When reading The Romantic Dogs, it seems necessary to keep reminding yourself that Roberto Bolaño was as much a writer of prose as he was of poetry – you cannot help but feel as if you are being told a story.
It is easy to read with its natural speech (due to the creditable translation by Laura Healy) and its effortless depth. Throughout, Bolaño’s early life of ‘chasing revolution’ between countries and cultures seems to give the collection a context of its own.
Pieces such as the title-poem The Romantic Dogs and Visit to the Convalescent have a strong sense of personal experience and nostalgia. We seem to be reading into Bolaño’s own memories and viewing his melancholic youth through the prose-like narratives.
… a beguiling cultural narrative that I found hard to put down…
The constant allusions to detectives, and friends from Mexico, both engage and detach us from Bolaño himself. As a book it is more like reading a collection of short stories.
The collection covers a whole mixture of motifs, and Bolaño’s strength is his ability to precisely portray moods through the extended themes. Due to its beguiling cultural narrative, it is one of the few books of poetry that I found hard to put down once I had started.
The Romantic Dogs has been republished by New Directions and is available for $15.95 (paperback).
Image courtesy of Roberto Bolaño