Roberto Bolaño - The Savage Detectives

Books Reviews Roberto Bolaño
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Roberto Bolaño - The Savage Detectives

Meet the Kurt Cobain of Latin-American literature

With his premature death at age 50 in 2003, Chilean-born novelist Roberto Bolaño ascended into literary mythology. Not since the Latin-American ‘Boom’ of the 1970s has a South American writer generated such buzz north of the Rio Grande.

The basis for the excitement rests largely on Bolaño’s penultimate, Rómulo Gallegos Prize-winning novel, The Savage Detectives. The story follows two poets, Ulises Lima and Arturo Belano, on their journey into the Sonoran Desert to find Caesárea Tinajero, the founder of Visceral Realism. The novel relates a series of fragmented, globetrotting depositions initiated by an ominous, unseen listener; they span the 20 years immediately following Lima and Belano’s journey.

Though the fragmented narrative can be frustrating at times, the late-20th-century panorama emerging from the cacophony is simultaneously frightening and spectacular. At every turn, Bolaño examines the individual lives history discards. The result is a large, sprawling and—most of all—sublime novel.