A smattering of reviews for Roberto Bolano’s The Savage Detectives:
‘Bolano’s ambition is huge; his capacity to tell stories, never-ending…What impresses us is the fine ear of Bolano, who can masterfully create so many different voices, each of them telling a story…The most important writer of the Spanish language of this generation.’ –Horacio Moya, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
‘It’s no exaggeration to call [Bolano] a genius. The Savage Detectives alone should grant him immortality. It’s an outstanding meditation on art, truth, and the search for the roots and the self…Astounding.’ Ilan Stavans, The Washington Post Book World
‘It’s great literature about literature that is lost—or, for that matter, was never fated to be—which in essence, pretty much encompasses everything else in life—except this book, whose appearance in English is a major literary occasion.’ –Jeff Simon, The Buffalo News
Beyond this praise, the book was chosen as one of the ten best books of the year by the New York Times Book Review, it won two of the most prestigious Spanish awards: the Herralde Prize and the Romulo Gallegos Prize. So, in light of this, I will now say that I’m terribly disappointed. Four-hundred and ninety pages in and I’m not sure what I’m reading. One review says that it’s a search for a long lost poet: I’d say about twenty pages thus far have been devoted to that story line. The introduction made it sound like the book was about the perseverance of art in the modern world: I’d say that theme is a strong undercurrent, but far from dominant and far from controlling the narrative. There are so many characters and so many stories and so many disappearing characters and stories that I’m not sure what to focus on. The parallels between these stories are tentative at best, and I’m afraid to say less postmodern than my research paper would require. A terrible weight, therefore, is upon my shoulders as I hit the homestretch. The weight of crafting some themes that are not merely superficial exaggerations of postmodern stylings in the novel; the weight of trying to use the novel to back up the strong postmodern points brought up in the introduction which I’ve yet to see fully evinced in the book itself; the weight of getting a good grade on a paper about a book whose size is forcing me to sacrifice my lesser obligations this Thanksgiving, such as enjoying college football and enjoying some nature on a horse ride. I do have hope, however, that soon this novel will take a turn; that the endless stream of interviews will slow down and begin to form a much needed conclusion which hopefully applies to the postcolonial and postmodern themes I had assumed the book would tackle. I’ve talked about postmodernism’s love to disrupt expectations in blogs before. Unfortunately now I’m confronted with some real consequences, and I find it not as stimulating as I do infuriating.