Woes of the True Policeman

Roberto Bolaño; Translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer




Trade Paperback

272 Pages


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An International Latino Book Award Finalist

Begun in the 1980s and worked on until the author’s death in 2003, Woes of the True Policeman is Roberto Bolaño’s last, unfinished novel.

The novel follows Óscar Amalfitano—an exiled Chilean university professor and widower—through the maze of his revolutionary past, his relationship with his teenage daughter, Rosa, his passion for a former student, and his retreat from scandal in Barcelona.

Forced to leave Barcelona for Santa Teresa, a Mexican city close to the U.S. border where women are being killed in unprecedented numbers, Amalfitano soon begins an affair with Castillo, a young forger of Larry Rivers paintings. Meanwhile, Rosa, Amalfitano’s daughter, engages in her own epistolary romance with a basketball player from Barcelona, while still trying to cope with her mother’s early death and her father’s secrets. After finding Castillo in bed with her father, Rosa is forced to confront her own crisis. What follows is an intimate police investigation of Amalfitano that involves a series of dark twists, culminating in a finale full of euphoria and heartbreak.

Featuring characters and stories from his other books, Woes of the True Policeman invites the reader more than ever into the world of Roberto Bolaño. It is an exciting, kaleidoscopic novel, lyrical and intense, yet darkly humorous. Exploring the roots of memory and the limits of art, Woes of the True Policeman marks the culmination of one of the great careers of world literature.


Praise for Woes of the True Policeman

“The writing never feels stale but, rather incredibly, shines anew . . . The publication of a Bolaño novel, complete or not, is never anything less than an event of language and devilish wit.”—The Wall Street Journal

“Bolaño’s voice demands attention.”—The New Yorker

“Bolaño [seems] to come from an understanding that people are portholes; that a creation can represent singular space that otherwise would go unknown . . . He allows the novel to vibrate through its box.”—Vice

“Indelible Bolaño . . . [Woes of the True Policeman] may offer insight into the writer’s larger project.”—Los Angeles Times

“Full of delights . . . like watching a master magician unpacking his bag of tricks.”—The New Orleans Times-Picayune

"The much admired Chilean writer's final, unfinished novel is a seductive grab bag filled with the mysteries of sexuality and literature."—Kirkus Reviews
"Bolaño fans, and there are many, will have no trouble delving right in to once again devour the master linguist’s every word. The story, about a Chilean professor, Amalfitano, forced to flee Barcelona with his daughter to Mexico due to scandal, uses character names and themes from Bolaño’s previous novels and therefore feels somewhat familiar. Still, this is far from table scraps . . . even in an unpolished manuscript, his capacity for spinning out pages-long sentences using language in new and surprising ways shows that this is quintessential Bolaño. For writers, the various stages of completion wonderfully illustrate Bolaño’s creative process. With more time alive, Bolaño could have made this another treasure of world literature."—Casey Bayer, Booklist

In the Press

Work in Progress » Blog Archive » Between the Abyss and Misfortune
Prologue to Woes of the True Policeman by Juan Antonio Masoliver Ródenas Translated by Natasha Wimmer Woes of the True Policeman is a project that was begun at the end of the 1980s and continued until the writer's death.

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Read an Excerpt

According to Padilla, remembered Amalfitano, all literature could be classified as heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual. Novels, in general, were heterosexual. Poetry, on the other hand, was completely homosexual. Within the vast ocean of poetry he identified various currents: faggots, queers, sissies, freaks, butches, fairies, nymphs, and philenes. But the two major currents were faggots and queers. Walt Whitman, for example, was a faggot poet. Pablo Neruda, a queer. William Blake was definitely a faggot. Octavio Paz was a queer. Borges was a philene, or in other words
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  • Roberto Bolaño; Translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer

  • Roberto Bolaño was born in Santiago, Chile, in 1953. He grew up in Chile and Mexico City, where he was a founder of the Infrarealist poetry movement. He is the author of The Savage Detectives, which received the Herralde Prize and the Rómulo Gallegos Prize, and 2666, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Bolaño died in Blanes, Spain, at the age of fifty.

  • Roberto Bolaño