In this very short early novel by Bolaño, the title character has coped with his near-destruction in the holocaust of Verdun by retreating into the study of mesmerism. But when he agrees to treat a Chilean poet's hiccups, he finds that the world he thought he had escaped is once more reaching its tentacles into his life. Paris in 1938 is evoked as a dreamlike world of clammy dread. Fascists and surrealists alike bedevil M. Pain, who is completely ineffectual but nevertheless retains a strange dignity. Sometimes I found the writing a little repetitive and the situations predictably bizarre, but there's no denying the hypnotic power of the narrative.
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