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The Savage Detectives Hardcover – Unabridged, 20 Jul 2007

3.4 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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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 (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 502,774 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

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

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Hardcover
Somebody had to break the strangle-hold that Garcia Marquez, Vargas Llosa, Octavio Paz and their imitators such as the dreary Isabelle Allende had on South American literature. Bolano succeeds brilliantly in a rough, bleak, funny and sexy picaresque tale of two poets, Ulisses Lima and Arturo Belano, and their lives in Mexico City in the 1970s and subsequent travels in Europe and Africa. The structure of the book is interesting: it begins with an account by a 17-year-old wannabe poet and his encounter with the rest of the gang. They end up fleeing Mexico City on New Year's Eve 1975 in a borrowed car. The main section consists of a series of interviews with people who encountered the two poets between then and 1996. The final part is an account of what happened on that road trip as they try to find Cesarea, a female poet, whose only known work is one short poem.
The bad news is that Bolano died in Blanes a couple of years ago, aged only 50. The good news is that there is quite a lot of his other stories, either translated or in translation.
Death to Magical Realism! We're all Visceral Realists now!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was my first encounter with Bolano. He's one of those writers who make you want to go straight out and buy everything he wrote. It's an extraordinarily brave, original, funny, sad and honest book that happens to be about poets but could be about anyone. Hugely recommended.
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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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