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the Complete Review
the complete review - poetry

The Romantic Dogs

Roberto Bolaño

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To purchase The Romantic Dogs

Title: The Romantic Dogs
Author: Roberto Bolaño
Genre: Poetry
Written: 1999 (Eng. 2008)
Length: 143 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: The Romantic Dogs - US
The Romantic Dogs - UK
The Romantic Dogs - Canada
Les chiens romantiques - France
Die romantischen Hunde - Deutschland
Los perros románticos - España
  • 1980-1998
  • Spanish title: Los perros románticos
  • Translated by Laura Healy
  • This is a bilingual edition

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Our Assessment:

B+ : impressive, melancholy selection

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Boston Review . 1-2/2010 Mara Pastor
The Guardian . 11/3/2011 Charles Bainbridge
The Independent . 25/3/2011 Boyd Tonkin
San Francisco Chronicle . 19/12/2008 Martin Rubin

  From the Reviews:
  • "These poems do not strive to settle their philosophical inquiries so much as they seek to dramatize them, leaving the reader with the mood of the questions rather than the security of their answers. In this they may seem unfinished and, at times, adolescent. But they also radiate the audacity of intellect, as well as the cruelty of vision, that have won their author a devoted following." - Mara Pastor, Boston Review

  • "The collection is dominated by a series of sustained reminiscences, fuelled by rage and a sense of cornered idealism" - Charles Bainbridge, The Guardian

  • "In verse as in prose, Bolaño tells tall tales and leads us on journeys through a surreal landscape of exile, longing and nostalgia." - Boyd Tonkin, The Independent

  • "Their lengths vary, but they are all concise, artful, beautifully crafted and with a sure, distinctive voice (...) All the remarkable pieces that make up this slim volume are dreams within dreams, produced by a fevered imagination but distilled into the calm, lapidary images of a master. Bolaño has been fortunate in his translator, Laura Healy, who has rendered his splendid Spanish into an English almost its equal." - Martin Rubin, San Francisco Chronicle

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The forty-four poems from nearly two decades collected in The Romantic Dogs, admirably presented in both the Spanish original and Laura Healy's solid English translations, show Roberto Bolaño to have been a fine poet, too.
       It's a surprisingly nostalgic selection, much of it a look back on the freedoms of youth, now left behind. The second poem is a 'Self Portrait at Twenty Years', the first -- the powerful title poem -- beginning:

Back then I'd reached the age of twenty
and I was crazy.
I'd lost a country
but won a dream.
       It was a time when: "growing up would have been a crime" -- and so:
I'm here, I said, with the romantic dogs
and here I'm going to stay.
       When he's 22 or 23: "It's 1976 and the Revolution has been defeated / but we've yet to find out" -- and they're still at an age when: "infinity doesn't scare us". Maturity, of sorts, eventually encroaches, and instead of infinite possibility he finds there are limits:
A Chilean educated in Mexico can withstand everything,
I thought, but it wasn't true.
       Some fit with the familiar fictions: there are poems of detectives -- crushed, frozen, lost. Of young women who have already endured too much: one "was 17 and had lost a son", another would: "tell you what happened to her / Between the ages of 15 and 18. / A pornographic horror movie".
       And there are farewell songs, and 'The Last Savage', in which:
     I had nothing to do
except walk in circles and remember
but even memory began to fail me.
       Eventually, finally:
But we know that all
Our affairs
Are finite (charming, yes, ferocious,
But finite)
The revolution is called Atlantis
And it's ferocious and infinite
But it's totally pointless
       Closing nicely with first a poem about his wife, 'Muse' and then the coda, 'With the Flies', The Romantic Dogs is a fine if relatively small and disparate collection. Well worthwhile, however.

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The Romantic Dogs: Reviews: Roberto Bolaño: Other books by Roberto Bolaño under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Chilean author Roberto Bolaño lived 1953 to 2003.

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