The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano

Brilliant even in translation, Bolano's tale of wandering delinquent Mexican and Chilean poets is based on his own life (Arturo) and his mate (Ulisses). It's nonstop, wide canvas, multiple narrative. Women sometimes take the stage,  suffer worse consequences from their rambling life and some emerge alive. Kerouc had 'memere' to go home to after his road trips, half the time Arturo doesn't know where Mum is or if she is Ok, life under General Pinochet moved people on a lot.

It's 1975 and Juan, a 17 year old orphan whose uncle makes him study law not poetry opens the show. The lad drops out of uni within weeks, a poetry group on campus, a blow job in a cafe, new friends who fund two issues of their poetry mag by selling weed, nicked poetry books, a nicked car - ADVENTURE!

Poetry wars, the 'visceral realists' versus Neruda and Paz, show offs barging in and interrupting readings of the 'great and the good', how dare the old and famous think they are creative.

Jobs in Spain without work-permits, street trading,cleaning, fruitpicking, campsite nightwatchman, grot-hole bedsits in Paris and Barcelona where friends climb the rickety stairs to borrow help and steal from one other. Ulisses hitches to Israel and gets thrown in jail with a mad fascist travelling buddy for discovering the secret nuclear reactor in the Negev desert in 1980, six years before physicist and ex-employee Mordechai Vanunu got imprisoned for blowing the whistle on the place, this was the episode that made me believe the lot.

Bolano is one of many reasons I move my 61 year old a**e and write.He was born in 1953, three years before me and died in Spain when 50.


yeh, I tackled this book, which makes it seem like work, which is was for me. No doubiting the man's brilliance and wordsmithery, his ability to categorise and chronalise the stupidity of our failings. And yet, not for me.