second, 2666, is due out next year), and you can see how he's influenced an era. --Tom Nissley

Questions for Translator Natasha Wimmer

Natasha Wimmer translated books by Mario Vargas Llosa and Bolaño's good friend Rodrigo Fresán, among others, before tackling Bolaño's two long novels, The Savage Detectives and the upcoming 2666, which have had an immeasurable impact on modern Latin American fiction (and perhaps now on Anglo American writing as well). We asked her a few questions about the process of bringing such a vast and vital book into English.

Amazon.com: How did you come to literary translation, and to translating a work of such prestige? Is the community of Spanish-to-English literary translators small, given Americans' famous lack of interest in translated work?

Wimmer: Luck, really. I lived in Spain when I was little, which is where I learned Spanish, and then I studied Spanish literature in college, but it was a job in publishing--at FSG, the publisher of The Savage Detectives--that made me realize that literary translation was something I could try. I’ve been translating now for eight years. My first project was a novel by the Cuban writer Pedro Juan Gutiérrez, Dirty Havana Trilogy, and since then I’ve worked on books by Mario Vargas Llosa, Gabriel Zaid, Rodrigo Fresán, and Laura Restrepo. When I read The Savage Detectives, I thought it was one of the best novels I had read in any language in years, but I was sure there was no chance I would get to translate it. Bolaño already had a great translator--Chris Andrews. But Andrews couldn't do it, and I was the extremely fortunate runner-up.

The community of full-time translators is definitely small--it's hard to make a living. But there are many great occasional translators--professors, editors, writers.

Amazon.com: We're told that Bolaño towers over his generation of writers (and I can believe it). What did he do that was new? What has his influence been?

Wimmer: Bolaño was (is) the first to make a true break from the legacy of the Boom. Many other writers of his generation, and younger writers, too, have tried and are still trying to make a literature of their own, one that doesn’t languish in the long shadow of García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, and the other novelists who exploded on the world scene in the 1960s. Bolaño made the leap seem effortless. The writers of the Boom put Latin America on the map. Bolaño creates a Latin America of the mind, a post-nationalist Latin America filtered through a rootless, restless, uncompromising literary sensibility.

Amazon.com: Could you describe Bolaño's style and his sentences? (I love his parentheses.) How did you handle the dozens of voices in The Savage Detectives?

Wimmer: Bolaño is both a maximalist and a classicist. He loves to play with excess, with the notion of reckless abandon, but beneath that there is a very careful sense of balance. He was a poet for many years before he became a novelist, and he is an endlessly inventive stylist. But--more rarely for a poet--he also has an unerring sense of character and a palpable fondness for his characters. The Savage Detectives could never have worked otherwise. There are very few writers who could write a novel from the perspective of fifty-odd characters and make each character's story seem urgent and intimate.

From the translator's perspective, some voices were definitely more difficult than others, but I rarely felt that I had to strain to make them distinct from each other. Mostly, it just involved following Bolaño's cues. The hardest thing, oddly enough, was getting the rhythm of his sentences right. There is something syncopated and unpredictable about them that would have been all too easy to smooth over as a translator, and I made a concerted effort not to do that.

Amazon.com: All of his books are full of references to, and appearances by, Latin American writers both fictional and real and I'm sure as a clueless American reader I'm missing hundreds of inside jokes. What's it like to read his work when you actually know the people he's referring to?

Wimmer: It adds a little something, but not as much as you might think. And many of his references are obscure even to Spanish-language readers. There is something cultish and purposefully arcane about the literary world that Bolaño's protagonist, García Madero, yearns to join, and like García Madero, the reader is entranced by authors' names and book titles without knowing exactly where they come from.

Amazon.com: You are working on translating his other giant masterpiece, 2666, the even larger novel that he completed just before his death. How is it going? What can we expect from 2666?

Wimmer: It's an extremely long novel (1100 pages in the Spanish edition ), so it's a test of stamina, but it's going very well. Like The Savage Detectives, it revolves around a lost writer (Cesárea Tinajero in TSD and Benno von Archimboldi in 2666), and the crucial episodes take place in the north of Mexico, but it is a darker book. The lurking sense of dread that many of the characters feel in TSD becomes something more palpable and sharply defined in 2666, and is linked to the killings of women in the Mexican city of Santa Teresa (modeled on Ciudad Juárez) and the legacy of the wars of the 20th century, particularly World War II.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:36 -0400)

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Chronicles the strange journey of two Latin American poets, Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima, as seen through the eyes of the people whose paths they cross in Central America, Europe, Israel, and West Africa.

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