2666

2666

by Roberto Bolaño, Natasha Wimmer

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Overview

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466804821
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 07/09/2013
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 912
Sales rank: 27,862
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

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. His first full-length novel, The Savage Detectives, received the Herralde Prize and the Romulo Gallegos Prize when it appeared in 1998. Bolaño died in Blanes, Spain, at the age of fifty. NATASHA WIMMER 's translation of The Savage Detectives was chosen as one of the ten best books of 2007 by The Washington Post and The New York Times.


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. His first full-length novel, The Savage Detectives, received the Herralde Prize and the Rómulo Gallegos Prize when it appeared in 1998. Roberto Bolaño died in Blanes, Spain, at the age of fifty.
Natasha Wimmer is a translator who has worked on Roberto Bolaño’s 2666, for which she was awarded the PEN Translation prize in 2009, and The Savage Detectives. She lives in New York.

Read an Excerpt

2666


By Roberto Bolaño, Natasha Wimmer

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2004 the heirs of Roberto Bolaño
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-0482-1



CHAPTER 1

THE PART ABOUT THE CRITICS


The first time that Jean-Claude Pelletier read Benno von Archimboldi was Christmas 1980, in Paris, when he was nineteen years old and studying German literature. The book in question was D'Arsonval. The young Pelletier didn't realize at the time that the novel was part of a trilogy (made up of the English-themed The Garden and the Polish-themed The Leather Mask, together with the clearly French-themed D'Arsonval), but this ignorance or lapse or bibliographical lacuna, attributable only to his extreme youth, did nothing to diminish the wonder and admiration that the novel stirred in him.

From that day on (or from the early morning hours when he concluded his maiden reading) he became an enthusiastic Archimboldian and set out on a quest to find more works by the author. This was no easy task. Getting hold of books by Benno von Archimboldi in the 1980s, even in Paris, was an effort not lacking in all kinds of difficulties. Almost no reference to Archimboldi could be found in the university's German department. Pelletier's professors had never heard of him. One said he thought he recognized the name. Ten minutes later, to Pelletier's outrage (and horror), he realized that the person his professor had in mind was the Italian painter, regarding whom he soon revealed himself to be equally ignorant.

Pelletier wrote to the Hamburg publishing house that had published D'Arsonval and received no response. He also scoured the few German bookstores he could find in Paris. The name Archimboldi appeared in a dictionary of German literature and in a Belgian magazine devoted—whether as a joke or seriously, he never knew—to the literature of Prussia. In 1981, he made a trip to Bavaria with three friends from the German department, and there, in a little bookstore in Munich, on Voralmstrasse, he found two other books: the slim volume titled Mitzi's Treasure, less than one hundred pages long, and the aforementioned English novel, The Garden.

Reading these two novels only reinforced the opinion he'd already formed of Archimboldi. In 1983, at the age of twenty-two, he undertook the task of translating D'Arsonval. No one asked him to do it. At the time, there was no French publishing house interested in publishing the German author with the funny name. Essentially Pelletier set out to translate the book because he liked it, and because he enjoyed the work, although it also occurred to him that he could submit the translation, prefaced with a study of the Archimboldian oeuvre, as his thesis, and—why not?—as the foundation of his future dissertation.

He completed the final draft of the translation in 1984, and a Paris publishing house, after some inconclusive and contradictory readings, accepted it and published Archimboldi. Though the novel seemed destined from the start not to sell more than a thousand copies, the first printing of three thousand was exhausted after a couple of contradictory, positive, even effusive reviews, opening the door for second, third, and fourth printings.

By then Pelletier had read fifteen books by the German writer, translated two others, and was regarded almost universally as the preeminent authority on Benno von Archimboldi across the length and breadth of France.


* * *

Then Pelletier could think back on the day when he first read Archimboldi, and he saw himself, young and poor, living in a chambre de bonne, sharing the sink where he washed his face and brushed his teeth with fifteen other people who lived in the same dark garret, shitting in a horrible and notably unhygienic bathroom that was more like a latrine or cesspit, also shared with the fifteen residents of the garret, some of whom had already returned to the provinces, their respective university degrees in hand, or had moved to slightly more comfortable places in Paris itself, or were still there—just a few of them—vegetating or slowly dying of revulsion.

