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2666: A Novel by Roberto Bolaño
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2666: A Novel (original 2004; edition 2009)

by Roberto Bolaño, Natasha Wimmer (Translator)

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3,8171181,358 (4.17)8 / 593
Member:ayaeckel
Title:2666: A Novel
Authors:Roberto Bolaño
Other authors:Natasha Wimmer (Translator)
Info:Picador (2009), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 912 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Fiction, mexican, wwii

Work details

2666 by Roberto Bolaño (2004)

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English (105)  German (3)  French (3)  Portuguese (Portugal) (2)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (1)  Japanese (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (118)
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Original post at Book Rhapsody.

***

Of literary critics, professors, journalists, crime detectives, and cult writers

2666 is Roberto Bolano's master statement. Published a year after his death and translated into English a few more years later, it is an enormous book that defies summary. The novel's core is the violent killings of women in the fictional town of Santa Teresa, a town that parallels the Mexican border town Ciudad Juarez. Revolving around these murders are literary scholars in search of a reclusive cult writer, a professor who struggles to maintain his sanity, a journalist sent to the town to cover a boxing match, and the cult writer himself. Written with prose that is all at once riveting, insightful, humorous, deadening, and resonant, it is that kind of death defying novel that only few writers can come up with.

Last year, I chose this as my first read of 2012 with a fellow blogger. We do not know how to approach this. We were wishing ourselves loads of good luck because we were intimidated by the sheer length of the book, not to mention the preconceived notions I had for it. I imagined it to be a long, tough, and boring read. Long is undeniable; the latter two are dubious.

The book turned out to be very entertaining. It helped that the first part, The Part About the Critics, is about four scholars who talk nonstop about their literary careers with people within their circle. These four are all interested in the works of the German writer Archimboldi, a writer whose shadow they have never seen and who is even a worse recluse than Thomas Pynchon. When rumors of his appearance in a Mexican town reach them, they set out to look for him, and the reader never hears of these scholars again.

Anyway, these ideas or feelings or ramblings had their satisfactions. They turned the pain of others into memories of one's own. They turned pain, which is natural, enduring, and eternally triumphant, into personal memory, which is human, brief, and eternally elusive. They turned a brutal story of injustice and abuse, and incoherent howl with no beginning or end, into a neatly structured story in which suicide was always held out as a possibility. They turned flight into freedom, even if freedom meant no more than the perpetuation flight. They turned chaos into order, even if it was at the cost of what is commonly known as sanity.

This book is composed of five parts supposed to be published separately, which is what the writer instructed his inheritors. However, this was not fulfilled due to practical considerations and respect for the entirety of the five books. Although these five are not even tightly connected with each other, I agree with the decision to put them all together into a single volume. Yes, the parts could possibly stand alone on their own, but their disconnectedness links them all together in a mysterious way.

This disconnectedness is immediately felt as one proceeds with the next parts, The Part About Amalfitano and The Part About Fate. These two are people (yes, Fate is a person) who have nothing to do with the first part. These are equally good, although I have to say that the former felt incomplete, which could be deliberate given the tendencies to madness that Amalfitano has.

The main course is The Part About the Crimes. Here, the reader is immersed into hundreds of terrifying forensic reports of women killed, and either thrown or buried all around the deserts of Santa Teresa. These reports resemble news clippings gathered from different tabloids and broadsheets. By the 50th case, one must be too desensitized to feel nauseous about the gruesome details of the decaying bodies' states. Perhaps this is the intention. The writer must have had a vision of a nearly apocalyptic world so filled with violence that killing has become a mundane activity.

The murders are not real and yet they give one a visceral sensation given their matter-of-fact descriptions. Nonfiction is employed to create a fictional world as opposed to the nonfiction novel claimed to be popularized by Truman Capote. It is like a documentary based on imaginary events, and reading through this part will make one convinced that these are the ones that really took place and not the ones that were recorded in the real life Ciudad Juarez.

The final part, The Part About Archimboldi, tells us, finally, the life story of the writer who wouldn't show himself. Although it is not proper to call it The Part That Would Sum Up 2666, it unconsciously justifies that alternate title. Archimboldi's musings on his writing, violence, and the connection between the two are intuited here, but only in mercurial fashion.

