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Esquire
Wednesday, April 11th, 2007
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The Savage Detectives: A Novel

by Roberto Bolano

Sex, Drugs, Pimps. And Poetry, Of Course.

A review by Buddy Kite

Meet the Visceral Realists: a razor-tongued, pot-smoking, self-obsessed gang of horny Mexican poets. There's Ulises Lima, a vagabond who infects his gracious hosts with scabies. And Luscious Skin, a lothario who recounts a "butt-lashing" sexual encounter over four very detailed pages. They're the anti-heroes in The Savage Detectives, a bizarre and mesmerizing novel by the late Chilean-born author Roberto Bolaño.

Just now published in English, the book is a fist-to-gut introduction to a deceptively powerful writer who died at age 50 in 2003. It's a lustful story -- lust for sex, lust for self, lust for the written word. On a self-destructive quest to figure out what the hell their own movement is even about, the gangster poets swing you from Mexico to Paris and back, eluding murderous pimps, plotting revolutions, and having lots and lots of sex along the way.

Their antics will repulse you. Your moral compass will be pissed upon. But in a world where a guy who cuts up his penis with a blade is considered a "real man," Bolaño's visceral realists shine. They offer a blunt yet poignant reminder: No, not all poets are tea-sipping aesthetes. In fact, say the wrong word about Bolaño and you might get knifed.


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