He saw himself, as we've said, ascetic and hunched over his German dictionaries in the weak light of a single bulb, thin and dogged, as if he were pure will made flesh, bone, and muscle without an ounce of fat, fanatical and bent on success. A rather ordinary picture of a student in the capital, but it worked on him like a drug, a drug that brought him to tears, a drug that (as one sentimental Dutch poet of the nineteenth century had it) opened the floodgates of emotion, as well as the floodgates of something that at first blush resembled self-pity but wasn't (what was it, then? rage? very likely), and made him turn over and over in his mind, not in words but in painful images, the period of his youthful apprenticeship, and after a perhaps pointless long night he was forced to two conclusions: first, that his life as he had lived it so far was over; second, that a brilliant career was opening up before him, and that to maintain its glow he had to persist in his determination, in sole testament to that garret. This seemed easy enough.


* * *

Jean-Claude Pelletier was born in 1961 and by 1986 he was already a professor of German in Paris. Piero Morini was born in 1956, in a town near Naples, and although he read Benno von Archimboldi for the first time in 1976, or four years before Pelletier, it wasn't until 1988 that he translated his first novel by the German author, Bifurcaria Bifurcata, which came and went almost unnoticed in Italian bookstores.

Archimboldi's situation in Italy, it must be said, was very different from his situation in France. For one thing, Morini wasn't his first translator. As it happened, the first novel by Archimboldi to fall into Morini's hands was a translation of The Leather Mask done by someone called Colossimo for Einaudi in 1969. In Italy, The Leather Mask was followed by Rivers of Europe in 1971, Inheritance in 1973, and Railroad Perfection in 1975; earlier, in 1964, a publishing house in Rome had put out a collection of mostly war stories, titled The Berlin Underworld. So it could be said that Archimboldi wasn't a complete unknown in Italy, although one could hardly claim that he was successful, or somewhat successful, or even barely successful. In point of fact, he was an utter failure, an author whose books languished on the dustiest shelves in the stores or were remaindered or forgotten in publishers' warehouses before being pulped.

Morini, of course, was undaunted by the scant interest that Archimboldi's work aroused in the Italian public, and after he translated Bifurcaria Bifurcata he wrote two studies of Archimboldi for journals in Milan and Palermo, one on the role of fate in Railroad Perfection, and the other on the various guises of conscience and guilt in Lethaea, on the surface an erotic novel, and in Bitzius, a novel less than one hundred pages long, similar in some ways to Mitzi's Treasure, the book that Pelletier had found in an old Munich bookstore, and that told the story of the life of Albert Bitzius, pastor of Lützelflüh, in the canton of Bern, an author of sermons as well as a writer under the pseudonym Jeremiah Gotthelf. Both pieces were published, and Morini's eloquence or powers of seduction in presenting the figure of Archimboldi overcame all obstacles, and in 1991 a second translation by Piero Morini, this time of Saint Thomas, was published in Italy. By then, Morini was teaching German literature at the University of Turin, the doctors had diagnosed him with multiple sclerosis, and he had suffered the strange and spectacular accident that left him permanently wheelchair-bound.


* * *

Manuel Espinoza came to Archimboldi by a different route. Younger than Morini and Pelletier, Espinoza studied Spanish literature, not German literature, at least for the first two years of his university career, among other sad reasons because he dreamed of being a writer. The only German authors he was (barely) familiar with were three greats: Hölderlin, because at sixteen he thought he was fated to be a poet and he devoured every book of poetry he could find; Goethe, because in his final year of secondary school a teacher with a humorous streak recommended that he read The Sorrows of Young Werther, in whose hero he would find a kindred spirit; and Schiller, because he had read one of his plays. Later he would discover the work of a modern author, Jünger, with whom he became acquainted more by osmosis than anything else, since the Madrid writers he admired (and deep down hated bitterly) talked nonstop about Jünger. So it could be said that Espinoza was acquainted with just one German author, and that author was Jünger. At first he thought Jünger's work was magnificent, and since many of the writer's books were translated into Spanish, Espinoza had no trouble finding them and reading them all. He would have preferred it to be less easy. Meanwhile, many of his acquaintances weren't just Jünger devotees; some of them were the author's translators, too, which was something Espinoza cared little about, since the glory he coveted was that of the writer, not the translator.

