The Romantic Dogs, By Roberto Bolaño

Reviewed,Boyd Tonkin
Friday 25 March 2011 01:00 GMT

Bolaño, the phantom mega-star of global fiction since his death in 2003, thought of himself as poet first and novelist second. Yet this bilingual edition of 44 poems from the 1980s (in Laura Healy's singing, scorching translations) will lead fans onto some familiar terrain.

In verse as in prose, Bolaño tells tall tales and leads us on journeys through a surreal landscape of exile, longing and nostalgia. He can sound like a Whitman-esque visionary, as in "The Last Savage", or erotically star-struck, as with "La Francesa" and her love "brief as the sigh of a guillotined head", or lyrically touching, recalling teenage hooker "Lupe" and her lost baby. A pariah glamour often lights up his fatalism: "I'm here, I said, with the romantic dogs/ and here I'm going to stay".

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