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The Savage Detectives

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  18,334 ratings  ·  2,174 reviews
New Year’s Eve, 1975: Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima, founders of the visceral realist movement in poetry, leave Mexico City in a borrowed white Impala. Their quest: to track down the obscure, vanished poet Cesárea Tinajero. A violent showdown in the Sonora desert turns search to flight; twenty years later Belano and Lima are still on the run.

The explosive first long work b
Hardcover, 577 pages
Published April 3rd 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1998)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jan 12, 2014 Jessica rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: probably the young, and definitely the formerly young; people who like to read
Recommended to Jessica by: a few of my favorite booksters
I'll bet a lot of us walk around with some real concrete ideas about just who it is we could possibly fall in love with. Maybe the specifics of our ideas change over time and even become less rigid, but still we maintain that we know on some level what it is that we want. Maybe when we're nineteen, we're convinced we could only ever truly love a man with a neck tattoo who sings lead in an Oi! band and has great feminist politics and knows how to cook. Or maybe our criteria are purely negative, a ...more
Jul 13, 2015 s.penkevich rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: The dreams of the dreamers
Recommended to s.penkevich by: Jenn(ifer)
Youth is a scam

Roberto Bolaño (1953-2003) created a very special novel with The Savage Detectives. The novel is constantly moving, grinding slowly across the years steady and sure as a freight train, carrying the baggage of our existence towards the inevitable finality of life. During the course of my reading, people would misinterpret the title and tell me they enjoyed a good crime thriller and inquire into the plot of the book I clutched lovingly in my hands. While this is no ‘whodunnit’ nov
I am struggling over writing this review. The Savage Detectives has become an important book to me, and I’m trying to find the best way to put a whole series of associations, emotions, and thoughts into words about how it has entered into my life and mind and heart. I have a tendency to hide behind a lot of formal analysis when I am writing, but I don’t think that approach is good enough for this review.

I just met a close friend from graduate school for dinner last week - he now lives in San Fr
a reviewer wrote that she enjoyed Savage Detectives, but complained that it was 'about nothing' -- that she read nearly 700 pages and left with this notion proves her a total jackass and describes precisely why this is a great book: as with a life, Savage Detectives cannot be reduced to a few rote themes or ideas; it's a messy, sprawling jackson-pollock-painting of a book.

kept at a distance from our main characters, we hear testimonials by various people who knew them through different chapters
I am so late to this party!

Sorry, I meant to share my review of The Savage Detectives sooner but things got sort of crazy. I was enjoying a Cuba Libre at El Loto de Quintana on Avenida Guerrero near the Glorieta de Insurgentes with Ian Graye’s visceral reviewers, the self-proclaimed readers of the Goodreads avant-garde. We were discussing the poetry of Alberto Bonifaz Nuño and López Velarde and even the butch queer Manuel José de la Cruz from San Luis Potosí when I noticed the waitress Jacinta R

I want to sum up my thoughts about this book using a quote from its pages…

“…What a shame that time passes, don’t you think? What a shame that we die, and get old, and everything good goes galloping away from us.”

But that seems insufficient. How about a song?

That doesn’t quite do it either. How about a poem?

I set off, I took up the march and never knew
where it might take me. I went full of fear,
my stomach dropped, my head was bu
Ian Agadada-Davida
What’s a Giggle Amongst Family and Friends?

I bought this book 15 months ago. I finished it yesterday. It started off as a crisp, thin-leafed semi-brick whose 648 pages intimidated me. I only got the courage to read it when a discussion group gave me the impetus I needed. Now, it sits less crisp, but read, on my desk, wondering who will read it next. Like me, it’s 15 months older, but we are both easing into middle age and are still making new friends. We two are friends now, as if we’ve known ea
My interpretation of 90% of the passages I encountered in Savage Detectives

I walked around Mexico City for a while. And then I sat in a coffee shop and wrote poetry for seven hours. And then I saw a crazy poet I know and we argued about Octavio Paz. And then I read (name drop about 30 Latin American poets of whom I've never heard). And then I wanted to see Maria.

But somebody who cares a lot about the history and insider references of Latin American poetry might love it. I only managed 150 pages.
Glenn Russell

Since there are so many fantastic reviews of The Savage Detectives, I thought I would offer a slightly different approach as per below.

In Part 1, the first-person narrator, 17 year-old Juan Garcia Madero, tells us right off he is reading the erotic fiction of Pierre Louys (incidentally, one of Louys's novels was made into a Luis Buñuel film – That Obscure Object of Desire). Also, the way Juan speaks of the visceral realists, a group of wild avant-garde poets where young Juan is a member, reminde
Mike Puma

This review, such as it is, might be considered spoilerish, actually, it’s a lotta spoilerish, it’s presented in a rambling, perhaps, incoherent manner, and it is tentatively offered. It also includes a speculative consideration, for your reading enjoyment—one you’re very entitled to disagree with. Take a little theory, take a little text, stir them together, you get speculation. Toward that end I focus on a single aspect of the novel. You’ve been warned.

