Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Review: Monsieur Pain
Monsieur Pain is among Bolano's first novels and possibly one of his most confusing. The basic plot is this, Pierre Pain is a poet and a Mesmerist that has been called to treat the husband of a friend of a friend. Before he can ever meet his patient, he is followed by a pair of Spainards that bribe him to keep him from treating the patient. The rest of the novel follows Pain as his life and his relationships appear to unravel around him.
As a mystery it kind of fails because the central mystery (who are these Spaniards Why do they want to keep Pain away from the patient?) is never really resolved. Characters come and go and maybe they're up to some nefarious purposes and maybe they're not. There are a series of really well-done scenes (particularly the movie theater sequence) but overall the novel feels like it's lacking a solid foundation.
One thing that occured to me about Monsieur Pain is that the book is about misunderstanding people and their intentions. Since we see everything from Pain's perspective, we're constantly seeing him misjudge people or misunderstand his relationship with them. There are times in the story when a friendly-seeming character suddenly and drastically turns unfriendly. Or other characters that have lives that are completely hidden from Pain until there's a reveal much later in the story.
I enjoyed Monsieur Pain, but I felt unsatisfied at it's conclusion. Maybe that's the point or maybe I just didn't get it, but it just felt as if there was more to tell or that some of the threads needed to be stitched back together to make something more cohesive. I'll recommend Monsieur Pain for fans of Bolano, but definitely not for people new to his work.