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Monsieur Pain
Roberto Bolano
Adult Fiction BOLANO

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Bolano's brief, wonderfully eccentric novel moves around two themes he developed at length in The Savage Detectives-poets and conspiracies. In 1938 Paris, semirecluse Pierre Pain, the 48-year-old mesmerist narrator, is in love with young widow Marcelle Reynaud, who calls him to request his service in treating a friend's husband. Eager to impress, Pain agrees to treat the man, Oscar Vallejo, a Peruvian poet, who is hiccupping himself to death. Pain's re-entry into normal life soon goes awry: two thuggish Spaniards bribe him to withdraw from the case, Pain experiences auditory hallucinations, Madame Reynaud disappears, and Pain runs into a fellow mesmerist, Plomeur-Boudou, working as a torturer for Franco, who tells Pain an obscure tale about the purported assassination of Pierre Curie. Is all this simply a bizarre swirl of coincidences befalling a lonely and slightly mad bachelor, or are these events links in a chain of murders? One of Bolano's first novels, this already displays his brilliant, alchemical gift for transmuting the dead-ends of life into sinister mysteries. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

In a rainy Paris in April 1938, the famous Peruvian poet Cesar Vallejo, penniless and expatriate, lies dying of unknown causes in a second-rate clinic. Grasping at straws, Mrs. Vallejo and her friend Madame Reynaud consult a mesmerist named Pierre Pain. Pain is pursued by two Spaniards, who want to pay him to stop seeing Vallejo. However, about halfway through, Bolano seems to lose direction, avoiding the near suspense he has created and instead floundering in a discussion of mesmerism and an extended scene in the cinema where patrons' conversations become intertwined with movie dialog. The love affair between Pain and Madame Reynaud is never fully developed, and Pain's not very convincing dabbling into the occult bogs down the story. The work is salvaged somewhat by faint touches of humor, e.g., the pun on the titular character's surname, which means bread in French, and the full name's reference to Peter Pan. Verdict Owing primarily to the publication of the critically acclaimed The Savage Detectives and 2666, Bolano is undergoing a posthumous revival, as more of his manuscripts are being discovered, published, and translated. For that reason alone, libraries will need to acquire Monsieur Pain, but it's not up to the standard of Bolano's other works.-Lawrence Olszewski, OCLC Lib., Dublin, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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main characters Cesar Vallejo
Undiagnosed illness; unable to stop hiccuping.

Pierre Pain
Age: 48
Mesmerist; timid bachelor; in love with the widow Reynaud; bribed not to treat Vallejo; access to the hospital is barred; guilty; haunted; anxious; wanders the street of Paris.

Marcelle Reynaud
Friend of Cesar's wife; asks Pain to treat her friends husband leaves Paris.

Mesmerist; practioner of the occult sciences; uses expertise to interrogate prisoners.

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