the observer Sat 12 September 2009
With The Savage Detectives having already been proclaimed Roberto Bolaño's "masterpiece", a new superlative is needed for this, the Chilean author's colossal final work. Still unfinished at his death in 2003, it is constructed of five independent but interlinked novellas that take us from Europe to Mexico to postwar Germany, and from the world of literary rivalry to gruesome underground murders. The common thread is elusive German writer Archimboldi, who appears in part one as the quarry of a coterie of critics. The action soon shifts to a Mexican border town, scene of a monumental killing spree. All five parts are wonderful but the crowning glory is the last, where the many threads come together in a satisfying conclusion.
the guardian Fri 04 September 2009
The posthumous appearance of Bolaño's mammoth magnum opus caused one reviewer to proclaim that it "makes difficulty sexy". In fact it concerns a pair of rival literary critics who find sex difficult, one of whom "could screw for six hours (without coming) thanks to his bibliography" while the other "finished half dead sheerly on the basis of strength and force of will". It takes some force of will to make it through this sequence of five separate, tangentially linked novels, the recurring thread of which is the identity of a reclusive author named Benno von Archimboldi, whose impenetrable books have become cult objects among academics. The mysterious author may or may not be related to a series of sadistic killings in the Mexican border town of Santa Teresa, where an investigative journalist known as Fate has a curious conversation with a hotel clerk about Michael Jackson. In the porter's opinion, "Michael knows things the rest of us don't". Could it be that the King of Pop has taken the secret of Bolano's fathomless novel to the grave?