Sunday, January 4, 2009

The City is a Neural Network, Roberto Bolaño

The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño follows the lives of several poets, writers and artists associated with the short-lived Visceral Realist group in Mexico City.  A chronicle comprised of dozens of interviews, each complete with its own distinctive voice.  Whether Bolaño's work is a roman á clef for his own Infrarealist movement is beside the point.  Bolaño captures the burgeoning life of global wandering from the late 60's through the mid 90's with the same speed and acuity of Jack Kerouac.    

Each segment provides a different perspective on the Visceral Realist movement and likewise its progenitors, Arturo Belano and the aptly named Ulises Lima. At the same time it shows the interconnectivity of the various people involved in Mexico City arts-- their place in relation to the major movements of the day and their down-and-out lives. 

In utilizing an interview style, Bolaño writes a fictionalized verbal history with all of the unlikelihood, lapses and distinctiveness of the real thing.  He synthesizes the Homeric, rabbinic and monastic traditions in building the legend of the Visceral Realists.  He draws a map of influence, friendship, hatred, lust and insanity that follows the two founding characters.  Bolaño only uses linguistic polish as an extension of the character's voice.  He keeps the details raw, strung out in the cold, dangerous world.  

The novel continually returns to Mexico City: its slums and suburbs.  The world is endlessly compelling because of its truth and its equal nearness to mortality, obscurity, survival and immortality. Questions of fiction and meta-fiction are secondary.  Bolaño succeeds in showing the world, exactly as it exists-- within the minds of the people we know, the voices we hear, and within the relative striving to know and capture it in its purest essence. 


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