"This is going to be a horror story. A story of murder, detection and horror. But it won't appear to be, for the simple reason that I am the teller. Told by me, it won't seem like that. Although, in fact, it's the story of a terrible crime."
Don't be fooled by the idea that just because a Bolano book is shorter than the epic 2666 it is less of a challenge. You need all your concentration here and a mind that is quick to pick up on the facts that are given to you. Miss the fact that this story is set against the background of 1968 repression in Mexico and you are in trouble.
In some ways it helped having read a few years ago, and vaguely remembered the dealings with Mexico, in Mark Kurlansky's book 1968. That account of a fairly radical year gave me the ability to come to this book with the knowledge that some fairly horrible things were carried out in Mexico in the late sixties as the leaders of the day looked to crush any form of opposition. With the Olympics going to the country the last thing the leaders wanted were public displays of unrest and the universities were targeted to snuff out any potential student opposition.
Bolano puts his main character, a woman who hangs around with poets and professors in the literature department, bang in the middle of that action with her being the last one left inside the university as the army mounts a raid.
As she struggles to understand what is happening around her mind starts to travel through the past and the future.
A review follows soon...