As the months and years went by, silently and cruelly as is often the case, Espinoza suffered some misfortunes that made him change his thinking. It didn't take him long, for example, to discover that the group of Jüngerians wasn't as Jüngerian as he had thought, being instead, like all literary groups, in thrall to the changing seasons. In the fall, it's true, they were Jüngerians, but in winter they suddenly turned into Barojians and in spring into Orteganites, and in summer they would even leave the bar where they met to go out into the street and intone pastoral verse in honor of Camilo José Cela, something that the young Espinoza, who was fundamentally patriotic, would have been prepared to accept unconditionally if such displays had been embarked on in a fun-loving, carnival-esque spirit, but who could in no way take it all seriously, as did the bogus Jüngerians.

Worse was discovering what the members of the group thought about his own attempts at fiction. Their opinion was so negative that there were times—some nights, for example, when he couldn't sleep—that he began to wonder in all seriousness whether they were making a veiled attempt to get him to go away, stop bothering them, never show his face again.

And even worse was when Jünger showed up in person in Madrid and the group of Jüngerians organized a trip to El Escorial for him (a strange whim of the maestro, visiting El Escorial), and when Espinoza tried to join the excursion, in any capacity whatsoever, he was denied the honor, as if the Jüngerians deemed him unworthy of making up part of the German's garde du corps, or as if they feared that he, Espinoza, might embarrass them with some naïve, abstruse remark, although the official explanation given (perhaps dictated by some charitable impulse) was that he didn't speak German and everyone else who was going on the picnic with Jünger did.


* * *

That was the end of Espinoza's dealings with the Jüngerians. And it was the beginning of his loneliness and a steady stream (or deluge) of resolutions, often contradictory or impossible to keep. These weren't comfortable nights, much less pleasant ones, but Espinoza discovered two things that helped him mightily in the early days: he would never be a fiction writer, and, in his own way, he was brave.

He also discovered that he was bitter and full of resentment, that he oozed resentment, and that he might easily kill someone, anyone, if it would provide a respite from the loneliness and rain and cold of Madrid, but this was a discovery that he preferred to conceal. Instead he concentrated on his realization that he would never be a writer and on making everything he possibly could out of his newly unearthed bravery.

He continued at the university, studying Spanish literature, but at the same time he enrolled in the German department. He slept four or five hours a night and the rest of the time he spent at his desk. Before he finished his degree in German literature he wrote a twenty-page essay on the relationship between Werther and music, which was published in a Madrid literary magazine and a Göttingen university journal. By the time he was twenty-five he had completed both degrees. In 1990, he received his doctorate in German literature with a dissertation on Benno von Archimboldi. A Barcelona publishing house brought it out one year later. By then, Espinoza was a regular at German literature conferences and roundtables. His command of German was, if not excellent, more than passable. He also spoke English and French. Like Morini and Pelletier, he had a good job and a substantial income, and he was respected (to the extent possible) by his students as well as his colleagues. He never translated Archimboldi or any other German author.


* * *

Besides Archimboldi, there was one thing Morini, Pelletier, and Espinoza had in common. All three had iron wills. Actually, they had one other thing in common, but we'll get to that later.

Liz Norton, on the other hand, wasn't what one would ordinarily call a woman of great drive, which is to say that she didn't draw up long- or medium-term plans and throw herself wholeheartedly into their execution. She had none of the attributes of the ambitious. When she suffered, her pain was clearly visible, and when she was happy, the happiness she felt was contagious. She was incapable of setting herself a goal and striving steadily toward it. At least, no goal was appealing or desirable enough for her to pursue it unreservedly. Used in a personal sense, the phrase "achieve an end" seemed to her a small-minded snare. She preferred the word life, and, on rare occasions, happiness. If volition is bound to social imperatives, as William James believed, and it's therefore easier to go to war than it is to quit smoking, one could say that Liz Norton was a woman who found it easier to quit smoking than to go to war.

This was something she'd been told once when she was a student, and she loved it, although it didn't make her read William James, then or ever. For her, reading was directly linked to pleasure, not to knowledge or enigmas or constructions or verbal labyrinths, as Morini, Espinoza, and Pelletier believed it to be.

Her discovery of Archimboldi was the least traumatic of all, and the least poetic. During the three months that she lived in Berlin in 1988, when she was twenty, a German friend loaned her a novel by an author she had never heard of. The name puzzled her. How was it possible, she asked her friend, that there could be a German writer with an Italian surname, but with a von preceding it, indicating some kind of nobility? Her German friend had no answer. It was probably a pseudonym, he said. And to make things even stranger, he added, masculine proper names ending in vowels were uncommon in Germany. Plenty of feminine proper names ended that way. But certainly not masculine proper names. The novel was The Blind Woman, and she liked it, but not so much that it made her go running out to buy everything else that Benno von Archimboldi had ever written.