So to catch the slow susurrus of Bolano's statement, submit yourself to all parts of the novel. Do not make a deliberate attempt to dissect the novel. Do not expect anything. Do not fear. But do prepare to be overwhelmed. ( )
  angusmiranda | Jun 10, 2014 |
I hesitate to say anything about this book because it is not something easily summarized. Reading it's 912 pages was at times captivating, disorienting and horrifying, yet I never wanted to skip ahead or stop reading it. Parts of the book read like a series of newspaper articles, so that, more than even 900 pages could convey, you felt in reading it that you had been long acquainted with the story. Perhaps the greatest achievement here is the semblance of real life. It isn't Don Quixote, Moby Dick, War and Peace. But it isn't Joyce or Pynchon either. Nothing about the book is unified, or tidy (I appreciated how the many characters were not neatly strung together, that what brought them together, if anything, was that each was seeking information) or complete. If Bolaño hadn't died would the book be a different beast? If it felt unfinished at all, it is perhaps fitting for a story that isn't resolved, nor meant to be. ( )
  emilyingreen | May 28, 2014 |
This is one of those mega-novels that, of necessity, presents itself to you kaleidoscopically, with shifting facets that continually rise to your attention, while making it very difficult to make any meaningful statement about the book as a whole. (Some would say that’s always a foolish thing to do, and great works resist reduction anyway. Who am I to argue?)

So, rather than a review, a few lingering impressions (although another reading could easily produce different ones):

Writers and writing: Bolaño takes the writing life in all its iterations, from literary scholarship to journalism to editing/publishing (that’s truly a new one! how many novels foreground the essential but ignored relationship between publisher and writer and treat it as a dramatic subject in narrative?) and the creation of literature itself more seriously as subject matter than any other author I’ve read, while mostly avoiding the hollowness and tedious tricks of overtly self-referential gamesmanship (say, Nabokov for example?). So many characters, major and minor, at the surface narrative level or appearing as characters that other characters read about, are writers of various kinds: good ones, bad ones, mad ones, minor and major, poets, critics, students—and somehow what they do or try to do, however absurd, is being shown as fundamental to human experience.

The Part About Archimboldi: I have to fess, however, that my main reaction to his most important writer character, the elusive German novelist Hans Reiter (pseudonymously Benno Von Archimboldi) was a kind of “yeah, really?” (Even the English pun in his name seems strained to me now). A giant who repeatedly passes unseen, a German soldier who fights stolidly through the second world war till very near its end but never seems to harm or kill any civilians, except for a vicious anti-Semite he strangles with his bare hands, an almost illiterate and mute country boy who, with no apparent struggle or even difficulty, simply begins to turn out prolix and brilliant novel after novel, a man who’s utterly indifferent to the literary world and yet rises unerringly to its very top, and who, to top it all off, has no apparent physical or mental charm (except size, and Bolaño should know that ain’t everything) and yet easily beds (and fully pleases) sexy women. I mean, he’s just a bit of a novelist’s wet dream, in some ways, isn’t he? although by no means a conventional romantic ideal.

The Part About the Critics: it is much overlooked, perhaps because it can’t be understood without reading the book as a whole, right to its final pages, but Bolaño’s most damning point about the critics he lampoons in this section is that they fail in their quest to track down their elusive hero Von Archimboldi precisely because they have no interest in the real human tragedy happening in Santa Teresa, the murders of women. They are too busy gazing in all the wrong directions, like their own navels, but paying attention to the murders would have changed everything for them.

Another nice trope is that the most noir section, The Part About Fate, has a (literally) noir main character and milieu. Bolaño goes where no author, to my knowledge, who isn’t African American has dared to tread, into a milieu for which he can have had little or no context outside of fiction and history—and even precious little of that. Like the other writers’ worlds, he takes “Oscar Fate’s” world seriously, without pandering to it, exploring its melancholy absurdities as he does theirs. And I think he goes there because unlike most contemporary US novelists, he gets that our reality is not just cultural or psychological but historical; that history is fundamentally political, that is, it is made up of struggles for power; and that the failed struggles of the powerless to redress the balance are a kind of secret history, one that never gets told by the powerful. Another reason we need novelists, at least novelists like Bolaño.

Women: while the murders of women in Santa Teresa are the ethical black hole of the novel, and Bolaño meticulously describes over a hundred of them precisely because he wants the reader to care about them, he to some extent ignores his own advice: “You must listen to women,” Oscar Fate remembers being told, but Bolaño himself doesn’t, really. One of the most remarkable stories in the “real” Santa Teresa, Ciudad Juarez, is the persistence of family members, mostly poor and working class women, year after year, in demanding and organizing for redress. It’s to a great extent women—unsexy moms and grandmothers--not victims or fatal femmes, not objects of male desire in any sense--who have kept the fabric of that society from fraying altogether under stresses even more terrible in some ways than Bolaño’s prescient dystopian imaginings. Bolaño doesn’t tell their story here, yet, possibly even more than the murders themselves, it is, in his words, a “secret of the world” that “nobody pays attention to.”

But in the end it makes about as much sense to argue with this novel’s portrayals as it would to challenge one of its characters to a boxing match. It’s Bolaño’s vision and that’s what you get, and it is a trip full of dark and strange marvels, it’s a labyrinth whose proliferating side paths you don’t mind going down because almost every single time, they actually take you somewhere worth going.








( )
  CSRodgers | May 3, 2014 |
Narrative like a ball of string, some moments of unparalleled beauty followed by tangents that I probably should have skipped.

