The Savage Detectives, by Roberto Bolaño


Two or three stars, read in August 2017.

I was really annoyed about this book.

I really wanted to like it, which was probably part of the problem. It took me forever and I pressured myself to finish it, which was certainly part of the problem. I can’t say why exactly, but this book just didn’t click with me.

I started out listening to the audio, really liking the beginning, because I love reading about characters who move in literary and philosophical circles. I enjoyed the scenes in their poetry group, although the strutting and competition made me roll my eyes a bit.

I began to realize how irritating I found Juan García Madero and his friends, with their pointless adolescence (when in fact they are in their early twenties, as someone in the book actually mentions, but continue to act as though they’re fifteen). I wondered if switching to print would helpthat does often work because my own mental voice is much more forgiving than someone else’s. I  was temporarily wooed back by the gorgeous soft pages of my hardcover copy, fell in love with the narrative of Amadeo Salvatierra, and that carried me for another little while.

But it was like walking uphill for me, requiring a lot of work, and at some point I realized I didn’t know what the point was of doing all that work, because none of what was happening really meant anything. I didn’t feel any connection with their conversations, none of which seemed to go anywhere.

I really wanted to like it, so I made myself keep reading. I’m glad I did, because I like to have read things other people think are important, even if they don’t work for me the same way. I think the historical setting is excellent and I love the idea of this book, like, a lot. But I wish I could have skipped the entire second section (which is, admittedly, the majority of the book). The last section was by far my favorite, and Cesárea Tinajero by far the most interesting character. I would rather have read a book about her.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Jan Hicks says:

    Well done for finishing it. I loved it, but I have a thing for meandering tales that don’t seem to have a point other than existing! I agree that the final section is the best. I have this book to thank for introducing me to Leonora Carrington.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Miri says:

      She’s an artist, right? I’ll have to look her up.


      1. Jan Hicks says:

        A surrealist artist and a writer, and an incredible independent spirit.


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