* * *

Five months later, back in England again, Liz Norton received a gift in the mail from her German friend. As one might guess, it was another novel by Archimboldi. She read it, liked it, went to her college library to look for more books by the German with the Italian name, and found two: one was the book she had already read in Berlin, and the other was Bitzius. Reading the latter really did make her go running out. It was raining in the quadrangle, and the quadrangular sky looked like the grimace of a robot or a god made in our own likeness. The oblique drops of rain slid down the blades of grass in the park, but it would have made no difference if they had slid up. Then the oblique (drops) turned round (drops), swallowed up by the earth underpinning the grass, and the grass and the earth seemed to talk, no, not talk, argue, their incomprehensible words like crystallized spiderwebs or the briefest crystallized vomitings, a barely audible rustling, as if instead of drinking tea that afternoon, Norton had drunk a steaming cup of peyote.

But the truth is that she had only had tea to drink and she felt overwhelmed, as if a voice were repeating a terrible prayer in her ear, the words of which blurred as she walked away from the college, and the rain wetted her gray skirt and bony knees and pretty ankles and little else, because before Liz Norton went running through the park, she hadn't forgotten to pick up her umbrella.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from 2666 by Roberto Bolaño, Natasha Wimmer. Copyright © 2004 the heirs of Roberto Bolaño. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

A Note from the Author's Heirs,
1. THE PART ABOUT THE CRITICS,
2. THE PART ABOUT AMALFITANO,
3. THE PART ABOUT FATE,
4. THE PART ABOUT THE CRIMES,
5. THE PART ABOUT ARCHIMBOLDI,
Note to the First Edition,

