The Savage Detectives
|The Savage Detectives|
1st edition (Spanish)
|Original title||Los Detectives Salvajes|
|Published in English||2007|
The Savage Detectives (Los Detectives Salvajes in Spanish) is an award-winning novel published by the Chilean author Roberto Bolaño in 1998. Natasha Wimmer's English translation was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2007. The novel tells the story of the search for a female Mexican poet, Cesárea Tinajero, by two other poets, the Chilean Arturo Belano (the actual alter ego of Bolaño himself) and the Mexican Ulises Lima.
The novel is narrated in first person by numerous narrators and divided into three parts. The first section, "Mexicans Lost in Mexico", is told by 17-year-old aspiring poet, Juan García Madero. It centers on his admittance to a roving gang of poets who refer to themselves as the Visceral Realists. He drops out of university and travels around Mexico City, becoming increasingly involved with the adherents of Visceral Realism, although he remains uncertain about Visceral Realism.
The book's second section, "The Savage Detectives," comprises nearly two-thirds of the novel's total length. The section is a polyphonic narrative which features more than forty narrators and spans twenty years, from 1976 to 1996. It consists of interviews with a variety of characters from locations around North America, Europe, and the Middle East, all of whom have come into contact with the founding leaders of the Visceral Realists, Ulises Lima and Arturo Belano. Each narrator has his or her own opinion of the two, although the consensus is that they are drifters and literary elitists whose behavior often leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of those they meet. We learn that the two spent some years in Europe, frequenting bars and camp sites, and generally living a bohemian lifestyle. Lima, the more introverted of the two, serves a short sentence in an Israeli prison, while Belano challenges a literary critic to an absurd sword fight on a Spanish beach.
The third section of the book, "The Deserts of Sonora", is again narrated by Juan García Madero, now in the Sonora Desert with Lima, Belano and a prostitute named Lupe. The section involves the "Savage Detectives" closing in on the elusive poet and the movement's founder Cesárea Tinajero, while being chased by a pimp named Alberto and a corrupt Mexican police officer.
Partial Character List
||This table may contain original research. (April 2012)|
|Arturo Belano||One of the founders of Visceral Realism. More extroverted. Chilean. (Bolaño's alter ego)||Roberto Bolaño|
|Ulises Lima||One of the founders of Visceral Realism. More introverted (Mario Santiago's alter ego)||Mario Santiago Papasquiaro|
|Juan García Madero||17-year-old Visceral Realist. Moved in with the Font family for a while, and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of classical and medieval poetic forms.||Juan Esteban Harrington|
|Lupe||Young prostitute. Friend of María Font's; dates Juan García Madero.|
|Alberto||Lupe's pimp. Gangster who measures his penis against his (large) knife every day. Chases Lupe through the Sonoran desert.|
|Octavio Paz||Celebrated Mexican Poet. Nobel Prize Winner. Hated by the Visceral Realists; meets Lima in a park accompanied by assistant.||Octavio Paz|
|María Font||Angelica's oldest sister. Sleeps with Juan García Madero.||Mara Larrosa|
|Angelica Font||Won the Laura Damian poetry prize.||Vera Larrosa|
|Joaquin (Quim) Font||The Font sisters' father. Architect. Spends most of the novel in a mental institute.||Manolo Larrosa|
|Julio Cesar Alamo||Visceral Realists met in his poetry workshop. Led trip to Nicaragua when Lima was lost.||Juan Buñuelos|
|Cesárea Tinajero||Poet considered the 'mother of Visceral Realism', dating from the conception of the Visceral Realist movement in the 1920s. Nearly forgotten. Belano, Lima, Lupe, and Garcia Madero embark on a quest to find her in 1976.||Concha Urquiza|
|Amadeo Salvatierra||Old guy who drinks Mezcal. Former poet turned scrivener. A member of the original Visceral Realists who is interviewed by Belano and Lima, revealing to them the only published work of Tinajero.||Rodolfo Sanabria|
|Perla Aviles||Went horseriding with Arturo in high school.|
|Laura Jauregui||Lover of Arturo, who claims Arturo started Visceral Realism to impress her.||Lisa Johnson|
|Cesar Arriaga||Used to date Laura.|
|Rafael Barrios||Another Visceral Realist who is equally bitter about Lima and Belano. Moved to Los Angeles after the disappearance of Ulises and Arturo, where he and his American girlfriend are interviewed during the novel's second part.||Rubén Medina|
