The great novel of Mexico City.

Reading between the lines.
Sept. 10 2007 7:16 AM

Mayhem in Mexico

Roberto Bolaño's great Latin American novel.

(Continued from Page 2)

The pathos of The Savage Detectives lies in that single contrast—the pathos of the ardent young poets who cavort like satyrs and nymphs in the sacred wood of high poetry and, then again, have to drag their way around the hardscrabble streets of Mexico City, and sometimes die all too soon, as Rubén Darío did at age 49, and Roberto Bolaño did at age 50, in both cases of liver failure.

But I don't mean to bring my drum-banging on Bolaño's behalf to a gloomy thud of a conclusion. The Savage Detectives sings a love song to the grandeur of Latin American literature and to the passions it inspires, and there is no reason to suppose that, in spite of every prediction, these particular grandeurs and passions have reached their appointed end. Bolaño's friend Carmen Boullosa in The Nation and Francisco Goldman in the New York Review of Books have both insisted lately that Bolaño wrote a further novel, not yet translated into English, that is stronger, or at least more prodigious, even, than The Savage Detectives.

Advertisement

Even now, three years after his death, posthumous new books by Bolaño continue to come out in Spain—stories, prose fragments, and poems. Chris Andrews has translated into English a number of Bolaño's works in the past and has done a good job of it; and Natasha Wimmer, who has brought The Savage Detectives into English, has likewise done well. In The Savage Detectives, Wimmer has written Nics instead of Nicas (meaning, Nicaraguans), and pro-Somozans instead of Somocistas (meaning, the followers of Nicaragua's Somoza dictatorship). But these are tiny gaffes that could be corrected in a future printing, and they count as nothing when weighed in the balance against Wimmer's ability to come up with an inspired and masterful sentence, redolent of Bolaño's impudent enthusiasm, such as, "He's going to disemfuckingbowell me," which is, from a translating point of view, magisterial.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Subprime Loans Are Back

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 23 2014 6:00 AM Naked and Afraid Prudie offers advice on whether a young boy should sleep in the same room with his nude grandfather.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Books
Sept. 23 2014 7:14 AM Fighting the Sophomore Slump, Five Novels at a Time Announcing the Slate/Whiting Second Novel List.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 23 2014 7:00 AM I Stand with Emma Watson
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.