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!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Wife Between Us
    The Wife Between Us
    by Sarah Pekkanen, Greer Hendricks
    The Wife Between Us is an intriguing collaboration between first-time novelist Greer Hendricks and ...
  • Book Jacket: The Wife Between Us
    The Wife Between Us
    by Sarah Pekkanen, Greer Hendricks
    The Wife Between Us is an intriguing collaboration between first-time novelist Greer Hendricks and ...
  • Book Jacket: Only Child
    Only Child
    by Rhiannon Navin
    Rhiannon Navin's debut novel, Only Child received an overall score of 4.8 out of 5 from BookBrowse ...
  • Book Jacket: Brass
    Brass
    by Xhenet Aliu
    In 1996, Waterbury, Connecticut is a town of abandoned brass mills. Eighteen-year-old Elsie ...

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!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The French Girl
    by Lexie Elliott

    An exhilarating debut psychological suspense novel for fans of Fiona Barton and Ruth Ware.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Only Child
    by Rhiannon Navin

    A dazzling, tenderhearted debut about healing, family, and the exquisite wisdom of children.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Beartown

Now in Paperback!

From the author of a A Man Called Ove, a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T I M A Slip B C A L

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.