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Woes of the True Policeman

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3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  757 ratings  ·  124 reviews
Begun in the 1980s and worked on until the author’s death in 2003, Woes of the True Policeman is Roberto Bolaño’s last, unfinished novel.

The novel follows Óscar Amalfitano—an exiled Chilean university professor and widower—through the maze of his revolutionary past, his relationship with his teenage daughter, Rosa, his passion for a former student, and his retreat from sca
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Hardcover, 256 pages
Published November 13th 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 2011)
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Jenn(ifer)
Jan 10, 2013 Jenn(ifer) rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Bolaño completists
Recommended to Jenn(ifer) by: Harper's
Shelves: read-in-2013

It’s like my friend made me this sandwich – the fresh, artisan bread was so good it could have been a meal all by itself. I was famished, and I blindly took a big bite of the sandwich only to find to my surprise that between the two delectable slices of bread was a strange mix of avocado, cherry cordials and some sort of fabric that I think might have been silk or some sort of synthetic silk – I’m not quite sure. All of the ingredients on their own were good enough, but thrown together in this s
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Greg
Life, of course, which puts the essential books under our noses only when they are strictly essential, or on some cosmic whim

The Part about Death

Roberto Bolano, apparently, worked on this novel from roughly 1980 until his death in 2003. He never published it. It's not a finished novel. He mentioned it from time to time to people by the name it's been published with, but it just sat on his computer in files in various states of completion.

Sort of like, say, Pale King.

Pale King was a self-contain
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Jonfaith
Amalfitano remembered a time when he believed that nothing happened by chance, everything happened for some reason, but when was that time? He couldn't remember, all he could remember was that at some point this was what he believed.

Calvino notes in his Six Memos that Borges began writing fiction as a particular exercise; he would imagine philosophical novels that had been poorly translated into Spanish and write synopses of such. Bolaño's own inchoate 20 year project most likely gave birth to 2
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jeremy
unlike most writers, for whom each work of fiction is a realm only unto itself, roberto bolaño freely shared characters, settings, storylines, and major themes throughout his novels and short stories. so it is with woes of the true policeman (los sinsabores del verdadero policía), a novel begun by the late chilean in the 1980s and left unfinished at the time of his death in 2003. first published in his native spanish in 2011, woes of the true policeman is a well-polished, if incomplete, effort. ...more
pierlapo  quimby
Non leggete le prime quattro pagine del romanzo.
Non dite 'che titolo curioso, leggiamo solo l'incipit, vediamo come inizia questo recupero postumo del folle cileno'.
Non dovete farlo assolutamente.

...

Non mi avete dato retta, eh?
Siete fregati.
Hadrian
Assorted scraps. We see parallels to 2666 - the writer Arcimboldi, the professor Amalfitano, long stretches of murders written in starchy newspaper prose. As incomplete and muddled as these fragments are, they might have been part of the great 2666, and are therefore of interest to the Bolaño fan or the completist.

Ted Mooney
This volume, which Bolaño is said to have worked on from the 1980s until his death in 2003, is most likely to appeal to hard-core Bolañistas and novelists like myself, though it is full of interesting bits. It seems to be a side project to his masterly 2666, also left in a state of incompletion (though you wouldn’t know this unless you were told) at his death, and involves some of the same characters that appear in that novel, Amalfito and Rosa in particular. However, the versions of these chara ...more
trovateOrtensia
Di come la vita promette molto a molti, e non mantiene con nessuno.
Di come è passato il tempo in cui “stare svegli voleva dire sognare”, e di come il sonno riserva ormai solo incubi.
Di come la vita dispensa sorprese, e tranelli, e inganni e colpi bassi e colpi mortali, e di come può capitare a ciascuno di noi che un mattino da “ottoni ci si risvegli trombe”, per dirla con Rimbaud, il poeta-ragazzo che “cammina da solo nella notte”, così evocato, così sempre presente in queste pagine.
Di come n
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Jeremy
I hope to at some point write a better review than the scant words I will type here. But for now I will say that I disagree about the notion that this novel was practice for 2666. Or that it is cast aside writing. Or that it is a companion novel. Aside from the fact that it shares a somewhat different version of Amalfitino and that there is an author name Arcimboldi there is really not much in common with 2666 other than the writing style. Bolano is exploring many different themes and I believe ...more
Adam
The stream of posthumous Bolaño publications is slowly coming to an end. The inside of the dust jacket on Woes of the True Policeman calls this his "last, unfinished novel." I really thought I'd have a lot to say about this. I finished it sooner than I expected, and unlike David Foster Wallace's The Pale King or Bolaño's also unfinished (though to a much lesser extent than Woes) 2666, Woes really feels incomplete. The ending of this published book is, however, still fitting, and I love how Bolañ ...more
Bill Crane
I have read nearly everything by Bolano. At his best you are carried along by his rhetorical flow, and the story itself does not necessarily have to lead anywhere (although it is nice if it does.)

