Roberto Bolaño was a Chilean poet and author who grew up in the years after the Latin American boom that put Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa on the international stage. He achieved some notoriety as a young long-haired poet in Mexico City in the early 1970s, but it was only after emigrating to Europe, and turning to prose, that he found wider success.Read More
This is the book that clinched it for him. When The Savage Detectives came out, in Spanish, in 1998, it won its author a clutch of literary prizes, but also huge acclaim for his portrayal of the generation he had in some manner led, and then abandoned. By this time, however, he was already seriously ill with the liver disease that would kill him in 2003, at the age of 50.
This is 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. It starts as a diary, written by the 17-year-old Juan García Madero, who comes under the spell of the revolutionary-minded poets Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima (for whom read Bolaño himself and his friend Mario Santiago) and their "visceral realism" movement, in Mexico City in 1975.
These pages read like a homage to Kerouac's The Dharma Bums, as Juan learns to drink, argue, screw and write. They are at once brimming with exuberant, innocent depravity, and open to mature condescension. We were all like that once; or if we weren't, we probably wish we had been.
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