I received this novel written by Roberto Bolaño as a present without knowing anything about it. From the title “The Savage Detectives” I deduced that it probably is a thriller, but I had a very big surprise. It is about a literature trend from Mexico, Visceral Realism, involving a big number of Latin American poets.
About “The Savage Detectives”
First of all the novel is formed by three parts and all of them are written in the first person by a few tellers of tales.
The first one, “Mexicans Lost in Mexico”, is narrated by an aspiring poet, Juan Garcia Madero. The plot is set in Mexico City in the ’70 and has as main subject his joining a group of poets, self-named “Visceral Realists”, led by Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima.
The second part is “The Savage Detectives” and is the largest section of the novel. It has more narrators and is spread over a period of twenty years (1976-1996). All storytellers talk about an event in their lives, that involved either Arturo Belano or Ulises Lima. Each of them had a different opinion on the two Visceral Realists, but the general description of the poets was: vagabonds with talent that managed to fuck up all the persons with whom they had contact with.
Poetry and prison have always been neighbors.
In the third part, “The Deserts of Sonora”, we have again as narrator the young Juan Garcia Madero, and it takes place exactly where the first part leaves the reader, having as main characters, himself, Arturo Belano, Ulises Lima, Lupe, a prostitute, and her pimp, Alberto.
Final thoughts of a Reading Badger
For the first time in my life, I really don’t know how I feel about a book. Even though this is not my first pick to recommend I found it to be very intriguing. It has a linear plot, with no suspense and no expectation about the characters, but is very well written and this is what made me keep on reading it.
However, this is a novel not to be read in a person’s youth or for those with Puritan beliefs because it has very explicit pornographic sections and dialogs.
All in all, if you want to know about the “Hippie” period in Latin America or you are into very artsy and poetic style of living, then you should give “The Savage Detectives” a chance.