First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
New Year’s Eve, 1975: Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima, poets and leaders of a movement they call visceral realism, leave Mexico City in a borrowed white Impala. Their mission: to track down the poet Cesárea Tinajero, who disappeared into the Sonoran Desert (and obscurity) decades before. But the detectives are themselves hunted men, and their search for the past will end in violence, flight, and permanent exile.
In this dazzling novel, the book that established Roberto Bolaño’s international reputation, he tells the story of two modern-day Quixotes – the last survivors of an underground literary movement, perhaps of literature itself – on a tragicomic quest through a darkening, entropic universe: our own. The Save Detectives is, in the words of El Pais, “the kind of novel Borges would have written… An original and magnificent book: funny, moving, important.”
Wah! Another work week is done. The first week of May had finally ended. With it, month end closing is also done! I managed to survive yet another challenging month end close. It is time to chill for the weekend; this is going to be my first carefree weekend in two months. I hope you all had a great week. Otherwise, I hope things will look up in the coming days. I hope you are all safe from the pandemic, which is as present as ever. I am with everyone and with the world in hoping and praying that this pandemic will end soon.
With the close of the work week is the regular First Impression update where I feature my current read and the impression I got, so far. Just like the past two months, I have decided to do another regional literature month. From African literature to Asian literature, I am now immersing in the works of Latin American and Caribbean writers. I am commencing this journey with a title and an author I have been looking forward to for the longest time. I have first encountered peripatetic Chilean novelist Roberto Bolaño in must-read lists. His novels The Savage Detectives and 2666 are often recommended as must-reads. My curiosity was piqued then but availing copies of the books were another thing. Last year, I finally managed to purchase my own copy of these two books.
Of the two Bolaños, I chose to start with The Savage Detectives because it has been with me longer than 2666. The Savage Detectives started in Mexico City, which I found surprising after learning that Bolaño was Chilean. Anyway, the first part of the book, aptly titled Mexicans Lost in Mexico (1975), was narrated by a 17-year-old aspiring poet, Juan Garcia Madero. Garcia Madero laid out the landscape of the novel, introducing each of the characters who, I assume, would play seminal roles in the narrative. However, the novel’s primary characters, Ulises Lima and Arturo Belano felt more like phantom characters as the first part of the novel explored the lives of young poets in contemporary Mexico.
Lima and Belano still felt like phantom characters in the second part. The second part, I have learned, is the heftiest section of the novel; I am halfway through it I guess. The second part is also narrated in the first person perspective. However, it is through the voices of several characters that Lima and Belano have encountered during their bohemian days travelling all over Europe and Israel. In contrast to the first part which was related through the form of a journal or a diary, the second part is a collection of anecdotes, of unexpected encounters with the pillars of the “visceral realist” movement.
Whilst the second part was titled “The Savage Detectives (1976-1996)”, there has been very little sleuthing so far. The story, and consequently, Lima and Belano, felt like it was just gliding along. There were neither major tensions nor conflicts. The storytelling feels dazed, or in some kind of a high. It was through these multiple characters that Lima and Belano’s journey all over Europe was woven. Ironically, there is also very little poetry woven into the narrative even though it seems like it is a novel of poets. It was a challenge sifting for discourses on literature in general as well.
However, as I was writing this update, a picture is slowly forming on my mind, aided by the several interviews in the second part and the synopsis which referred to Lima and Belano as “hunted men”. I am beginning to understand why the structure of the second part was digression of the first. What I am waiting to learn is what made Lima and Belano “hunted men”. I just learned that Arturo Belano was the author’s alter ego. Interesting. I just also learned that the poet they were searching for, Cesárea Tinajero, was from the 1920s. There was very little details about her so far and I am hoping to learn more as the story moves forward.
Will The Savage Detectives be a quixotic journey? With my weekend a bit freed up, I am hoping to complete reading the novel over the weekend. That’s it for now. How about you fellow reader, what book are you going to read this weekend? I hope it is a book that you’ve been looking forward to and I hope you enjoy it. Keep safe, and happy weekend