The Savage Detectives

04/11/2007 12:00 AM |

Bolaño’s ecstatic and prize-winning novel is a love letter to all things raunchy, human, and unpredictable. The style is akin to the bardic genius of Ginsberg’s Howl, yet in a sprawling and all-inclusive novel of almost 600 pages, the effect is first to stun, and then to convert. The novel begins in a poetry workshop, which is broken up by two renegade poets looking to dismantle the Mexican literary establishment. They call themselves visceral realists (or sometimes vicerealists), and they are after everything. They aren’t simply interested in getting a few poems published here and there; they are looking to change the face of literature forever. If it seems impossible that such a mission could make for mayhem, you only have to read the first couple pages to realize that the search for poetry has never been so exhilarating. True to its title, The Savage Detectives is about a wild and unrestrained search for lost persons and ideals, and by the end, it’s clear that just as much is lost in the search as is gained.