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Woes of the True Policeman (2011)

by Roberto Bolaño

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3561373,344 (3.73)10
"An unfinished masterpiece from the author of THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES and 2666"--
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English (9)  Italian (2)  Spanish (2)  All languages (13)
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
This book feels unfinished, somewhat chaotic, like so many sheets of text spilled into a gale, especially in comparison to Bolaño’s shorter novels and even in comparison to 2666. And, well, it is unfinished.
This book contains a seething intensity which makes it read fast. The moments of poetic insight are stunning and the (male) characters are rich. The way that Bolaño builds the characters by an orbital course, probing into them and then stepping sharply away, is curious and masterful. We see into the characters, this way, in flashes of closeness while the distance of otherness is preserved. ( )
  decadesearlier | Aug 2, 2023 |
Reading a great author's last, unfinished work can risk significant disappointment if the work is incoherent or sub-standard. Roberto Bolano's Woes of the True Policeman does not suffer from this fate; it hangs together well enough as whole, while tantalising us with the impression of a far bigger and more complex work that we will never see.

The book works as a prequel to 2666, focusing on the Santa Teresa professor, Oscar Amalfitano and his daughter Rosa. The opening recounts Amalfitano's romance with the hedonistic Padillo. Word of the professor's homosexuality gets back to his employers in the University of Barcelona, and he is banished from his position. After a desperate search, the only sinecure Amalfitano can find is in Santa Teresa, where he moves with Rosa.

From his exile, Amalfitano continues to correspond with Padillo, and thereby becomes interested in a little-known author called Arcimboldi; the book includes his reviews of some of Arcimboldi's works. Meanwhile, the local police are starting to uncover a series of murders of young girls.

Readers of 2666 will start to see some familiar plot strands developing, and it is intriguing to wonder where the author might have taken them.

Woes of the True Policeman is not of itself a great read, although it has Bolano's usual love of playful coincidence and retelling scenes through different lenses. There are moments of great writing, such as a single sentence spanning six pages; an internal cry of outrage from Amalfitano over his treatment by the University. These small moments, and the opportunity to glimpse what Bolano may have been doing with his 2666 prequel, make the book well worth the read. ( )
  gjky | Apr 9, 2023 |
Satisfying as 'bonus chapters' for 2666, but probably wouldn't stand on its own as a novel. ( )
  jimctierney | Jul 7, 2020 |
Amalfitano remembered a time when he believed that nothing happened by chance, everything happened for some reason, but when was that time? He couldn't remember, all he could remember was that at some point this was what he believed.

Calvino notes in his Six Memos that Borges began writing fiction as a particular exercise; he would imagine philosophical novels that had been poorly translated into Spanish and write synopses of such. Bolaño's own inchoate 20 year project most likely gave birth to 2666. I can't state that categorically, but Greg thinks so and I tend to agree. Call it a hunch. Jesus, this project is so evocative and such a mess. I found myself gasping in marvel, which is a rare feat these days. Strike that, over the last decade, I seldom go, "whoa". I did here.

My friend Harold Maier who owned Louisville's Twice Told Books for over 25 years asked me this last fall about Bolaño. I told him I always felt that I wasn't connecting completely when reading him, there was an aura of mishearing at play. That said, I couldn't stop thinking about him. That presence remains.

Life, of course, which puts the essential books under our noses only when they are strictly essential, or on some cosmic whim. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
Bolano is so many things at once – a fabulist, a man of lists, an author who uses humor and irony so deftly that it all becomes quite poetic. And he is also a man of many nooks and crannies who glories and delights in the many ways he can mine that vein of his own special literature – one he helps the reader create. If only he had been able to finish this book, if only he had lived a bit longer… ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Roberto Bolañoprimary authorall editionscalculated
Wimmer, NatashaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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To the memory of Manuel Puig and Philip K. Dick.
In memoria di Manuel Puig e Philip K. Dick
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According to Padilla, remembered Amalfitano, all literature could be classified as heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual.
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