After reading, and loving the mighty 2666, I just couldn’t wait to read The Savage Detectives. I mean in theory this was the book which made Bolano’s name and propelled him into the big league? Instead, at least from my point of view I finished the novel with a set of very mixed reactions.
The Savage Detectives is a satirical attack on the literary movements which cropped up during the 1960’s namely the Magical Realist and the OULIPO. Here we have a literary group called the Visceral Realists and it’s founders are Arturo Belano (guess who he represents) and Ulises Lima. After great bouts of poetry and flings with the other members of the movements these two go on a world-wide trip in order to find Cesarea Tinajero, who is the heroine behind the Visceral Realists.
There are passages which dazzle and descriptions. metaphors and analogies which will confirm that Bolano was a literary genius and yet there is something off-putting about the novel and that is its second part.
The book is divided into three sections. The first and last are a description of the Visceral Realist life as told through the eyes of a university dropout called Juan Garcia Madero. It’s in diary form and without doubt the strongest and funniest parts of the book.
It is the over lengthy second part in which things become to drag. In fact during this section of the book I began to get highly irritated at how the pace changed and slowed down the flow. Comprised of short interviews where characters give their own impressions of Belano and Lima while filling us readers with what these two did on their travels and helping us understand these two enigmas better is a very exhaustive read. In theory it would have been excellent but when such a section goes on for nearly three hundred pages you feel worn down. By the end I was relieved to have shut the book.
As such The Savage Detectives is a masterpiece in scope but due to its execution it’s a very flawed one. If you’ve got the time a patience check it out but really I would say stick with 2666, it is way more varied and satisfying.