He is not at his best here, though... despite a fairly defensive note from his widow at the end of the novel claiming otherwise, this was clearly an effort that he had picked up several times and then abandoned. The best parts of the story he scavenged for 2666's Part Two, including the same Oscar Amalf
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Trebor
Set in Northern Mexico, this novel has similarities to 2666, but doesn't focus on the Juarez murders. It's about an itinerant exiled professor who is booted out of his Spanish job when he begins a gay affair with a well-drawn character who is an artist, and one of his students. I appreciate Bolano's comfort with homosexuality in a way rarely seen among American straight authors of his generation. If you do nothing else, find this book and read pgs 20-24, which, in a single sentence is the most b ...more
Liviu
Of all the posthumous - of course not including 2666 - R. Bolano releases this is the best hands down despite its incompleteness as the wonderful prose and vast knowledge of the author are on full display; the five component parts - whose origination is discussed after the end of the book - are of three kinds; the first 3 follow the semi-picaresque adventures of a Latin American study academic and his teenage daughter as he is booted from place to place when his homosexual inclinations are disco ...more
Paul Gleason
In my estimation, Bolano is the greatest writer to come out of Latin America since the great Boom of the 1960s. It's a no-brainer that The Savage Detectives and 2666 are two of the greatest novels ever written and that Bolano holds his own with any novelist who's put pen to paper.

Which brings us to Woes of the True Policeman, which is the last of Bolano's posthumous novels (he died of liver failure in 2003 and sadly never got to see the international success of his work).

What is Woes? Well, it's
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DRM
Definitely one for Bolano diehards, others should watch out for what they're in for here and probably start with Savage Detectives or By Night In Chile. It's largely a series of sketches of characters and themes that would be vastly expanded and refined in 2666 but it still has its moments. Personally, I could read Bolano's sketches of imaginary novels for an entire book and probably not get bored. But other times, at its worst, it feels like it's only the new footage of a "director's cut" witho ...more
Chad Post
Interested to see what my students think of this book. Aside from an excerpt from 2666 that I gave them earlier in the semester, the vast majority have never read Bolano, in which case, this might not feel quite so unfinished and sloppy. I understand the monetary and non-monetary reasons why these Bolano books are coming out, yet at the same time, this is kind of a disservice to his reputation and could backfire and, instead of drawing new readers into the world of amazing Bolano books, turn the ...more
Cody
There were moments, mid-text, that I nearly forgot that this is an unfinished work. After all, Woes of the True Policeman isn’t the first of Bolaño’s works to experiment with fragmentation (in both phrase and plot), and there are also some stunningly beautiful passages. The five-page, single sentence barrage that glosses Amalfitano’s life is powerful--enough so that I got to wondering why it didn’t make the 2666 cut. But this early passage proved to be an exception. As other reviewers have noted ...more
Peter Evans
Roberto Bolaño ranks as one of my most revered writers. It was obviously sad to finish what was said to be his last work to be published; and further, that it could not take its suggested place as the final section of 2666. The writing is of course infectious, and Natasha Wimmer is an extraordinary translator. It is time to re-read all his great works.
Jordi Via
No está nada nada mal. Lo he pasado bien, aunque, eso sí, me he quedado con ganas de más. Otro buen Bolaño al saco, seguimos.
Paolo
Chiudi il libro, dopo aver letto l'ultima parola, e ti rimane addosso, inevitabile se hai appreso la genesi del romanzo, un senso vasto di incompiutezza. Eppure, è un'incompiutezza che ti riempie le viscere, perché Bolaño ti ha letterariamente e letteralmente portato in giro, per trecento pagine, per il mondo intero, che poi è il suo mondo: professori di letteratura, poeti, generali, donne più belle delle più belle spiagge del Brasile, maghi, rivoluzionari, romanzieri inesistenti, detective e po ...more
Cameron
I hate giving three stars to a Bolaño book, but 'Woes' is clearly more of an unfinished compendium of character sketches than a novel. Much as I appreciate the book's existence as a supplement to Bolaño's magnum opus, '2666,' it remains just that: rough sketches of certain plot elements from the aforementioned tome.

