Monday, October 15, 2007

Threnody In The Desert

Threnody, our young 17 year old poet, Garcia Madero tells us, is an elegy that is not recited in the presence of the dead. And that is what The Savage Detectives is.........a threnody for unsung poets, lost, forgotten, dead and killed sometimes, sometimes in a desert.

This is my 3rd post about the The Savage Detectives, a novel for which I have now stopped using adjectives, as I have run out of them. The third and final section of this novel is called The Sonora desert, and brings us back to the narrator of the 1st section, Juan Garcia Madero, 17 years old, young, poetic, in love, fleeing, fleeing into the desert dust with Belano and Lima and Lupe, in search of the mythic poet Tinajero, followed at every step by Lupe' pimp, the murderous Alberto. The beginning of this section is one of the most delightful parts of the book, in which Madero, to kill time or to distract the others and to entertain them starts testing their knowledge about poetic forms and meters, asking them if they know what free verse is followed by terms like glyconic, hemiepes, paragogic, chiasmus, ictus and so on.

All the while, as they blaze into the desert, they are searching for Tinajero, of mythic and forgotten fame. Each step is dangerous as Alberto is always just a step behind. This section and the novel ends in eclipse and exile, a blaze of sunsets, heartbreaks and dust. And so at last, we reach the end of a novel, which to borrow from the inside jacket is..........mesmerizing, multi layered, tragicomic, an odyssey, a journey, a search for the meaning of literature in a world on the edge of collapse, a novel in a class entirely of its own.

One of the most important aspects of this novel is its structure, in spite of its length. There are multiple narrators, each with his or her own story, in each way revealing or talking about literature, broken dreams, love, sex, life, that kind of thing ( To borrow from Bolano.) Each story can exist on its own, as a sketch, a dream, a desire and nowhere do the stories seem superfluous or un neccessary. They are a part of this cosmic desire to search for meaning or an explanation for the reasons that we need to live, amongst so many to die. And these reasons are part of the same reasons to read and write, same life and the same death.

Bolano refused to accept that his was mostly a literature of exile. However, exile is an important part of his entire oeuvre, for it seems that without this or other tragic circumstances, literature and poetry will not reveal to the seeker or in this case the savage detective. And maybe, if we read his other stories and novels, one feels an interconnected, underlying current, from his glorious Last evenings on earth to the fascinating amulet and this novel too, perhaps the stories are the same, the same search, pain, loss, exile.

Bolano's stories, heart wrenching and cataclysmic as they are, end in defeat. All the loves too. And the constant refrain is that then we never met again, or we parted forever or this love was lost or he died or killed himself, that kind of thing. He gives their stories space, expression, words and poetry. Thus Bolano, in one story and other stories writes of defeat and loss, exile and suffocation. Not for a moment should we think that he is always on their side for there is a sharp, cruel and almost merciless sense of underlying sarcasm and humour behind the words, in perhaps the lesson of each narration. It is in laughing at these participants in this game of love and literature that Bolano lifts their stories and catapults them into the high territory of tragedy.

Amadeo, we will find Cesarea ( Tinajero) for you even if we have to look for every stone in the north. I said don't do it for my sake. It is no trouble, it is a pleasure. And I insisted don't do it for me. We are not doing it for you, we are doing it for Mexico, for Latin America, for The Third world, for our girl friends because we feel like doing it.

This game is not really savage, this hunt, this escape. It is tragic and tender. But it is never ordinary. I think Bolano is a writer of elegies, of dirges, wails and epitaphs. Bolano has written a beautiful threnody or a succession of them, for all those who died when they were young, with poems in their hearts or for those who live still, in spite of having been in the heart of love and poetry but find themselves in deserts of one or the other sort, having lost all poetry. That kind of thing.

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