Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Roberto Bolano's Mauricio "The Eye" Silva and The Savage Detectives

Mauricio "The Eye" Silva is a strange short story that is not at all like I expected it to be from the title. When I hear the title, I envision a story about a boxer or something, although I realized before I even read it that that was unlikely. This story is about the relationship between himself and "The Eye", which leads into a weird story about one of "The Eye's" odd life experiences. I don't think it ever says why they call him "The Eye". The narrator and Mauricio meet in Mexico City and become friends. Mauricio is a homosexual. Eventually Mauricio leaves Mexico without telling the narrator. The narrator left a few years later and headed to Paris, which happened to be the last place "The Eye" was supposed to have been. The narrator looks for him there, but doesn't find him. Instead he finds him when he wasn't expecting to find him. Some years later he goes to Berlin for work, and while returning to his hotel one night he finds none other than Mauricio "The Eye" Silva waiting for him. They stayed up all night and went to bars and drank and talked. Mauricio feels bad about something and wants to tell the narrator a story that he had never told anybody else. They returned back to the hotel and he began to tell his story.

Apparently "The Eye" had gone to India for his work some time ago. He was supposed to photograph the prostitutes district in some city. He was offered the chance to sleep with a prostitute, which he refused. Apparently the pimp realized he was gay because he brought him to a brothel for males. The story gets weird when he starts talking about how some young Indian boys are offered to a deity as a sacrifice. The sacrifice is the young boys male parts. They castrate the boy for the sake of a ceremony, and then he is disowned afterwards. Most of them end up in a brothel. Long story short, Mauricio comes into contact with a young boy who had already been castrated and another young boy who was going to be castrated the next morning. He doesn't like this idea very much so he steals both of the children away and runs off with them to another town. He lives with them for a while and raises them, telling everyone in the community that they are his children. Sadly, "the disease" as it is called on page 119, hits the village and kills both children. Heartbroken, Mauricio returns back to the city where he originally steals the children from. He calls up an old friend and asks for a plane ticket, and the story ends with "The Eye" weeping uncontrollably.

The Savage Detectives is a longer story, so we only read an excerpt of the whole thing, but it was an interesting part. The narrator again meets a random person named Arturo Belano, this time in Africa. They were both photographers there for work. The narrator, Jacobo Urenda, sees Belano as someone who doesn't care about living and is looking to get himself killed. Urenda went back to Paris for a while, and meanwhile Belano heads for the interior of Luanda which is thick with gang wars. They don't meet up again until a couple of years later. Belano seems to have started caring about his life more now, though he is still working for the same newspaper he was working for. They part ways again, and Urenda heads back to Paris to visit his wife for a short time and then heads to Monrovia, Liberia. This is where the majority of the story takes place. He stays in a hotel with a bunch of other journalists. The nearby area is full of civil war and open rebellion, and rebels attack anything that moves in the area. Urenda looks for Belano in the area but does not find him. He tries to leave the country but is unable to go. He and a few other journalists decide they want to make an expedition into the surrounding area. As they are riding towards a few small towns called Brownsville and Black Creek, they start to think maybe they made a mistake in coming to that area. Urenda is talking to an Italian journalist the entire ride until they come under fire from the side of the road near a village called Black Creek. The Italian man is shot in the temple, and the guide is wounded. The Chevy they are riding in takes multiple gunshots to the hood, which cripples the engine. They sit around with the dead Italian man and wait for the guide to return. He eventually comes back with his family. They move the Italian man's body into a nearby house so the dogs don't eat the body after everyone leaves. They try to make it back to Monrovia, but the truck only makes it to the next town, Brownsville. They pull up into town and get confronted by a pair of armed men coming out of a house. The guide talks to them and arranges for all of the travelers to stay in their house. There are other armed soldiers in the house as well as a very famous photographer and none other than Belano.

They find out that they are basically surrounded by hostile forces in the area and come up with a plan to get back to Monrovia. Belano and the other photographer decide that they want to go with the soldiers, which is seen as a death wish by everyone else. Belano seems to have slipped back into his old 'wanting to get himself killed' stage and has apparently found a kindred spirit in the other photographer because Belano wants to go with him so he doesn't die alone. The narrator makes it back to Monrovia, and leaves Liberia for good. Just before leaving he tries to find out what happened to Belano and the other photographer and the soldiers, but he is unable to figure it out. The excerpt of the story ends without ever saying whether or not Belano survived his trip.

Some random thoughts I had while reading: both of these stories started out the same. The author randomly meets a guy from Chile somewhere else in the world and they hit it off and become friends. His style of writing is so conversational. I like it. It flows well. The narrator has a knack for running into people. Thats how he met the characters from each story and he randomly ran into each one again later on in each story and has a reunion with them. In the excerpt he randomly runs into Belano more than once. The people he meets never know how to say goodbye either. They all just leave without notice. Lastly, the stories both ended so abruptly. They left me wanting more, but more because they felt unfinished rather than an actual desire to continue reading these stories. All in all, they were very strange. One was about a homosexual who kidnaps little castrated Indian boys in order to save them from an even more pitiful existence. The other story was about a journalist who ventures into a war torn area of Africa in search of a long lost acquaintance and has a bit of an adventure there, while managing somehow to find the person he was looking for only to lose him again to an unknown fate. Interesting stories, but not my favorite content.

1 comment:

  1. I did not read "Savage" detectives, yet I too am a boxing fan, as I'm guessing you are by your comment. I read this yesterday, and was very taken by it. I think what you're missing is the way the story is reported almost, and we go on a journey into darkness (a boxing match is mentioned) The non violence becoming violence, "The Eye, if you read it, becomes "I" first person narrative almost interchangeably