The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño
A Novel

78%

16 Critic Reviews

"The Savage Detectives" was published in 1998, but its heart belongs to the Mexico City of the mid-1970s, when Bolaño was an avant-garde poet bristling with mad agendas.
-NY Times

Synopsis

New Year's Eve, 1975: Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima, founders of the visceral realist movement in poetry, leave Mexico City in a borrowed white Impala. Their quest: to track down the obscure, vanished poet Cesárea Tinajero. A violent showdown in the Sonora desert turns search to flight; twenty years later Belano and Lima are still on the run.

The explosive first long work by "the most exciting writer to come from south of the Rio Grande in a long time" (Ilan Stavans, Los Angeles Times), The Savage Detectives follows Belano and Lima through the eyes of the people whose paths they cross in Central America, Europe, Israel, and West Africa. This chorus includes the muses of visceral realism, the beautiful Font sisters; their father, an architect interned in a Mexico City asylum; a sensitive young follower of Octavio Paz; a foul-mouthed American graduate student; a French girl with a taste for the Marquis de Sade; the great-granddaughter of Leon Trotsky; a Chilean stowaway with a mystical gift for numbers; the anorexic heiress to a Mexican underwear empire; an Argentinian photojournalist in Angola; and assorted hangers-on, detractors, critics, lovers, employers, vagabonds, real-life literary figures, and random acquaintances.

A polymathic descendant of Borges and Pynchon, Roberto Bolaño traces the hidden connection between literature and violence in a world where national boundaries are fluid and death lurks in the shadow of the avant-garde. The Savage Detectives is a dazzling original, the first great Latin American novel of the twenty-first century.

 

About Roberto Bolaño

See more books from this Author
Author of 2666 and many other acclaimed works, Roberto Bolaño (1953-2003) was born in Santiago, Chile, and later lived in Mexico, Paris, and Spain. He has been acclaimed “by far the most exciting writer to come from south of the Rio Grande in a long time” (Ilan Stavans, The Los Angeles Times),” and as “the real thing and the rarest” (Susan Sontag). Among his many prizes are the extremely prestigious Herralde de Novela Award and the Premio Rómulo Gallegos. He was widely considered to be the greatest Latin American writer of his generation. He wrote nine novels, two story collections, and five books of poetry, before dying in July 2003 at the age of 50. The poet Chris Andrews has translated many books by Roberto Bolaño and César Aira for New Directions.
 
Published July 9, 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 604 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for The Savage Detectives
All: 16 | Positive: 14 | Negative: 2

Kirkus

Excellent
Reviewed by Kirkus Reviews on Jan 15 2008

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.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by James Wood on Apr 15 2008

"The Savage Detectives" was published in 1998, but its heart belongs to the Mexico City of the mid-1970s, when Bolaño was an avant-garde poet bristling with mad agendas.

Read Full Review of The Savage Detectives: A Novel | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Ben Richards on Jun 22 2008

Wit and compassion beneath a darkly satiric vision of the literary world.

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Publishers Weekly

Good
Reviewed by Publishers Weekly on Dec 11 2008

Bolaño fashions an engrossing lost world of youth and utopian ambition, as particular and vivid as it is sad and uncontainable.

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Blog Critics

Good
Reviewed by Ted Gioia on Jun 24 2008

The Savage Detectives is a rich, rambling book that ends up almost exactly where it begins...Bolaño, like an experienced travel guide, knows how to keep his audience captivated by even the wildest detour.

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Entertainment Weekly

Above average
Reviewed by Jennifer Reese on Mar 30 2008

Taking it all in requires stamina, but the novel bursts with marvelous stories, rude energy, and eccentric voices that ultimately reward your effort.

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The Telegraph

Above average
Reviewed by Clare Bucknell on Jul 21 2008

By turns dispirited and heartening, The Savage Detectives is about what happens to great expectations when the world isn’t interested.

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Excellent
Reviewed by Horacio Castellanos Moya on Jun 15 2008

Bolano's ambition is huge; his capacity to tell stories, never-ending.

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The Sydney Morning Herald

Good
Reviewed by Andrew Riemer on May 25 2008

He was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, an extraordinarily accomplished writer.

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The Millions

Good
Reviewed by Jesse Tangen-Mills on Jun 04 2010

Bolaño’s books are dark, funny, allusive, erratic, and most importantly, sincere — at least, that’s what attracted to me about him.

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Chamber Four

Excellent
Reviewed by Eric Markowsky on Sep 08 2009

Reading The Savage Detectives takes commitment...The final product is a world so rich and complete, so full of passion and contradiction, it’s hard to believe that it could possibly be contained between two covers.

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The Rumpus

Good
Reviewed by Daniel Gumbiner on Jun 02 2010

There were times when I found myself thinking: “Hey, this isn’t fair, this is fiction, you can’t just, you know, write about yourself the whole time.” But then I realized that is, perhaps, exactly what Bolaño wanted me to be thinking.

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Time Out Chicago

Above average
Reviewed by Jonathan Messinger on Jan 01 2008

Though it sounds like another long novel of literary gamesmanship—and it is—The Savage Detectives contains few inside jokes, and is as warm-blooded as “experimental novels” get.

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Kepler's

Good
Reviewed by Noam R. on Jan 01 2008

As I finished the novel, I felt the sort of satisfaction that only comes post-coitus after a good meal or after a religious experience.

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Baby Got Books

Below average
Reviewed by BGB on Dec 13 2008

The Savage Detectives is supposed to be an “important” novel. It says so on the dust jacket. Maybe that should have been a warning that this book and I were not going to get along.

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The L Magazine

Good
Reviewed by Anna Sophie Potter on Apr 11 2008

A love letter to all things raunchy, human, and unpredictable. The style is akin to the bardic genius of Ginsberg’s Howl, yet in a sprawling and all-inclusive novel of almost 600 pages, the effect is first to stun, and then to convert.

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Reader Rating for The Savage Detectives
66%

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Malinda Charter

Malinda Charter 22 Jul 2014

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