Monsieur Pain

by Roberto Bolano

Hardcover, 2010

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

New York : New Directions Book, c2010.

Description

A Bolaño classic. The Peruvian poet César Vallejo is in the hospital, afflicted with an undiagnosed illness and unable to stop hiccuping. His wife calls on an acquaintance of her friend Madame Reynaud: the mesmerist Pierre Pain. Pain, a timid bachelor, is in love with the widow Reynaud and agrees to help. But two mysterious Spanish men follow him and bribe him not to treat Vallejo. Ravaged by guilt and anxiety, Pain does not intend to abandon his new patient, but his access to the hospital is barred and Madame Reynaud mysteriously leaves Paris. Another practitioner of the occult sciences enters the story (working for Generalissimo Franco, using his mesmeric expertise to interrogate prisoners) -- as do Mme. Curie, tarot cards, an assassination, and nightmares. Meanwhile, a haunted Monsieur Pain wanders the crepuscular, rainy streets of Paris. . . .… (more)

Media reviews

User reviews

LibraryThing member kidzdoc
This novella is set in 1938 Paris, as the famed mesmerist Pierre Pain is urgently summoned by his friend and love interest, the young widow Marcelle Reynaud. The Peruvian poet César Vallejo, whose wife is a close friend to Reynaud, is dying in the hospital with a severe and unremitting case of hiccups, and the two women believe that Pain is the only clinician who can save his life. Pain comes to the hospital, but encounters two mysterious Spanish men, who offer him a substantial bribe to not treat Vallejo.

It sounds like an interesting story, right? However, the novel then diffuses into a confusing series of nightmares, odd circumstances, and inexplicable actions, and I quickly lost interest. I read half of the book closely, then skimmed over the rest with a mixture of boredom and annoyance.
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LibraryThing member Brasidas
Another plotless enigma from Bolano. It's set in Paris in 1938 when Pierre Pain, the eponymous narrator, a devotee of Mesmerism, is called in by his friend Madame Reynaud to see what he can do to halt the rapid decline of Cesar Vallejo. The Peruvian poet is apparently dying of hiccups. Reynaud recently lost her husband in a case in which Pain's intervention was ineffective, but now says she has "faith" in his ability to help Vallejo. Pain moves about a Paris beset by surrealist distortions: the hospital corridors twist in upon themselves à la the New York Guggenheim. ' "It's like a modern art gallery," I heard Madame Reynaud murmur. "The corridors are circular, in fact," I said. "If they were longer we could reach the top story without ever having noticed the climb." ' So off they go to see Vallejo with the poet's wife leading the way. But they are impeded, first by a nasty physician by the name of Lejard who, alluding to Pain, announces he has not time for charlatans; then by a more formidable delegation led by the previously unavailable Dr. Lemiere, who now deigns to take the Vallejo case. At the same time Pain is being followed for unknown reasons by two Spaniards. They give him cash, which he takes, upbraiding himself for cowardliness. His mentor Paul Rivette mentions the presence in the city of an old mutual acquaintance, Pleumeur-Bodou, now an intelligence operative for Franco's fascists. Both eventually end up in a cinema discussing a bizarre film which was grafted together from part of an aborted documentary and part of an aborted drama. There is massive intercutting between the voiceover of the film, Pain's thoughts, and the dialogue of Pain and Pleumeur-Bodou. You get the idea. None of this, needless to say, makes a bit of sense, nor was it meant to. Though one enjoys the deployment of the surrealist atmosphere there is no linear sense to be had, only subtext, to be pieced together from multiple readings. . . (This is my first.) The novel's a mindteaser but a pleasurable one and therefore recommended.… (more)
LibraryThing member jasonlf
While I started out liking this novella a lot, as it disintegrated into the surreal and disconnected my interest started to disintegrate as well. It tells the story of Pierre Pain, a mesmerist engaged to help cure a poet of a fatal case of the hiccups. His efforts are blocked by two mysterious Spaniards. Monsieur Pain gets drawn into an increasingly dreamy world with a montage-like feel of dram, film, and auditory hallucination. At some point I simply stopped following exactly what was happening. That said, it remains interesting -- just not as mesmerizing, so to speak, as the first 70 or so pages.… (more)
LibraryThing member Voise15
Playful but, I found, ultimately frustrating early Bolano. The usual circus of friends, mentors and fascists are all in there and there is both humour and pathos. I have read that in his earlier work Bolano tried to break as many rules of the novel as possible and what results on this occassion is a surreal but somewhat compelling dream like consciousness which he develops with more authority in some of his later work. In fact the novel appears to mimic the French art house film 'Actualite?' which the protagonist is forced to sit through in wet clothes during the story - remind me never to go and see that!… (more)
LibraryThing member AHS-Wolfy
A very strange little novel, weighing in at just 132 pages. It's a kind of noirish, dreamscape of a conspiracy thriller. The plot, for what it is, concerns the titular character as a doctor who uses alternative methods to treat his patients. He is requested to take the case of César Vallejo, whose own doctors are unable to diagnose his condition or stop his hiccuping either of which could lead to death. Unable to gain access to his patient on his first attempt he tries again only to be baulked by two mysterious Spanish gentlemen who offer a bribe not to treat him. Pain accepts this but later feels guilty and tries to see Vallejo again. Can he get through this time?

