Books & Magazines The 90s

The Savage Detectives

The Savage Detectives is a novel written by Roberto Bolaño. The book was originally written in 1998 in Spanish and then translated into English in 2007 (The book was translated by Natasha Wimmer). Robert Bolaño was born in 1953 in Santiago, Chile. During his career, he wrote novels, novellas, essays and poems. He died at only 50 years of age from acute liver failure.

The book is known for its non-linear structure, its portrayal of bohemian artists and its rich language. Many critics have compared Bolaño’s style to that of a bard or an “archpoet,” and have argued the novel is like an epic poem.

The Savage Detectives is split into three sections and spans over 20 years.  It is written in the first person from the perspective of many different narrators. The predominant narrator is Juan Garcí Madero, who is seventeen when the novel begins. in 1975. The first portion of the book is about Madero’s experience with a gang of poets–who call themselves Visceral Realists–and his travels around Mexico City after dropping out of university.


The second and longest section is a complex and interwoven narratives with characters who have been involved with the Visceral Realists. This part of the book goes from 1976 to 1996 and spans across continents.

The third and last section is narrated once again by Madero.

The themes within The Savage Detectives echo Bolaño’s life, from his own founding of infraarrealismo (his basis for the novel’s visceral realism), to Bolaño’s  life in Mexico and his early life as a poet.


Other works by Roberto Bolaño

  1. The Skating Rink (La Pista de Hielo)
  2. Distant Star (Estrella Distante
  3. Amulet (Amuleto)
  4. 2666


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