Monsieur Pain by Bolano

Although Monsieur Pain is written by a writer from Chile, I read it for Paris In July because the setting is Paris, 1938.

It is the first novel I have ever read written by Roberto Bolano, and it remains as murky in my mind as Haruki Murakami’s works did when I first began reading him. Perhaps one reads him more for the atmospheric qualities, the surrealistic and the noire aspects, more than the plot. I don’t have a single astute thing to say, as my mind is reeling, except that this was a fascinating novel of mood…one that left me as confused and as unsure as Monsieur Pain was himself.

It does not escape me that his name, Pain, so resembles the English word “pain”, although the French translation is “bread”. Much to think about here…

Paris, 1938. The Peruvian poet Cesar Vallejo is in the hospital, unable to stop hiccuping. His wife calls on an acquaintance of her friend Madame Reynaud; the mesmerist Monsieur Pain. A timid bachelor, Pain is in love with the widow Reynaud, and agrees to try to use his powers to help save the poet’s life. But then two mysterious Spanish agents intervene, determined to keep him from treating the patient.

Terrible anxiety enters the story–along with another practitioner of the occult sciences, tarot cards, nightmares, Mme Curie, WWII, hopeless love, and an assassination. Poor Monsieur Pain, haunted and guilty, wanders the crepuscular, rainy streets of Paris…(inside flap)
Have you read Bolano? Is he as difficult to define as I am finding?

10 thoughts on “Monsieur Pain by Bolano”

  1. Wow. You've been getting a lot of reading done, Bellezza. I'm impressed! I haven't read Mr. Bolano yet, so I can't answer your question. You certainly make this book sound interesting (Pain for pain and bread. Reynaud related to fox?). I will keep it on the radar. Thanks!


  2. I know! I'm reading insane amounts of books! It's the best summer I could possibly have, and each day is a treasure. Things will definitely slow down when I'm back at teaching mid-August.


  3. Interesting review, Bellezza! Glad to know that you enjoyed 'Monsieur Pain' though you have said that it is difficult to write about. I liked your comparison of the meanings of 'Pain' in English and French :)I have read one book by Roberto Bolano – 'The Savage Detectives'. It is loosely based on his own life. There was an interesting story for the first 20-odd pages and then the story went ahead by a decade or more and it just had a series of monologues by different people. I found it quite difficult to read for a while, but after I got into it, I loved it. Bolano seems to have lived quite an adventurous life and reminds me of Arthur Rimbaud.


  4. Vishy, I haven't read anything by Arthur Rimbaud and this is only the first Bolano I've read, but that's one of the things I love about blogging: finding new authors from one another! I'm interested to know that you find it a bit difficult to read for awhile, because I didn't particularly find Monsieur Pain what I would call an easy read.


  5. I've reviewed both 2666 & The Savage Detectives.Both you're best letting them haunt you for a while, then finding a reference you like & work from that. 2666 was definitely the harder I wrote that 1 backwards starting with my conclusion & image of 3 blind kids describing an Elephant. I absolutely adored 2666, although at times it horrified love the look of Dolce Bellezza


  6. Oooh, I haven't read this one yet, but I love Bolano. His language is breathless and sometimes crazy-all-over-the-place, but for that it's breathtakingly beautiful too. I highly recommend By Night in Chile and also 2666, which is lllooong but fairly rewarding. As with Murakami, not everything makes sense, but that shouldn't stop you from enjoying the ride.


  7. I LOVED 2666 and possibly will love everything by him. I'm so enamoured by his writing! "A fascinating novel of mood" is an apt description of that novel as well.. I still have The Savage Detectives on the TBR shelf and saving it for a rainy day.


  8. The Murakami link is apt, both of the writers works when you put them down, leave you feeling like you've left some dream state & need some space to work out what happened.They both create realities that jar, with our everyday perceptions,leaving us slightly off kilter when we emerge back in our world, with that sense of "what happened there"Ps. can't wait to read this Bolano, thought savage detectives was my favourite, till I read 2666, now- last evening on earth is(its such a gorgeous book), so what next?


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