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2666 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 107 reviews.
Beejie More than 1 year ago
First off, Bolaño's "2666" is the best book I've read in ten years. I've got a Bachelor's in English and my favorite hobby is reading - so I've read a lot. I love to read everything. And although I read constantly, this book reawakened me to what meaningful reading can feel like. It isn't necessarily the lightest of literary works. At times, the book felt like a marathon. It's not something you zoom through. Bolaño breaks up the long, complex story with countless stories-within-stories that could stand alone but aid in the richness of the overall. In the end, I was not only supremely pleased with the book itself but proud of myself, in a way, for getting through it. The rewards are ample. I have not spent so much time post-read considering plot, symbolism, meaning, characters, scenarios, situations and style in several years. You could write twenty books on the themes of "2666." All of the "books" (Parts) within the book correlate more than they connect. Each book has it's own flow and appeal. "The Part About the Crimes" can get very tedious. But there are reasons for it's drawn out dictation and blunt style. The characters in each Part are rich. The environments are haunting. There really isn't a traditional plot. The book is about human nature in the face of an often unforgiving world. With Bolaño, the world isn't always just unforgiving. It can be merciless without reason. But it still just keeps on spinning. I recommened this book to anyone I know who enjoys reading. Even those who didn't love it as much as I did, or have issues with it, state that they're glad they read it. As for the awards, the critical praise and the title of "the first classic of the 21st Century" - they all apply suitably. Personally, I'd been looking for something to snap me out of a literary/writing funk. There are great authors out there, and there is some great writing going on. But I wanted something with a challenge that wouldn't confound me, maybe something a little more mainstream and definitely something worth the time and effort. "2666" not only gave me that, but inspired me further. It makes you think without making you feel like an idiot. It opens you up to the emotions that a good writer can create by putting words together and allowing your mind and heart get sucked in. It reminds you how to read and why you read. And for all its flaws (and it does have them. Too long in spots. Too tedious at times. Too convoluted at other times. And yet, at other times, parts end abruptly. If you want to nitpick, you can find more), the flaws help you feel at ease. That a really, really great story doesn't have to be perfect. Maybe that's why I found it near-perfect for me. To those who buy it, I say: Really read it, not just the words. Try to appreciate it for more than just something with a beginning and end. Stick with it, even through the tough spots. Then make someone else read it and spend several hours arguing, debating, and re-living it.
SLROnline More than 1 year ago
2666 is huge, apocalyptic, brilliant, and evocative of the entire spectrum of human emotions. It's a symphonic masterpiece in text and structured like a Kurasawa movie. Five narrative threads where characters from across the globe come to the scene of a horrific and continuing series of crimes against young women make up the story. Though the actors in the story journey to or live in Santa Theresa, Bolano's fictional doppelganger for Cuidad Juarez, for personal reasons unrelated to the murderous crimes that have left a pall on the city for fifteen years, all find themselves caught up in the drama and the tragedy of the deaths and disappearances. From the Faulknerian confidence of his sentences, to the detailed explorations reminiscent of Joyce, to the epic scope of Goethe or Mann, Bolano has written a novel for the ages. For those who think big, meaty books aren't their cup of tea, stay away from this one. For those who are sick of being spoon fed the pablum that makes up most popular fiction, this is a book to challenge your skills as a reader and worm its way into the spot where your compassion lies. Written in the final years of his life, when he knew he was dying, Bolano has put heart, soul, mind, and body into this one. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those seeking epic greatness in literary fiction.
spanza80 More than 1 year ago
Belano's themes are international and his language is intoxicating. He varies the experience from impossibly long and elegant phrases to coldly clipped bullets of information. I have found no other mystery as hauntingly suggestive of the human condition as this. But, read at your own peril; by the end of the fourth part you will be rattled, I promise. This book is as brutal as it is beautiful.
OC_cliffdweller More than 1 year ago
I found 2666 to be a dazzling and endlessly fascinating tour of Bolano's imagination. Don't expect to read the book and have all the loose ends neatly tied up or have the story(s) unfold linearly. Major characters intermingle with minor ones who are never encountered again. Some are used as foyles to move the narrative and reappear at unexpected moments, others provide local colour to fill in the palette, and many of the rest are just the frothy exuberance of a completely engaging writer. These characters had the same effect on me as Mozart's endless thematic material in his best works where he throws away themes that most any other composer would have been glad to serve as the central motif. A more intrusive editor might have trimmed a hundred pages, but I loved every last bit. Yes, there are parts that are hard to read just as in real life we sometimes want to look away. Those graphic images remain vivid long after you put the book down. But then so do the depth of the characters, the twists and turns, and the eccentricities of the humanity presented. To dive into this book is to enter an all-encompassing thought-world. By the time you're through, you will understand the initial instruction to read the book at least twice, similar to Thomas Mann's introduction to The Magic Mountain. Do yourself a favor and read it. I loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a long book with many characters. The writing style can often slow the reading - long paragraphs. The descriptions of the murder victims are detailed but necessary to sort of numb the reader into grasping the immensity of the violence. Other graphic sexual descriptions detract from the story line.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is not the type of book that I typically would read. It is dense and challenging to follow. Bolano is incredible for the output and creativity and detail and breadth of reference to obscure topics, and particularly captures a central american mindset in a fictional town of Santa Theresa, Mexico. Never making his main points directly, always from many directions and just touching. The first chapters, and a mysterious author Archimboldi, hooked me in. It travels great distances of psyche and character to resolve this mystery, sort of. Difficult chapters on the murders, hard to take. I stuck with it, was educated, stimulated. But it was work, not recreation. It's the kind of book that would be interesting to discuss, but I am not sure I would recommend it to a friend to have someone to discuss it with.
