Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2666 by Roberto Bolano

2666 by Roberto Bolano
Fascinating, unsettling, depraved, and strange are just a few of the words it would take to accurately describe Bolano’s final work. It’s a a masterful and twisted labyrinth of violence, creation, and madness. (To use a few other words that seem appropriate.)

2666 is a novel in five parts. In the first, several European scholars who are experts in the work of an unknown novelist visit, worry, fuck, and ultimately, plan their travel to Mexico in an effort to find the artist. In the second part, a professor at a school near Ciudad Juarez (here called Santa Teresa) goes slowly crazy. (The geometry book he hangs hung on a closeline so the wind and elements can teach its abstractions a thing or two about real life is one of the novel’s more enduring images.) In the third section an American sports writer travels to Juarez to investigate a prize fighter and gets caught up with the narcos who run the place. In the chilling fourth section we get a journalistic enumeration of the hundreds and hundreds of women who have disappeared near Ciudad Juarez in the last decade. In the fourth section we meet the mysterious German writer, Archimboldi, and learn his strange tale, and a lot of complicated byplay about the relationship between creations and their creators.

All of this complexity adds up to a very disturbing and complex work that… I wish I had read twice (despite being almost 900 pages translated from dense Spanish), and wish I had a friend or class to discuss it with. Make no mistake, Bolano was a brilliant writer who tackled an important topic in his final years. It is unclear to me what his real intent with 2666 might have been, and I’d love to ask him if he realized it.

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