Bolano has this excessive style that some mark as masterful, but which I see as clumsy. Too often people mistake the huge, monstrous works as inherently genius, as if all it takes to be brilliant is write a good book that is very long. In truth, 2666 is extremely flawed by his flair for long, overwrought tangent.

Here is a typical scene: character A meets B, or hears about B, and then the story launches into 20 pages about Bs inner most thoughts, as if every fucking person you meet in the world tells you their life story, including their thoughts at the time and comments. It is a pretty lazy trick, if you ask me. Once, in the final section, Archimboldi researches an old companion from the war, who had been dead for a time, and the book launches into a fifteen page retrospective on this lost characters life and most intimate thoughts, which seems very stupid from the perspective of narration, since every fucking character in this book seems to have the ability of clairvoyance.

Sure, Bolano's alter-ego might be the hidden narrator, as the editor suggests in the afterword, but still, this technique gets old after 1000 pages.

The scope of the novel was staggering, but it was really just a collected of related novellas, as if one considered Faulkner's massive SNOPES TRILOGY to be a single work. The PART ABOUT THE CRIMES became three hundred pages of IN DECEMBER THEY FOUND A GIRL... which stylistically captures the deadening and overwhelming nature of the killings but becomes dull and tedious as a work of art.

Bolano needed an editor with the balls to cut his books down, because there are so many unsatisfyingly and unnecessarily long.

The best section are THE PART ABOUT FATE and THE PART ABOUT ARCHIMBOLDI.

Still, there are moments of genius here, and I did finish the book. People have such a hard-on for Bolano and I think they're mostly just being tricked by a really big thing that is more good than bad. The work of a master, yes, but NOT a masterpiece. ( )
  blanderson | Mar 4, 2014 |
you know that notion that the human mind deals with individual deaths as tragedies and large scale disasters and massacres as statistics?

This book is like taking the latter and stringing out each data point as an individual tragedy

enjoy ( )
  Achromatic | Feb 16, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 105 (next | show all)
”2066” är en av dessa sällsynta romaner man skulle kunna bosätta sig i.
 
Nu bör alla som inte redan skaffat och läst den ha slängt på sig halsduken i farten, störtat ut i hösten och vara i fullt fläng på väg mot närmaste bokhandel.

(Note: this is not the same review as the other one by the same reviewer. It concerns a different translation.)
added by Jannes | editDagens Nyheter, Jonas Thente (Oct 19, 2010)
 
"2666" ist ein kühnes, wildes, hochexperimentelles Ungetüm von einem Roman. In der vorliegenden Form keineswegs perfekt - besonders der zweite, dritte und fünfte Teil haben große Längen -, ist er doch immer noch so ziemlich allem überlegen, was in den letzten Jahren veröffentlicht wurde.
added by lophuels | editFrankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Daniel Kehlmann (Oct 14, 2010)
 
Theorie her oder hin, "2666" ist ein ungeheuerlicher Wal von einem Roman, er bläst seine Fontänen hoch in den Äther.
 
Roberto Bolaño
»Wie ein bekiffter Zuhälter«

Das Vermächtnis: Roberto Bolaños Roman »2666« ist ein Meilenstein der literarischen Evolution
added by baumgartner | editDie Zeit, Ijoma Mangold (Sep 14, 2009)
 

» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Roberto Bolañoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Carmignani, IlideTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hansen, ChristianTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wimmer, NatashaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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An oasis of horror in a desert of boredom. -Charles Baudelaire
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For Alexandra Bolaño and Lautaro Bolaño
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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.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312429215, Paperback)

Amazon Best of the Month, November 2008: It was one thing to read Roberto Bolaño's novel The Savage Detectives last year and have your mind thrilled and expanded by a sexy, meandering masterpiece born whole into the English language. It was still another to read it and know, from the advance reports of Spanish readers, that Bolaño's true masterpiece was still to come. And here it is: 2666, the 898-page novel he sprinted to finish before his early death in 2003, again showing Bolaño's mesmerizing ability to spin out tale after tale that balance on the edge between happy-go-lucky hilarity and creeping dread. But where the motion of The Savage Detectives is outward, expanding in wider and wider orbit to collect everything about our lonely world, 2666, while every bit as omnivorous, ratchets relentlessly toward a dark center: the hundreds of mostly unsolved murders of women in the desert borderlands of maquiladoras and la migra in northern Mexico. He takes his time getting there--he tells three often charming book-length tales before arriving at the murders--but when he does, in a brutal and quietly strange landscape where neither David Lynch nor Cormac McCarthy's Anton Chigurh would feel out of place, he writes with a horror that is both haunting and deeply humane. --Tom Nissley

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:21:52 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

An American sportswriter, an elusive German novelist, and a teenage student interact in an urban community on the U.S.-Mexico border where hundreds of young factory workers have disappeared.

(summary from another edition)

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