Schwarza420 More than 1 year ago
I am sad to say that I was slightly disappointed with this novel. I (also) selected this book after reading a review of it in Time magazine, and feel as though I was deceived. The characters are dreary, the plot is scattered, and I felt that the premise of the novel surrounding itself around the murders of various women (imitating the Juarez murders) was inaccurate. As the Note in the back states, the novel could be divided into five parts, each read separately, which explains why the combination of all five left me confused and apathetic to the whole novel. What ever happened to the first three critics that were in part one? Or the philosophical widower? It would have been nice if Bolaño tied all the characters and the individual plots together in the last part. But he doesn't, and the reader is left feeling bemused. However, I will say that the author is undeniably brilliant. His writing is superb and unique; the breadth of his intellect is observed throughout the novel. If you are looking for a challenging, even philosophical read, than I would recommend this book. If you don't care for it after the first part, you can stop reading it because he never returns to those characters and their stories. I'd say give it a try.
Devine_Omega More than 1 year ago
Roberto Bolano's novel is an stimulating indulgement within the realm of timeless literature. The author, knowing that this would be his last novel before his untimely departure, managed to construct and illustrate and colossal work of fiction that will surpass his death. The characters are intriquete and similar in their vulnerabilities. The plot unfolds around the mysterious deaths of hundreds of women over the last years in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. From the beginning pages readers will be thrusted into an air of mystery which will unfold casually during the length of 900 pgs., however, be warned that if the book is not read with all five sense being alert simultaneously, by the end of lengthy piece of literature you might be left with the strong distaste when deciphering that the true theme of the author's work has utterly gone over your head.
Anonymous 7 months ago
When I began reading this novel, I thought oh brother! I then realized that it reminded me of dreams that I have, that roam from one scene to the next, like a stream of conscience. If I allowed myself to open my mind and accept the story, or stories, as just that- then the book became enjoyable to read.
librarianbryan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Women. Fate. Literature. Murder. The structure of this book expands and contracts teasing you with meaning. We're led so close to a revelation, but then it slips again over the horizon. Sometimes we're spiraling outward, and sometimes we're spiraling inward. What makes a good writer? What makes a good killer? Why do those that want to live die and why do those that want to die go on living? Much fuss is made over who the killer is this novel. It's revealed. It's just spread over the text like a blanket, instead of standing out like a big red bullseye. Do sociological attitudes have unforeseen results? Does unspoken ideology bleed into behavior? Someone who doesn't care, someone whose mind is far away do they have the capacity to love the most, or hate the most without realizing it?The best book we've read yet in the 2nd Wednesday Book Club.
giovannigf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Really great. Uneven at points, but none of it bad. It's novels like these that the term "tour de force" was invented for. I don't understand the reviewers who say it's difficult - painful, yes, because the subject matter is so dark, but the style is clear and unpretentious.
RossWilliam on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was beautiful, absurd, horrific, and flat out brilliant. The five stories stand alone, but the subtle details that connect them are so fun to discover. It was a rollercoaster of emotions, but when it ended I wanted to get right back on. The stories are complex. Bolano is precise with his detail, almost to a fault, but somehow he makes every character seem important. Don't be daunted by the size, this is a worthwhile endeavor.
JimElkins on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is not the masterpiece so many people say it is. That impression, I think, occurs mostly to people who have not written fiction. The book is very loose, with episodes that should be tighter, and some that should be longer. I think Bolaño thought that the wandering prose and insouciance about structure was a way of breaking out of the usual timid fictional modes. Ignacio Echevarría picks out the crucial passage on p. 896; it's the only passage in the novel that clearly announces Bolaño's ambitions for the novel. If you are not a writer, you can test this by asking yourself about the "Part about Amalfitano." It develops an acute psychological portrait of Amalfitano, centering on a book he puts on a clothesline. It is a striking invention, but it is not complete. Does its incompletion--we leave Amalfitano in an unresolved state--do anything for the architecture of the book? Is it necessary to leave it incomplete in order to propel the larger narrative? I think this is a writer's issue: Bolaño was developing his sympathies with Amalfitano as he went along, and at some point he couldn't get further into the character, so he changed the subject. There is nothing profound about that, no great plan, no narrative experimentation. It's just a small, ordinary failure of writing.A friend once told me a story about Pynchon: he sent a copy of "Gravity's Rainbow" to his old university professor, with the note, "Is this tight enough for you?" This isn't tight enough for me, despite many wonderful inventions.
emccullough on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Incomparable -- the closest I've come to this kind of reading experience is Joyce, Coetzee, and Hemon.
scofer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My words will not be able to do 2666 justice or even begin to be able to describe the experience of reading it. Absolutely incredible. Mindblowing. Brilliant. An intricate weave of seemingly (at first blush) unrelated stories. Layer upon layer of stories within stories. Like scurrying down a rabbit hole with random, diverging and converging paths. Or peeling an onion. Or playing with a seemingly endless matryoshka doll to find the next doll more fascinating than the last. Perhaps the only helpful thing I can add in this unhelpful review would be a recommendation to buy the version of the book that is broken down into three separate volumes rather than one large book. The ~900 pages are somehow less daunting that way. 2666 is a masterpiece. Truly.