Ladies and Gentlemen, you want to know wh

The innocence of childhood, the muddiness of adolescence, the charm of youth

Unconditional love of a mother, passionate love of a lover, bloody revenge by an enemy.

Teachings of a teacher, lessons learnt by a student, choosing a road untraveled.

Poems by poets, novels by writers, paintings by painters.

A lost idol, reminiscences by ironic souls, A regained Idol.

Love, obsession, sex, drugs, heart-breaks, longing, road-trip, search, survival.

Arturo Belano, Roberto Bolano, Ulises Lima, Mario Santiago-

To do anything well we must do it until death, and we won't have gotten closer to perfection for all of that; and it is sad that most of us don't do anything more than what was asked of us by something else a long time ago; and so our energies are dispersed and lost and we are less for our efforts. Not to serve another and not to serve the Self but to serve the inner Void where all infinities collide and collapse. If we followed what calls to us most desperately we'd all be wanderers, or we'd
K.D. Absolutely
Oct 09, 2012 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
I enjoyed 2666(5 stars) more than this. 2666 is more engaging, brutal and with far more interesting characters. 2666 is also more cohesive and the plot is more intricately built. However, The Savage Detectives has more heart being basically a story of a male friendship. Then what made this friendship between two poets Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima more touching was the fact that this was based on real-life friendship between Roberto Bolano (as Arturo Belano) and his friend Mario Santiago (as Uli ...more
I hate the description for this novel. Anything longer than a single paragraph is destined for bloviation, an Excel graph of key phrases selling itself to as many bidders as possible. A long list of characters fishing for the lay reader's empathy? Borges and Pynchon for those who don't need that sort of nonsense? Please. If it gets more people reading Bolaño, sure, but these days that's the end all excuse for literature in a capitalist society. The least we can do is point it out and follow it b ...more
Goodreads customer service, how may I direct your call?

I'd like to phone in a review, please.


I don't know how to do it myself.

I'm sorry sir. As part of Goodreads terms of service, I could have accepted: illness, vacation, out of body experience, picking vegetables in a garden, working overtime, mission control for the Mars rover program, --

-- That's it, that's it, mission control. I'm working mission control. It's --

-- Be serious, sir.

Alright, fine. I'll work on it myself.

Now we want
MJ Nicholls
I am told this novel made some minor splash upon its publication. I see no evidence to support this claim. I see no particular swelling of interest in this lowly text on Goodreads. I see no ecstatic over-the-top declarations of lust for this novel. No effusive dissertations conveying the message “I totally bought into the hype and splooged fifty times over this book like Ron Jeremy catching his reflection in the pupils of a malnourished Cuban trollop.” I see no substantial body of scholarship ag ...more
Stephen M
(This review has some vague spoilers, just as a warning. It’s really tough for me to do a proper analysis without spoilers.)

This is a brilliant book. This is a frustrating book.

This is due to the brilliance and the frustration of its second section, the largest section of the Chilean born Roberto Bolaño’s debut novel. This, the book’s namesake, is a sprawling and splintered affair that features an array of thrilling locales that would make Roland Emmerich’s budget committee blush. From Mexico to
Sep 23, 2012 B0nnie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: your chaotic and disdainful eyes
Let's pretend this is the picture on the cover:
Οι άγριοι ντετέκτιβ by Roberto Bolaño

The Savage Detectives seems like a book written entirely between the lines. The plot consists of several people talking about their encounters with the poets Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima, the two creators of the visceral realist gang. The feeling of lost time, lost friends, lost ambitions builds with each of their testimonies so that by the last page - the last sentence, "What's outside the window?" - you have the feeling of being punched in the
Jul 27, 2012 Mary rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mary by: Ian Agadada-Davida
Shelves: fiction, 2012
"Always remember you are unique, just like everyone else." Author: Unknown

There are no true individuals. Bolaño knew this.

Juan García Madero did not know this.

When we were 17 years old, none of us knew this either. Sometimes when we're 30 we still don't know this. And if we're lucky/unlucky/smart/stupid maybe when we're 60 we won't know this then either.

This book is a lingering smoke cloud, a feeling that will not go away, impending doom?, recognition?, a satire of the literary world and a hom

This is a book that is nearly impossible to review, absolutely impossible to summarize, and simultaneously amazing and frustrating. Bolaño created a novel and a narrative that (IMHO) attempted to capture the energy, the personalities, the youth and the mortar that held together Mexican and Latin American poets during the mid-1970s. It feels like he took every poetic image, idea, stray hair and paper from every Mexican poet during the past forty years and laid them all down on black velvet to be
The first one hundred and fifty pages didn’t do a whole lot for me. I thought the narrator of the initial diary section was pompous, annoying, and full to overflowing with name-dropping. Not helping matters, the next couple hundred pages of mixed narratives were sporadically on and off. At about the halfway point I recalled what Mike Reynolds said in a review or thread somewhere, something along the lines that there are two different kinds of readers. Those who hear words while reading, and thos ...more
How to solve the Savage Detective riddle?

