I have taken this license of naming my 2nd post on The Savage Detectives after this fabulously named drink, mezcal, that Amadeo Salvatierra offers to Belano and Lima, the savage detectives at the beginning of the 2nd section of this great novel."Ah, what a shame they don't make Los Suicidas Mezcal anymore," says Amadeo, "what a shame that times passes, don't you think? what a shame that we die, and get old, and everything good goes galloping away from us." It seems there is only one bottle and the rest of the time must be spent only in drinking tequila. "The two of them standing and me sitting, drinking and savouring each drop of Los Suicidas and thinking who knows what". And later he says, "when the glass is full, shall we say glazed with mezcal, the tequila is more at ease, like a naked woman in a fur coat". This conversation sets the tone for this section, which is the best Bolano I have read so far. "Salud, then! I said. Salud, they said."
This section which runs over a few hundred pages, is narrated by more than thirty narrators, who alternate with each other in a cyclical, almost rhythmic manner. The seemingly outward purpose is to construct a history and the actions of the two detectives as they crisscross across continents, unknown and unseen generally, like shadows, like ghosts. Their outward actions, or conversations with a few people, their motives, their words, their poetry, sighs, sadness and happiness is thus constructed from these narratives, which relies on the memory and the opinion of those few people who actually know them and in some cases from those who have heard about them. During this narration, we also get to know in more detail the various narrators themselves, for they form the outer thread or circle of this very clandestine group of visceral realists. Amadeo possesses the only copy of Caborca, the magazine wherein lies the only published poem of Tinajero, which our two poets are after.
Once we are familiar with one narrator, we can expect a particular form of voice or style which is peculiar to each one of them. Thus, as Amadeo speaks, we see his lamentation for Mezcal flow within his general heartache for lost time as he narrates wistfully his history of Cesarea Tinajero, the poet who vanished. Amadeo is thus a senior statesman, and our two Young men seemingly have some regard for his sighs. From narration to narration we rock and flow, from heartache to heartache to pain, from adventure to poetry but this adventure is all poetry.
One of the most important things that happens in the 2nd section is that we never actually get to know these two detectives, because they seem to be absent from the page themselves, as if they were being talked about only, if they had never existed or only were known to exist, or if their existence was so tragic and melancholic and abrupt that we must contemplate their poetry, or their attempt to be in poetry, for they are addicted and devoted to poetry, for they are supposed to be in poetry. thus what we see is the shadow of Belano and the ghost of Lima, we hang on the shadow of their words and on the promise of their poetry, for we actually know that they do exist for we have known their flight into a white impala, into the Sonora desert with our young poet Madero from the first section. This deliberate hush accentuates the savagery of these two poets or the savagery of their poetry which we never get to read but get to trust.
This novel flows on the wings of poetry and I know this sentence sounds too cliched. But yes, this is all poetry. what we see is a construction of a way of living, a romantic upheaval into the heart of Mexico city days and nights, which we must not forget is central to the existence of this novel. these narrators are all lynched by poetry, they have tried to be in the heart of literature or at least near those who were literature themselves. This novel evokes the childhood fire of some people who like moths dance around the young flame of life, in certain cities during certain nights, when those high on Mezcal or drunk with love and words float and drift and sing a high song, at a low or audible pitch, when their lover or lovers are around, when their love is about, when they have been and touched love and when love has just left them, as love has to leave and flee, when poetry and life has deserted them, when death has come or is about to strike.
Since there are more than thirty narrators, we get to trust their voice after sometime. we have amongst these Quim Font, who is most poetic, his daughters, luscious skin, and Auxilio, whose 10 pages are breathtaking, and these pages are even better than the whole of Amulet, where she is the only narrator. Belano's ex lover, Jauregi tells us "that visceral realism was his exhausting dance of love for me. The thing was, I didn't love him any more. You can woo a girl with a poem, but you can't hold on to her with a poem. Not even with a poetry movement". The loves these poets feel for each other are strange and real................"our relationship was spectral. I don't want to talk about love, and I am reluctant to talk about desire. we only had a few things in common: some films, some folkloric figurines, the way he liked to tell tales of desperation, the way I liked to listen to them".
The constant feeling when one reads this novel is the sense of loss that pervades these narratives, as each potential poet packs in and fades, dies and disappears. This narration which does not appear to be but is a sad narration, a wistful narrative, a melancholic prose poem, a haunting history of the lives of these past lives, is a searing experience for it reminds us, some of us who might have had a faint ambition of being in poetry or in love, of our own failure, of our own savage ambition. this novel gives you , "moments, something truly beautiful, the kind of moment that can last for a second or two or your whole life, because there is something for everyone on this cruel earth."
There are fabulous passages in this section and this one one is one of the best............How late it was, that time when night sinks into night, though never all of a sudden, the white footed Mexico city night, a night that endlessly announces her arrival, I am coming, I am coming, as if she too, the devil, had stayed behind to watch the sunset, the incomparable sunsets of Mexico, the peacock sunsets.........
As Francisco Goldman observes, "Bolano shows how time punishes us for the rebellious dreams of youth, bringing disappointment, painfully modest accomplishments, broken loves, illness, even violent death and, simply, the end of youth. But for readers no longer young, the novel also conjures youth in all its hilariousness and overwrought drama, and reminds us of the purity of young people's faith—above all in poetry. It can also make a reader care deeply about the characters, almost like a parent, wanting happiness for them, fretting when it eludes them, and finally forced to accept that they will live out their destinies on their own."
I want you to make me see stars, I said to her one day. How long do you think stars last? she said. How long is a long time? she persisted. With this novel, we see various and different stars, before they fall down and disappear. Before they fall and leave a melancholy trace in the sky, before they fall down and leave some poetry and some pain, huge separation in our eyes. We see acts of poetry and acts of love which are perhaps the same. We notice also the disintegration of this fatal world, but at least we have seen a few stars.
I will write soon my third and final post on the last section, and complete this humble homage to a great literary masterpiece.