gwalklin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This novel is thoroughly brilliant, puzzling, elusive, fantastic, and full of such life and energy and love of literature itself. It's infectious. It makes you read all over new again, to see the life in the pages you missed before. It's indelible in both a phenomenal and a horrible way -- confronting you with the despicable iniquity in "Santa Teresa" in a form that's ultimately going to be inadequate to confront. Bolaño was without a doubt the finest living writer before he died, and this book may just be the finest novel of the decade I've read (presuming we count "The Savage Detectives" as the 1990s, where it'd duke out the title with "Infinite Jest." Only a very few writers change how I look at novels--Melville, Wallace, McCarthy -- and Bolaño is one of them.
Oryan685 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I bought this book as soon as it came out with huge expectations and boundless excitement. Within the first few hundred pages my expectations came crashing down around me. What the hell? Pointless and rambling with fits of interesting narrative and characters that almost threaten to go somewhere but then abruptly fall off. I just couldn't make it through. It sits, dusty on my shelf, as one of the few books that I have ever begun and not finished. Perhaps one day I will try again. Those of you who loved this: you see something that I just cannot.
the_awesome_opossum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A decent review of 2666 is difficult if not impossible because whatever I say that it's about, I would be overlooking hundreds of other things which it is about as well. Bolaño's storytelling style is both polished and rambling, as he relates anecdotes, myths, and asides about dozens of characters, locations, and events throughout the novel.But each of the five novellas which make up 2666 end up, in one way or another, in Santa Teresa. It's a town in Mexico, only notable for its string of murders over a course of several years: hundreds of dispossessed women, sexually assaulted and strangled, most of them without anyone to care about their disappearance or death. Despite the stunning inhumanity of this crime, and despite that the section about the murders makes up the largest part of 2666, very little is actually said about the women. That book reads like a numbing laundry list: name, age, occupation, clothing, way each woman was killed. It becomes hard to care after awhile.The rest of the novel, in subtler ways, also resists the readers' temptations to slap meanings onto things too quickly or reductively. The first section begins with literary critics obsessed with a mysterious author named Benno von Archimboldi - they write papers relating his work to every literary-critical facet, while the author himself remains a semi-anonymous hermit. In the second book, a man named Amalfitano inherits a potentially magical book and finds scribbles about famous philosophers and authors, without enumeration of their connections, just this multiplicity of lists and graphs and names. And in the fifth section, only then do we actually meet Archimboldi, long after the critics have had their say, and find him to be a self-made completely false identity.Connections can be made between books, but to little effect. The book can be summed up in an offhand comment by Archimboldi: "This is what it's about, the silence, do you hear it?" Paradoxically, the gaps in the story are what remained with me the most. The inherent irrationality of violence and hatred, the sickening lack of concern shown for the hundreds of dead women, the loose ends of criminals who never got caught or never got what was due them. So the narrative itself imparts a sense of dissatisfaction and lack of direction, encompassing the cruelties that arise with the belief that life is meaningless.
MrBuendia100 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am very glad I read this book. It is certainly a landmark in contemporary literature and am glad I was one of the first ones to read it. However, I do not think I would read it again. It is certainly an ambitious work to undertake, and is massive in scope. The only other novel I can think of that bears the same amount of "umph" is perhaps Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy. There are a few things I found troublesome about the book: I think it was deceptive of the publishers to market this as one huge novel, which it seemed to be at first, but in truth it is just a collection of five closely related novellas, which all share a common theme (death and the futile pursuit of the unattainable). I would liken this aspect to an anthology of short stories: the stories on the surface share little if any similarity, but serve a greater purpose in communicating or reinforcing an idea to the reader. Also, I found the ending to be extremely anticlimactic and not gratifying in the least. So, to sum up:if you have the time/patience, read it. It will certainly go down in history as a great work of contemporary latin american fiction. If you like violence, sex and death, this is the book for you. If not, go somewhere else. Other Latin American writers: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, Jorge Luis Borges
DavidGoldsteen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This work has gotten tremendous press, and good feedback from LibraryThing members. I found it a disappointment. The biggest problem in the book is its tone. Bolano uses an omniscient, detached narrative voice. This would be perfect if the author had a sense of humor, but he has none on display. Instead, this style serves to keep you distant from the characters, who seem like cardboard authorial constructs. You never care about them.The book is long, and some parts really feel it. The book is divided into five parts, and as it becomes clear that they are loosely related, but not building to anything, it becomes a real slog. I think this may be Bolano's point -- something about how we can't know each other or the truth or something "deep" but it really hampers the novel as an artistic work. You should never wonder "why am I reading this?" but you do.
MeditationesMartini on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Like--well, no, more than, in many cases--any book this big and oblique, there's a lot here, and you could build any number of readings on it. I went up and down a few times reading it. The first book is a goodnaturedly arid look at some, like, thoroughly postmodern professors and their prejudices and their craving for love, and it ends with a cliche that I think is meant--goodnaturedly--to mock. The second part turns some of our assumptions on their heads--the born supporting player from the start, this picaresque Amalfitano, turns out to have a spirit like Van Gogh, and when we break him open he's full of pain and beauty--full of the past, full of a story--but crucially, no resolution, no present.

