BookBrowse Reviews The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Savage Detectives

A Novel

by Roberto Bolano

The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano X
The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Apr 2007, 592 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2008, 592 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


A polymathic descendant of Borges and Pynchon, Roberto Bolaño traces the hidden connection between literature and violence

The Savage Detectives, written by Chilean-born novelist Bolaño (1953–2003) in 1998 but only now published in English, is the novel that made Bolaño famous amongst Spanish speakers and is considered his masterwork. Heavily autobiographical, it traces the actions of a small literary movement, the Visceral Realists, from 1975 to the mid-1990s. The action, as far as it goes, revolves around Ulises Lima and Arturo Belano (Bolaño's alter ego and a regular in his novels), founders of the Visceral Realist movement.

The book is top and tailed by entries from 17-year-old Juan Garcia Madero's diary, a new recruit to the movement, who records the events of 1975 and 1976 as the three men and a fugitive hooker search for a nearly forgotten Mexican poet who apparently went missing in the Sonoran Desert some decades before. The middle 400 pages record the testimonies of more than 40 observers (friends, enemies, lovers etc) through whom we track Belano and Lima's movements around the globe from 1975 to the mid 1990s, to find out what became of the two optimistic but doomed poets.

Call me shallow, call me ignorant, but I have to say that The Savage Detectives literary angst left me cold. I'm not a big fan of magical realism, but if this is the counter to magical realism then, please, bring on the middle ground! The Savage Detectives is less about narrative and more about literature itself. If you enjoy the first 120 pages, read on and you'll soon find your voice added to those in praise of this deep and meaningful novel. However, if you're still finding it hard going around page 100, you might want to call it a day.

As always, you don't have to take one person's word on any book recommended at BookBrowse. Below are a sample of the many positive reviews for this iconic classic. You'll find more reviews at BookBrowse, plus an excerpt:

"One of the most entertaining books about writers and their discontents since Boswell's Life of Johnson. A brilliant novel, fully deserving of its high international reputation." - Kirkus Reviews.

"Over the last few years, Roberto Bolaño's reputation, in English at least, has been spreading in a quiet contagion; the loud arrival of a long novel, The Savage Detectives, will ensure that few are now untouched." The New York Times, James Wood (full review).

"[W]hat ultimately holds The Savage Detectives together is the strength of Bolaño's vision. What all the characters share is a sense of instability and terror lurking just beneath the surface, a pervasive disquiet that drives the prose." - The San Francisco Chronicle, Vinnie Wilhelm (full review).

This review was originally published in May 2007, and has been updated for the March 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    The Last Ballad
    by Wiley Cash
    A hundred years ago or so, farming land west of Charlotte, North Carolina was given over to giant ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Graybar Hotel
    by Curtis Dawkins
    We – those of us on the outside – are lucky. So very lucky. We get to experience life &#...
  • Book Jacket: We Own the Sky
    We Own the Sky
    by Luke Allnutt
    Rob and Anna Coates have an idyllic life together; they have successful careers, love each other ...
  • Book Jacket: Some Trick
    Some Trick
    by Helen DeWitt
    In this erudite collection of 13 stories, Helen DeWitt explores the theme of stymied creativity, ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

A nuanced portrait of war, and of three women haunted by the past and the secrets they hold.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    A Place for Us
    by Fatima Farheen Mirza

    A deeply moving story of love, identity and belonging--the first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Giveaway!
Win The Rules of Magic

Win up to 12 copies for you & your book club!

The spellbinding prequel to Alice Hoffman's bestselling Practical Magic.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

M T G Before I S

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.