Several encounters with old acquaintances add depth to the main character but some of these leave you wondering if what happened was real or not. It creates quite a foreboding atmosphere but the lack of an overriding plot really hinders my enjoyment of this read as you do get the feeling that there should be something there but I just couldn't grasp it. Perhaps it requires multiple readings to gain an understanding but I doubt I'll go back and try. I haven't given up on the author yet as there is still enough here to tempt me to more of his work but probably not this one again.
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LibraryThing member soccerposeur
i am a sucker for books set during the period preceding WWII, and in this small gem, Bolano incorporates obscure occult history; includes historical figures like the poet Vallejo, who is given the quality of a figment; and maintains a noirish feeling by introducing one seemingly dangerous character after another. One of my favorite features of the book is the epilogue, in which the later lives of several characters are revealed by several voices. I found these outcomes downright moving and finally cared about the characters by the end.… (more)
LibraryThing member nosajeel
While I started out liking this novella a lot, as it disintegrated into the surreal and disconnected my interest started to disintegrate as well. It tells the story of Pierre Pain, a mesmerist engaged to help cure a poet of a fatal case of the hiccups. His efforts are blocked by two mysterious Spaniards. Monsieur Pain gets drawn into an increasingly dreamy world with a montage-like feel of dram, film, and auditory hallucination. At some point I simply stopped following exactly what was happening. That said, it remains interesting -- just not as mesmerizing, so to speak, as the first 70 or so pages.… (more)
LibraryThing member V.V.Harding
Roberto Bolaño's homage to Poe, perhaps "The Purloined Letter" because of the Parisian setting (which naturally affects the meaning of the title) might most enjoyably be read by those who are already Bolaño devotees. His long, delicately turning sentences (in translation at any rate) and the peculiar sense of distance between narrator and narrated are here for those of us who have already read his major novels, The Savage Detectives and 2666 and some shorter works, and so know what memorable experiences he can deliver; here the pleasure resides in the reading, with little lingering in the mind afterwards. But pleasurable reading is not a small achievement.… (more)
LibraryThing member soylentgreen23
Some say this is not worth reading if you're just getting into Bolano, but I strongly disagree. There's a lot to like about this excursion into detective fiction by the man who brought us '2666'.
LibraryThing member jonfaith
>Wherever the sun doesn't go I don't go either. Except to pubs. -- Bohumil Hrabal

Monsignor Pain is a delightful construction. It is a blurred exposure. It is an appropriate paranoiac period piece; the Paris of 1938 teemed with suspicions and throttled aspirations. Bolano's titular protagonist is a haunted sort, gassed during the Great War and living on a pension, he's an Occultist and a confident. His bleery hopes are all unrequited. He stumbles and yet clings. A downpour of madness and paranoia overtakes him for a two day trip out of the bounds of proscribed sanity: with the Peruvian poet Vallejo reclining just off stage.

The best images occur in Pain's rainy visit to a cinema. The air throughout the novella remains heavy with absinthe, wet clothing and vermin. Who could honestly want more than this?
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LibraryThing member Eoin
3.5 Eerie and surreal, this is an engrossing but ultimately unfulfilling novella by a master. Worth it for making the protagonist a Mesmerist!
LibraryThing member ChrisFRoth
Odd little book, and not a lot like his later stuff. More allegorical, with less character development. But you have to love the mesmerism theme.

Language

Original language

Spanish

Barcode

11292
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