Three visceral realists, an abused prostitute, a sphinx-like poet and a hounding masochistic pimp. Savage Detectives is a segmented nostalgia of barefaced narratives, miscellaneous testimonies and a thrilling road trip. It comes across as an intricate brainteaser that has passed the test of time by how artistic and diagnostically zealous youth can be. This is my third Bolano manuscript and I dearly yearn to pen an Ode to this bohemian soul. However, conf
I have a good feeling about this, based on the first few pages. Feels like Murakami meets Kerouac. So, grown up Roddy reading meets teenage Roddy reading. The locale shifts from Japan and the USA to South and Central America. The quest narrative continues with a new backdrop. Everybody wins.


300 pages later, and nothing has happened yet, so I'm having second thoughts about my first impression. It's not at all clear what the big deal is supposed to be about this book. I mean, seriousl
I wish there was a proper way to splutter in written form. I mean, it's not that I didn't like this book, really. I certainly didn't not like it. I just... just... I dunno, I guess I just didn't get it like everyone else seems to've. As I said somewhere else, given that everyone really lost their shit over this book (I mean, did you see brian's review? Or Andrew's? Or freaking Josh's??), I guess I was really expecting to have my whole brain rearranged by it, like when I first read Cortàzar. And ...more
I'm writing this, sadly, not while sitting atop floatwood scribbling into the salty breeze of some nameless sea, but rather staring into my computer screen at a metrosexual Budapest café with expensive lamps and wi-fi. It's exactly the type of café that Roberto Bolaño pleaded his fellow poets to abandon in the 1976 infrarrealist manifesto "Leave it all behind once again, throw yourselves to the roads."

There is no reason for me to copy and paste Wikipedia's biography of Bolaño's life. The man was
David Lentz
Roberto Bolano has created a truly poetic masterpiece in his literary novel, "The Savage Detectives." Because the book is so rooted in the visceral realist movement of Mexican poetry, it is fitting that the narrative style should flow so lyrically as it does. The book is a sandwich that begins and ends in the form of a diary that carries the story line forward toward fruition. The filling in the middle is comprised of points of view principally by the main players of this tale seeking to build a ...more
Seth Hahne
One of the great troubles with reading borrowed books is that when it comes time to write about such a book, there are no quotations ready and at hand. One cannot browse pages looking for that one line of dialogue, that single narrative flourish, that lone twist of phrase with which to properly set off ones review. Borrowed books present a problem of weight and heft for those who would review such books. And The Savage Detectives was certainly a borrowed book, lent from the library for three wee ...more
An artist about to paint a self-portrait was situating his mirror when it slipped through his fingers and crashed to the floor. He looked down at the shards reflecting segments of his face and liked what he saw. He also liked what he didn’t see. His mind’s eye had to fill in the gaps in his image – serendipitous disjointedness a la Picasso.

Maybe this book is a little like that. The vast middle section is a profile of “infrarealist” poet Arturo Belano (Bolano’s alter ego) and sidekick Ulises Lim
Teresa Proença, Rua..., nos arredores de Lisboa, Março de 2015. Diga-me lá para que é que me interessa o diário de um fedelho que quer ser poeta, que fala de poetas, e que relata todos os pormenores das suas experiências sexuais? Para nada! E o pior é que quando começa a acontecer qualquer coisa termina os MEXICANOS PERDIDOS NO MÉXICO e começa OS DETECTIVES SELVAGENS! Mas que é isto? Dezenas e dezenas de depoimentos, de mais de cinquenta pessoas que em alguma ocasião - entre 1976 e 1996 - cruzar ...more
Literature isn't innocent.

There are some books one reads that hit the reader in some place the reader didn't know existed until the book just discovered it; where the reader feels s/he knows the characters so well, like they've interacted before, which is impossible because these are characters, not real flesh-and-blood people that the reader encountered through their life's journey; where the reader is so completely heartbroken that the author has died so young because there would have been
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Fort Worth Litera...: The April book is The Savage Detectives 3 8 Mar 30, 2015 06:58PM  
Open discussion for everyone reading this novel -- Please share 5 25 Feb 23, 2015 05:50PM  
Sex acts described in novels 3 104 Jul 15, 2014 11:45AM  
my book o' the summer 26 369 Jul 15, 2014 07:55AM  
Roberto Bolano's ...: Poetry 8 67 Feb 03, 2014 03:50AM  
First film adaptation of Bolaño 6 255 Nov 30, 2013 02:33AM  
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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.

More about Roberto Bolaño...
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“There is a time for reciting poems and a time for fists.” 110 likes
“Nothing happened today. And if anything did, I’d rather not talk about it, because I didn’t understand it.” 95 likes
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