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The Savage Detectives: A Novel
The Savage Detectives: A Novel
Roberto Bolano
Picador, 2008
656 pp., $19.00

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Reviewed by Laurance Wieder


Who Is This Writer? How Does He Know Me?

An encounter with Roberto Bolaño.

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 In Chapter 26 of "The Savage Detectives," Professor Ernesto García Grajales of Pachuca describes himself in December, 1996, as "the only expert on the visceral realists in Mexico, and if pressed, the world." Grajales delivers an epilogue, a "where are they now?" of Bolaño's epic cast, the living and the dead. The professor never heard of Juan García Madero, and categorically denies that he belonged to the group. Taking his leave, he observes that "there are labyrinths I prefer not to lose myself in … .  [L]et readers and scholars draw their own conclusions."

 The last word goes to Amadeo Salvatierra. Disturbed when one of the three boys talking in his sleep promises to find the Complete Works of Cesárea Tinajero, the old scribe looks at the walls of his front room, at "my books, my photographs, the stains on the ceiling, and then I looked at them and I saw them as if through a window, one of them with his eyes open and the other with his eyes shut, but both of them looking, looking out? looking in? I don't know, all I know is that their faces had turned pale, as if they were at the North Pole, and I told them so, and the one who was sleeping breathed noisily and said: it's more as if the North Pole had descended on Mexico City, that's what he said, and I asked: boys, are you cold? a rhetorical question, or a practical question, because if the answer was yes, I was determined to make them coffee right away, but ultimately it was really a rhetorical question, if they were cold all they had to do was move away from the window, and then I said: boys, is it worth it? is it worth it? is it really worth it? and then one who was asleep said Simonel."

Laurance Wieder's poem "History" appeared in the September/October issue of Books & Culture. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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