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.
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