The third part, I gotta say, feels like a waste of time for the most part. It introduces us to some context, I guess, for the fourth, but it mostly feels like it does in a sour and insulting way what the part about the critics did with a sense of fun--brings a foreigner down to have a cliche "one night in Ciudad Juarez--and it was a night he'd never forget"-type go-round, forcing Mexico back into the role of stage, "pastiche of a pastiche".

The fourth part is the oasis if horror in the desert of boredom, as the epigraph will have it. It is about the kilings of more than 400 women in Ciudad Juarez, which is called Santa Teresa in the book, and the killings, which are fictionalized but real and still going on, and, as has been astutely observed, how you deal with the 300-page assault of grisly details--with disgust, sadness, ennui, interest--raises any number of further problems. It's the flipside of the professors and their sexy anomie, their desire to float through life and study and couple and the search for the writer Archimboldi that gives them a story, a quest--this is the constant obscene fulfilment of desire as its own story, the dreary repetition of slaughter that means nothing at all, certainly not that it will ever have any meaning or that the killer will be caught. It's Lacanian--the desire itself as the fulfilment of desire, the compulsion to keep desiring, and the murders as nothing more than the site on which the desire can be born.

And then the fifth part is a straightforward, smoothly written, gripping, playful, etc., postmodern novel. (Bolaño can really write when he puts his mind to it--this books full of little artgasms that are somewhere between an imploding lightning bulb and a bloodflower). It does require you to suck up a surfeit of the Babel (the film)-esque cod-cosmopolitanism he falls into that just tries too hard (my other main criticism of him is the way he treats sex--I know all this stuff with how long the professors can do it and how much Hans and Ingeborg can do it and the priapism of the Romanian general is partly a windup, partly a contrast with part four, where sex is a nervous tic on the part of traumatized people at best and an adjunct to hell at worst. But there's still something sweaty palmed about it). But no, it's good, it steals from Thomas Mann and Günter Grass (again, not an original observation, but it's quite blatant, you'd see it too) and tells us one more story about the tired old war, and there are some happenings, and it's well done. It's horror narrativized, and that to me is the point of the allegory here: the Europeans, the Americans, all get stories. WWII is narrative through and through--the killings in Mexico are barely known (I'd never heard of 'em). Foreigners get to be good and evil and kill or search for a reclusive writer or have a whirlwind life all up and through the twentieth century--Mexicans get to sit behind their fence, work at their maquiladora, and hope they're not gonna get murdered. I'm not trying to support this argument so much as just put it out there and see if it strikes a chord in you when you read the book: 2666 is surplus narrative, and we all know what happens to surplus value, right? It accrues to the wealthy. This is a

hemlokgang on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First of all, reading this book is a significant undertaking. It is basically 5 novels published as one massive novel. Any one of the five parts can be read alone, however, in my opinion, together they comprise an 898 page masterpiece. Yep....898 pages! The book was published posthumously, but was extremely close to final draft prior to Bolano's death.Who is Benno von Archimboldi? Why are the Santa Teresa murders unsolved? Why are German literature professors from England, Spain, Italy, and France obsessively hunting for Archimboldi? Is Klaus Haas really guilty? What the heck is the meaning of the title? Three of these five questions will be answered clearly, one vaguely, and one not at all. Are you intrigued? You must be in order to read the whole novel!Themes included: Identity, the meaning of writing, and the inexplicable web of connections which tie us together in this life we liveI will leave you with this quote....."...wonderful, wonderful, yet again the sword of fate severs the head from the hydra of chance."
denmoir on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this for the first 300 pages and then began to think it would never end. Proust is a better writer and more lively. I couldn't finish it.
baubie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is consuming, long, exhaustive, boring, easy to read, extreme, excessive, intimate, etc. It's everything and that's not surprising weighing in at 898 pages.
Mdshrk1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This one made me d/l Bolano's other works. We'll see how they stack up to this tour de force.