Editor reviews

A history of Mexican "Visceral Realism" poetry? First-person accounts of the wild, promiscuous literary world of the 1970s? Or maybe it's simply a high-minded travelogue, stopping off in places like Mexico City, Paris, Barcelona, Vienna, Tel Aviv, Angola, and Liberia? Or is it a post-modern mystery? Or perhaps just a long, drawn-out, sometimes-riveting, other-times-maddening practical joke? Confused? Exhilarated? A little of both? Welcome to the world of Roberto Bolaño, the late, great Chilean novelist whose popularity continues to rise despite his untimely death in 2003 at the age of 50.
For many Bolaño fans, especially in this country, all the excitement started here with The Savage Detectives, a sprawling, sexy, melancholy, kinetic, kaleidoscopic frenzy that clocks in at over 27 hours. First off, this is not a detective book. So if you're looking for a straightforward whodunit, look elsewhere. The only detective here is the listener, who must carefully follow along as Bolaño's novel takes one unlikely twist and turn after another.
Fans of Haruki Murakami and Thomas Pynchon will love Bolaño's literary acrobatics. On a literal level, The Savage Detectives is simply a series of first-person monologues delivered by dozens of different people. At first, the novel's focus seems unclear. But gradually, the plot begins to revolve around two "poets" (although some characters say they're nothing more than glorified drug dealers) who revive a branch of poetry called Visceral Realism: Ulises Lima and Arturo Belano, who may (or may not) be the author's adventurous alter ego. Some characters know both men well. Others have brief encounters with them that last only days or hours. Some characters love or revere them. Others dismiss them as crackpots or lunatics. This multi-faceted narrative paints a vivid portrait of both men. And yet, the more we learn about them, the more mysterious they become.
The audiobook (with text translated from Spanish into English) features two readers. Eddie Lopez performs the part of a precocious college student who initially appears to be the novel's sole narrator. But roughly a quarter of the way into the book, Armando Durán brings to life a choir of voices spanning several decades and continents. Durán deserves a gold medal for this amazing feat, making each monologue sound distinct and believable, no matter the accent, age, gender, or mood of the speaker.
Getting into the chaotic rhythm of The Savage Detectives may take some time to adjust to for some listeners. But once you're tuned in, you'll experience one of the most thrilling, satisfying literary rides of your life. —Ken Ross
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Summary

The late Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño has been called the García Marquez of his generation. The Savage Detectives is a hilarious and sexy, meandering and melancholy, companionable and complicated road trip through Mexico City, Barcelona, Israel, Liberia, and finally the desert of northern Mexico. It is the first of Bolaño's two giant works, with 2666, to be translated into English and is already being hailed as a masterpiece.
©2007 Translation by Natasha Wimmer (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
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Critic reviews

"Wildly enjoyable . . . Bolano beautifully manages to keep his comedy and his pathos in the same family." ( The New York Times Book Review)
" The Savage Detectives is deeply satisfying. . . . Bolano's book throws down a great, clunking, formal gauntlet to his readers' conventional expectations. . . . A very good novel." (Thomas McGonigle, Los Angeles Times)
"An instant cult hit among readers and practically a fetish object to critics." ( Time)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Moose Molloy on 05-10-09

Discover a whole new world of fiction

After a relatively accessible and direct opening section, the plot abandons itself to a succession of non-chronological witness statements which eventually interact to produce a gripping, disconcerting novel. For anyone tired of the heavy hand of Anglo-saxon conformity this book will be most welcome, as long as you can see the humour in it - if you don't laugh somewhere early on, give it up. But it's also a 'serious' work of fiction in every sense.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Welsh Mafia on 14-08-10

Ulises' Homeric Epic

A brilliant introduction or primer for South American literature, infused with Spanish sensitivities and pre-occupations. This book drifts on and on, beautifully written easy to follow but ultimately difficult to fathom, leaving the reader to wonder where they have sailed to and what is the meaning and message of it all....if in fact the purpose of the Visceral Realists is that there is no message and meaning, since there is no poetry. Much as Murakami has done for modern Japanese writing, so too Bolano seems to have taken an important step in bringing the world of Chile, Colombia and Mexico City into the cosmopolitan mainstream literati cosmos. The world so familiar and yet so fresh shouts and whispers out from the page and left me wanting more - forward and back to explore the early works and look forward to picking up 2666 later this summer. As with all new challenges, hard work to work hard through this novel, but new, exciting and very rewarding to get to know Bolano.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Rebecca Lindroos on 06-12-09

Started slow but ended great

I really did NOT like this book for the first 90 minutes or so - Part I. But then the narrator changed from the sex-crazed, 17 year-old, wanna-be Visceral Realist poet to an older man and the stories of people who knew Arturo and Ulisses, Visceral Realists. This was much better than the first part and drew me in regularly. The third part goes back to the 17 year-old again, but he and Aruturo and Ulisses are seeking Cesarea Tinajero, the original Visceral Realist. The book just grew and grew on me and in the end I really didn't want it to end.
I didn't notice any pronunciation errors - I thought the narration was excellent.

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15 of 17 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By P. Bowen on 15-01-14

Great listen

If you could sum up The Savage Detectives in three words, what would they be?

I've read Bolano, but I think his novels work even better read out loud. The long lists of esoteric knowledge, the rambling thoughts and literary analysis, and the internal observations flow beautifully when read.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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