The Savage Detectives

The English translation of Roberto Bolaño's novel Los detectives salvajes (Anagrama, 1998), which was awarded the Premio Rómulo Gallegos in Caracas, will be published next month in an edition by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. I'm not sure how the English version will sound, though I imagine Bolaño's novel is devastating in any language. In the current issue of The Believer (March 2007), Argentine novelist Rodrigo Fresán writes about his friendship with Bolaño. He discusses the ambitious scope of Bolaño's novels and his iconoclastic critique of the ideological left and right in Latin America.

Among the many reasons to love Bolaño's work is its irreverence towards the writers of the Boom generation and its unwillingness to play along with revolutionary rhetoric, which he understood as useless repetitions. His friendship with the Salvadoran poet Roque Dalton when they were clandestine in San Salvador in the mid-1970s was probably an influence on his work. Parallels can be discerned between Dalton's posthumous revolutionary novel Pobrecito poeta que era yo (1976) and Bolaño's posthumous epic, 2666.

In his essay “The Savage Detective,” Fresán cites an e-mail he received from Bolaño on the topic of political engagement among Latin American writers:

“Deep down, the problem is schizophrenia, isn't it? Something like what happens to leftist militants whose discourse is really rightist and who nevertheless still insist on being leftists. And so we get, for example, a left that supports Castro's dictatorship.”

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