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The Savage Detectives Hardcover – Unabridged, 20 Jul 2007

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Main Market Ed. edition (20 July 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330445146
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330445146
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 5 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 138,951 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Roberto Bolaño was born in Santiago, Chile, in 1953. He spent much of his adult life in Mexico and in Spain, where he died at the age of fifty. His novel The Savage Detectives was named as one of the ten best books of 2007 by the Washington Post and the New York Times Book Review. His posthumous masterpiece, 2666, won the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Product Description


An extremely important book in the Latin American canon, but there is nothing difficult or high-minded about it. The Savage Detectives is a grubby epic, part road movie, part joyful, nostalgic confession... the book reveals itself as a masterpiece. In making himself the heart of the novel, Bolaño has reinvented Kerouac, but without the ego... The novel doesn t end well for either of its heroes, but it ends magnificently for the reader. --.

James Wood, John Banville and Susan Sontag have all called [Bolaño] the most influential writer of his generation... Bolaño s penchant for wisecracking motormouths means that his fiction has instant impact, but only at length does it reveal the brilliance to justify the adulation... Exhilarating... The Savage Detectives shows us a writer who has found his ideal medium. --Prospect magazine

[an] effortless blend of irreverent humour with a muted sense of tragedy. --Sunday Telegraph

Book Description

An exhilarating, must-read novel from one of Latin America’s pre-eminent writers, and author of the acclaimed masterpiece 2666.

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Officer Dibble VINE VOICE on 22 Dec. 2012
Format: Audio CD
Having seen the mixed reviews I went for the audio version. It is expensive but handy and someone else takes the strain. Also very good for those holiday luggage restictions.

It is pointless going over old ground but suffice to say there are three very distinct sections. Everyone, me included, seems to stay with the first section which has a 'Diary' narrative structure following the lives and loves of the Visceral Realists in 1970's Mexico City. We get to know the lead characters of this avant-garde, student world where they all do the usual things that students do the world over.

The real killer with this book is the seemingly enless second section. A total change of style. Countless witness testimonies of the lives of Ulysses Lima and Arturo Bollano over a twenty year span into the 1990's given by totally new characters. Is this autobiographical? One 'witness' recalls 'Everything to do with Arturo bored me to tears'. Well, you're not going to get an argument from me!

For the few brave souls who survive and make it to the shortish final section, there is disappointment. This section is quite simply poor. I only kept going due to my miserly Yorksire roots which demanded I get my money's worth from the very good audio narrator.

There are parts of this book which are very well written (two stars, not one) but wow did this need editing! It is not acceptable to simply list page after page of names of poets and artists nor to list them all again followed by a sexual insult. The author indulges himself and the end result is a dog's breakfast.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By JaketheDax on 28 July 2009
Format: Paperback
You never quite know where you are with Bolano. Perspectives tumble, safety in character knowledge is shallow. Don't expect a quick read as each narrator adds conflicting information to our gradual understanding.

Reviews of the book state the depth of internal comedy/parody latent within the novel. I disagree. I consider Bolano to be that rare talent that shakes one's complacency, forcing a reappraisal of what constitutes an intelligent read. What you get is a snapshot of a grunting, breathing, vital Mexico, peopled with flawed characters, whose interactions with others are chaotic, touching and memorable.

If you want a challenging read, with beautiful prose, then read this and Bolano's other works. Excellent stuff.
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30 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Just William on 27 Nov. 2008
Format: Paperback
That this novel has received almost universal praise from critics is no great surprise. It is a novel all about writing, about books, and it is filled with an ardour for its subject which is infectious. Some characters are compelled to steal them, or to produce them, to take great pleasure in looking at or touching them. There is often a rhythm to the prose which leads you around its pages like a man leading his dance partner around the room, and Bolaño is a man who knows the dance, who knows how to lead. The first section of the book comes in the form of a diary written by seventeen year old Juan Garcia Madero, a budding poet who guides us through the last two months of 1975 in Mexico City. It is a short period of time but an eventful one for our orphan narrator who joins the visceral realist poetic movement, is virtually adopted by a family, has lots of sex and ends up speeding out of the city in a white Ford Impala pursued by a pimp and his heavies. And that's just the first 120 pages.

It is a riotous start that introduces us to a huge cast list of characters. Important amongst them are Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima, the leaders of the visceral realist movement. Belano functions as an an alter-ego of the author, whilst his compadre has a name which on its own conjures up the work of James Joyce and that original Greek odyssey. That love of books I mentioned earlier is shown here firstly by the theft these young poets indulge in from local bookstores, an act which is not so much motivated by their politics as by their poverty, and also in the production of their own magazine, Lee Harvey Oswald, a name at once political and yet ridiculous.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By frank on 26 May 2011
Format: Paperback
Roberto Bolano pretty much lived the life he writes about in this book, a multi-style account of what happens to a young, radical group of poets as they age. It starts with a 17 year old who knows poetry techniques but little about life and for a hundred pages or so we follow a diary narrative of his first two months as a member of the visceral realists. That's the radical group of poets, if you're wondering. Then, after his narrative ends, there's a jump into a load of multi-ethnic, first person recollections of the visceral realist's two leaders, mostly from peripheral characters, and even some we've never met before.

It's a bit of a lurch, actually, and for the next hundred or so pages you might find it disappointing. I fact, I was skipping ahead to see if it'd switch back to the 17 year old kid again, as we leave him on a real cliffhanger. But the thing is, Bolano gradually pulls you into the new style and the gift he has for writing as different people with different voices is incredible...really, he writes all sorts, and most of them are all associated with poetry or the arts in some way, so you're getting variety out of a group of people that is usually portrayed as either pretentious or odd.

The best thing to say about this book though, is that it makes you want to be like the two poet leaders, Ulysses Cruz and Arturo Belano (who is obviously the author). They travel without money and without plans and one of them even ends up sleeping in a cave somewhere on the coast of France. Only certain personalities can do this of course, but don't you wish you had the balls to be one of them?
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