|Felipe Müller||Another of the second generation Visceral Realists. Also Chilean. Took care of Arturo's mother in Barcelona.||Bruno Montané|
|Fabio Ernesto Logiacomo||Poet. Won Casa de las Americas competition.||Jorge Boccanera|
|Luis Sebastian Rosado||Contemptuous towards the Visceral Realists. An occasional lover of Luscious Skin.||José Joaquín Blanco|
|Alberto Moore||Friend of Luis Rosado|
|Pancho Rodriguez||Second-generation Visceral Realist poet, older brother of Moctezuma in love with Angelica Font||Ramón Méndez|
|Moctezuma Rodriguez||Younger brother of Pancho, also poet.||Cuauhtémoc Méndez|
|Luscious Skin||Visceral Realist Poet. Bisexual.||Jorge Hernández Pieldivina|
|Carlos Monsiváis||Published a collection of work by Visceral Realists, much to his own cost.|
|Manuel Maples Arce||Respected poet. Full of himself.|
|Barbara Patterson||American hippie girl. Dates Rafael. Filthy, funny, and foul-mouthed.|
|Ernesto San Epifanio||Young gay man, associated with the second generation of Visceral Realists.||Darío Galicia|
|Jacinto Requena||Dating Xochitl. Slept with María Font.||José Peguero|
|Xóchitl Garcia||Dating Jacinto. Eventually publishes poems and is successful writing essays. Franz's mother.||Guadalupe Ochoa|
|Auxilio Lacouture||Mother of Mexican poetry. Hid in an UNAM bathroom during the 1968 military massacre. She is the narrator of Bolano's novel Amulet.||Alcira|
|Joaquin Vazquez Amaral||Respected poet. Liked Visceral Realists.|
|Lisandro Morales||Publisher. Published Arturo, among others.||Lautaro|
|Vargas Pardo||Ecuadorean novelist.||José Donoso Pareja|
|Simone Darrieux||Dated Arturo in Paris. Ulises showered at her house in Paris.|
|Hipolito Garces||Friend of Ulises in Paris. Cooked for him, but ripped him off.|
|Roberto Rosas||Friend of Ulises in Paris. Hated Hipolito.||José Rosas Ribeyro|
|Sofia Pellegrini||Friend of Ulises in Paris.|
|Michel Bulteau||French poet. Ulises called him in Paris.||Michel Bulteau|
|Mary Watson||English hippie. Slept with Arturo when he was a park ranger.|
|Alain Lebert||Fisherman in Spain. Friend of Arturo's, along with the pirate, Margarite.|
|Norman Bolzman||Friend in Israel of Ulises. Lived with Claudia and Daniel. Dated Claudia. Ulises was in love with Claudia.|
|Heimito Kunst||In jail with Ulises in Israel. Lived with him in Vienna. Mad.||Heimito von Doderer|
|Jose "Zopilote" Colina||Publisher. Full of himself.||José de la Colina|
|Veronika Volkow||Trotsky's great-granddaughter.|
|Alfonso Perez Camarga||Painter. Bought drugs from Arturo and Ulises.|
|Hugo Montero||Brought Ulises to Nicaragua with Don Pancracio, Labarca and Mexican poets.|
|Andre Ramirez||A Chilean stowaway, goes to Spain, wins the lottery - gives Belano a job.|
|Susana Puig||A nurse who has an affair with Arturo|
|Edith Oster||A lover who broke Arturo's heart in Barcelona.|
|Xosé Lendoiro||Galician lawyer, adventurer, aspiring poet, admirer of classical Greek and Roman literature who offers Belano a job of reviewing a law school journal.|
Several critics have compared the novel to Rayuela (translated into English as Hopscotch) by Argentinian novelist Julio Cortázar, whom Bolaño greatly respected, both because of its non-linear structure and its portrayal of young, bohemian artists.
Elements in Common with 2666
2666, Bolaño's final, posthumous novel has many points in common with The Savage Detectives.
- Both conclude in the fictional city of Santa Teresa, in the Mexican state of Sonora, which acts as a stand-in for Ciudad Juárez.
- In the second part of The Savage Detectives, an author named Arcimboldi is mentioned. In 2666 he will become the central character Benno von Archimboldi.
- In a dialogue about Cesárea Tinajero, the year 2600 is referred to as "the year of misfortunes".
- Late in the novel there is a section where, 'Cesárea said something about days to come... and the teacher, to change the subject, asked her what times she meant and when they would be. And Cesárea named a date, sometime around the year 2600. Two thousand six hundred and something.'
According to the Note to the First Edition of 2666, among Bolaño's notes is a line saying that "The narrator of 2666 is Arturo Belano," a character from The Savage Detectives, as well as a line for the end of 2666, "And that's it, friends. I've done it all, I've lived it all. If I had the strength, I'd cry. I bid you all goodbye, Arturo Belano".
- Review of The Savage Detectives from The New Yorker
- Review of The Savage Detectives from The New York Times Sunday Book Review