cover image The Savage Detectives

The Savage Detectives

Roberto Bolano, ,\t\t trans. from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer. . Farrar, Straus \t\t & Giroux, $27.95 (577pp) ISBN 978-0-374-19148-1

This novel—the major work from Chilean-born novelist Bolaño \t\t (1953—2003) here beautifully translated by Wimmer—will allow English \t\t speaking readers to discover a truly great writer. In early 1970s Mexico City, \t\t young poets Arturo Belano (Bolaño's alter ego and a regular in his \t\t fiction) and Ulises Lima start a small, erratically militant literary movement, \t\t the Visceral Realists, named for another, semimythical group started in the \t\t 1920s by the nearly forgotten poet Cesárea Tinajero. The book opens with \t\t 17 year-old Juan García Madero's precocious, deadpan notebook entries, \t\t dated 1975, chronicling his initiation into the movement. The long middle \t\t section—written, like George Plimpton's Edie, as a set of anxiously vivid testimonies from \t\t friends, lovers, bystanders and a great many enemies—tracks Belano and Lima \t\t as they travel the globe from 1975 to the mid-1990s. There are copious, and \t\t acidly hilarious, references to the Latin American literary scene, and one \t\t needn't be an insider to get the jokes: they're all in Bolaño's \t\t masterful shifts in tone, captured with precision by Wimmer. The book's moving \t\t final section flashes back to 1976, as Belano, Lima and García Madero \t\t search for Cesárea Tinajero, with a young hooker named Lupe in tow. \t\t Bolaño fashions an engrossing lost world of youth and utopian ambition, \t\t as particular and vivid as it is sad and uncontainable. (Apr.)