Other than the minor changes explored below the book remains consistent with '2666.' All in all, though, it's still a fun and easy read, and I recommend it to anyone who has read '26
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Michael
This short novel, unfinished at the time of the author's death, reads like a briefly glimpsed mirror image of Bolaño's masterpiece, 2666. It centers around a gay professor living in Sonora named Amalfitano, with a daughter named Rosa. But this doesn't feel like the same Amalfitano of 2666. And then there's the French author, J.M.G. Arcimboldi, who is not to be confused with the German author, Benno von Achimboldi (with an added "h") of 2666. And there's a brief side-trip into the murders of wome ...more
Xavier
Oct 18, 2011 Xavier rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans de Bolaño
Cuando se publicó en la librería costaba 38 dólares ! Tenía dos opciones, la primera era robarlo como Bolaño aconseja con sus libros, la segunda era despistar al personal y leerlo de un tirón. Elegí la segunda opción. Al igual que Estrella Distante o Amuleto que son outakes de otras obras de Bolaño creo que esta novela es el outake de la parte de Amalfitano, solo que en este caso del pasado. No pienso que sea crucial leer esta obra para entender el contexto de la narrativa de Bolaño, a ratos se ...more
Marcos
Reading this made me feel a wave of sadness that this novel is to be Bolano's unfinished and last work to be published. Hyper, surreal and darkly comedic, the novel is a continuation of the adventures of Professor Amaltifano of Bolano's sprawling "2666", his daughter, Rosa who disappears in Book II of the latter work; the works of Archimboldi, who serves as the catalyst of "2666's" plot in motion as well as Amaltifano's former lovers; young and hypersexual students Castillo and Padilla who serve ...more
Tuck
bolano had more talent and verve in his control than most any writer one could name. this "novel", written of moer than two decades, was unfinished upon author;s death, and like greg says, probably never would have been published if roberto had anything to say about it, but he doesn't, so it was. more like a primer for his "real" novel, 2666, sets the stage for the investigation and players in the mexico border murders of 100's of women. but this novel centers around gay professor and dad who va ...more
Antonella Sbriccoli
Chi ama Bolaño lo sa: basta dire "c'è un nuovo Bolaño in circolazione", e non si resiste, si deve averlo, e si deve leggerlo. Se poi dentro ci sono i personaggi di 2666 la brama di possesso arriva ell'ennesima potenza, almeno per me. E anche se le piste sono tutte false, se i racconti sono frammentari, mentre leggo Bolaño penso solo che un altro scrittore così non c'è, che è un vero peccato che sia morto perché leggerei i suoi frammenti altre mille volte. Perché di autori capaci di trascinarmi c ...more
Eleanor Levine
Not bad. Not great. Definitely convoluted and not my favorite narrative, but certainly captivating enough with regard to the Professor and his daughter Rosa and his lover Padilla. There are some riveting parts in this unfinished novel and others you just might skip, depending on your urgency to finish it so you might read the next book on your list. Bolano is one of my favorites, and this was worth the read, to some extent. His satirical list of famous poets, and what they are famous for, is hil ...more
Sameer
I read The Savage Detectives last year and ever since I wanted to read more Bolano. Woes of the True Po9liceman starts off very promisingly. Any person who really loved reading a Bolano novel would love it. But then there occur many very interesting parallel stories which do not meet cohesively by the end because of the novel wasn't completed. Don't please start reading Bolano with this. REst, if you want to buy it don't hesitate if there is nothing interesting around. There are some really love ...more
Bart
This novel began so promisingly, so much like Bolano's excellent short fiction, so unlike his nearly unreadable long fiction. But then it hit the midway point and suddenly went from a story to a series of encyclopedia entries. In fewer than 50 pages, Woes of the True Policeman went from an edgy, enjoyable work of contemporary fiction - complete, even, with an interesting account of Mexican culinary resourcefulness - to a prequel/sequel (what's the difference, honestly?) to The Savage Detectives. ...more
Jesús
A ratos un muy buen Bolaño, literatura en estado puro, con la que entran ganas de escribir y de seguir leyendo. Pero como dice la viuda Carolina López, las partes de la novela están "desigualmente terminadas", quizá por eso en algunos momentos dé la sensación de ser un boceto o una cara B de 2666, una novela en la que trabaja con unos personajes que luego explotarán en un libro más grande: los libros de Arcimboldi, el personaje de Amalfitano, algunos crímenes de las trabajadoras de las maquilado ...more
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Getting Into Roberto Bolano 2 12 Dec 12, 2012 06:50AM  
  • Varamo
  • The Brunist Day of Wrath
  • I Burn Paris
  • The Devil's Dictionary and Other Works
  • The Museum of Eterna's Novel (The First Good Novel)
  • The Book of the Unknown: Tales of the Thirty-six
  • Almost Never
  • The Voice Imitator
  • Amateurs
  • Bats Out of Hell
  • Dublinesque
  • Avenue des Géants
  • The Planets
  • Hipotermia
  • The Beetle Leg
  • The Manufacture of Madness
  • Near to the Wild Heart
  • Incredibly Strange Music, Vol. One
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For most of his early adulthood, Bolaño was a vagabond, living at one time or another in Chile, Mexico, El Salvador, France and Spain.

Bolaño moved to Europe in 1977, and finally made his way to Spain, where he married and settled on the Mediterranean coast near Barcelona, working as a dishwasher, a campground custodian, bellhop and garbage collector — working during the day and writing at night.

H
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More about Roberto Bolaño...
The Savage Detectives 2666 By Night in Chile Distant Star Last Evenings on Earth

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“[Los alumnos de Almafitano aprendieron...]
Que la principal enseñanza de la literatura era la valentía, una valentía rara, como un pozo de piedra en medio de un paisaje lacustre, una valentía semejante a un torbellino y a un espejo. Que no era más cómodo leer que escribir. Que leyendo se aprendía a dudar y a recordar. Que la memoria era el amor.”
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“Amalfitano remembered a time when he believed that nothing happened by chance, everything happened for some reason, but when was that time? he couldn't remember, all he could remember was that at some point thiw was what he believed...” 1 likes
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