(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The Savage Detectives recounts the history of avant-garde poets from 1975 in Mexico City until 1996 in Africa. Their literary movement, visceral realism, begins with a mischievous revolutionary fervor but later spins apart through jealousy, murder, flight, despair, insanity, and, in a very few cases, self-discovery. Although the underlying plotline is straightforward, the narrative structure and multiple points of view belong uniquely to this novel. It is divided into three sections that present the story out of chronological order.

“Mexicans Lost in Mexico” concerns the last two months of 1975 and takes place wholly in Mexico City. It is told through the diary entries of Juan García Madero, a seventeen-year-old whose ambition is to study literature and become a poet. He encounters two older poets, Arturo Belano and Ulysses Lima. Belano and Lima are poètes maudits, the founders of visceral realism, which is defined mostly by its vigorous opposition to mainstream Mexican literature. They gather about them a variety of younger poets, painters, and dancers, publish magazines, organize or invade poetry readings, and migrate from one dive to another in endless discussion. To finance their literary work they peddle marijuana. By chance, the pair discovers that a previous poet also used the term visceral realism to describe a literary movement. This poet is Cesárea Tinajero, a shadowy figure from the 1920’s known for a single published poem. Belano and Lima decide to track her down.

Meanwhile, García Madero helps rescue a young prostitute, Lupe, from her pimp. As the section draws to a close, the pimp threatens violence if Lupe is not returned to him. With the timely help of Belano and Lima, García Madero and Lupe barely escape a shootout. The four flee Mexico City, heading for Sonora and the last known location of Tinajero

The long middle section, “The Savage Detectives,” leaps forward in time. Belano and Lima have fled to...

(The entire section is 814 words.)