13 November 2011

By night in Mexico

Among the novels written by Roberto Bolaño, translator Natasha Wimmer was quick to identify The Savage Detectives as her favorite. According to her, it is "just the easiest one to fall for". While working on her translation of the novel, she personally went to Mexico and visited the places mentioned in the book. She talked about it in an interview posted in Granta Online Only:

I know that you spent some time in Mexico City when working on The Savage Detectives, Bolaño’s debut novel – in what way did this affect your interpretation of the book?

Natasha Wimmer: [T]he time I spent there completely transformed my understanding of the book. The Savage Detectives is a love song to Mexico City, and to walk the same streets that Bolaño and his characters walked gave me a very intimate, visceral sense of the city and the novel. There’s something about Mexico City at night, in particular, that’s distinctive. For one thing, it’s darker than most other cities I know, which means that things seem to loom out at you as you walk, and you have the sense that you’re on the verge of the kind of bizarre encounter that Bolaño’s characters have all the time. I also spent time at Café La Habana (the original of Café Quito in the novel), which hasn’t changed much since Bolaño hung out there, and I stumbled over all kinds of cultural details that saved me from translation pitfalls (‘El Santo’??? for example, was one of the notes scribbled on my first draft of the translation; he is, of course, Mexico’s most famous masked wrestler, as I soon discovered).


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