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Monsieur Pain

Roberto Bolano, Author, Chris Andrews, Translator
Roberto Bolano, Author, Chris Andrews, Translator , trans. from the Spanish by Chris Andrews. New Directions $22.95 (134p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1714-9
Reviewed on: 11/23/2009
Release date: 01/01/2010

Bolaño's brief, wonderfully eccentric novel moves around two themes he developed at length in The Savage Detectives —poets and conspiracies. In 1938 Paris, semirecluse Pierre Pain, the 48-year-old mesmerist narrator, is in love with young widow Marcelle Reynaud, who calls him to request his service in treating a friend's husband. Eager to impress, Pain agrees to treat the man, Oscar Vallejo, a Peruvian poet, who is hiccupping himself to death. Pain's re-entry into normal life soon goes awry: two thuggish Spaniards bribe him to withdraw from the case, Pain experiences auditory hallucinations, Madame Reynaud disappears, and Pain runs into a fellow mesmerist, Plomeur-Boudou, working as a torturer for Franco, who tells Pain an obscure tale about the purported assassination of Pierre Curie. Is all this simply a bizarre swirl of coincidences befalling a lonely and slightly mad bachelor, or are these events links in a chain of murders? One of Bolaño's first novels, this already displays his brilliant, alchemical gift for transmuting the dead-ends of life into sinister mysteries. (Jan.)

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