A NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD WINNER
THE POSTHUMOUS MASTERWORK FROM "ONE OF THE GREATEST AND MOST INFLUENTIAL MODERN WRITERS" (JAMES WOOD, THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW)
Composed in the last years of Roberto Bolaño's life, 2666 was greeted across Europe and Latin America as his highest achievement, surpassing even his previous work in its strangeness, beauty, and scope. Its throng of unforgettable characters includes academics and convicts, an American sportswriter, an elusive German novelist, and a teenage student and her widowed, mentally unstable father. Their lives intersect in the urban sprawl of SantaTeresa—a fictional Juárez—on the U.S.-Mexico border, where hundreds of young factory workers, in the novel as in life, have disappeared.
Last year's The Savage Detectives by the late Chilean-Mexican novelist Bola o (1953 2003) garnered extraordinary sales and critical plaudits for a complex novel in translation, and quickly became the object of a literary cult. This brilliant behemoth is grander in scope, ambition and sheer page count, and translator Wimmer has again done a masterful job. The novel is divided into five parts (Bola o originally imagined it being published as five books) and begins with the adventures and love affairs of a small group of scholars dedicated to the work of Benno von Archimboldi, a reclusive German novelist. They trace the writer to the Mexican border town of Santa Teresa (read: Juarez), but there the trail runs dry, and it isn't until the final section that readers learn about Benno and why he went to Santa Teresa. The heart of the novel comes in the three middle parts: in "The Part About Amalfitano," a professor from Spain moves to Santa Teresa with his beautiful daughter, Rosa, and begins to hear voices. "The Part About Fate," the novel's weakest section, concerns Quincy "Fate" Williams, a black American reporter who is sent to Santa Teresa to cover a prizefight and ends up rescuing Rosa from her gun-toting ex-boyfriend. "The Part About the Crimes," the longest and most haunting section, operates on a number of levels: it is a tormented catalogue of women murdered and raped in Santa Teresa; a panorama of the power system that is either covering up for the real criminals with its implausible story that the crimes were all connected to a German national, or too incompetent to find them (or maybe both); and it is a collection of the stories of journalists, cops, murderers, vengeful husbands, prisoners and tourists, among others, presided over by an old woman seer. It is safe to predict that no novel this year will have as powerful an effect on the reader as this one.
One of the best novels I’ve read.
A brilliant effort, but flawed
I enjoyed much of the writing of ‘2666’, but I found the novel weak as a lengthy coherent story.
A note to the first edition states that in the last months of his life Bolaño insisted that the grand project of '2666' be transformed into a series of five novels corresponding to the five parts into which the work was divided. His heirs chose not to do this.
I am not sure what the experience would have been had I read each of the five parts on its own, but reading the five parts consecutively left me unsatisfied and looking forward to the novel’s ending. I even imagined different permutations of the sequence of the five parts, but I do not believe a different sequence that I imagined from the way the five parts were ultimately sequenced, would have improved the experience for me. In the end a disappointment.