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2666 [Paperback]

Roberto Bolano
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (213 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Last year's The Savage Detectives by the late Chilean-Mexican novelist Bolaño (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 (Bolaño 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. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From The New Yorker

More vast and more lurid than his previous novels that have been translated into English, 2666 is not Roberto Bolaño's masterpiece but almost a compendium, in individual scenes, of the qualities that made him a great writer. His themes are violence, dislocation, and the sexiness of literature, and here these strands are recombined endlessly, in Europe, Detroit, and Mexico, through multiple narrators and prose styles. The action converges on the Sonoran desert, where Bolaño anatomizes, in brutal and eerie detail, the true-life murders of hundreds of women, most of which remain unsolved. By the end, after close to nine hundred pages, the reader will be impressed by the range and power on display but might wish that the novel cohered, rather than merely concluding.
Copyright ©2008 Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

To say that 2666 is a novel is like calling a Beethoven symphony a collection of songs. If we must, though, this novel in five parts is without doubt Roberto Bola√±o's masterwork, epic in scope, labyrinthine, frustrating, disjointed, maybe a bit pretentious, always somewhat aloof—and brilliant. The novel's parts are interrelated only to the extent that the author wants them to be, and his intention isn't always clear (witness the title, which has little, if any, connection to the text itself). Reading 2666 is a daunting task, though once accepted, the result might be something akin to what readers felt in 1922 when, faced for the first time with the disquieting modern vision of James Joyce, they picked up Ulysses and were changed by the experience. Perhaps we'll know in 657 years.
Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A masterpiece...the most electrifying literary event of the year."--Lev Grossman, Time

"Indeed, Bolaño produced not only a supreme capstone to his own vaulting ambition, but a landmark in what's possible for the novel as a form in our increasingly, and terrifyingly, postnational world." --Jonathan Lethem, The New York Times Book Review

"A work of devastating power and complexity, a final statement worthy of a master."--Adam Mansbach, The Boston Globe

"Bolaño's most audacious performance . . . It is bold in a way that few works really are--it kicks away the divide between playfulness and seriousness."--Henry Hitchings, Financial Times (UK)

"The opening of 2666 had me in its thrall from those first few pages . . . For all the precision and poetry of its language, for all the complexity of its structure, for all the range of styles and genres it acknowledges and encompasses, for all its wicked humor, its inventiveness, and sophistication, 2666 seems like the work of a literary genius."--Francine Prose, Harper's Magazine
"Bolaño’s masterwork . . . An often shockingly raunchy and violent tour de force (though the phrase seems hardly adequate to describe the novel’s narrative velocity, polyphonic range, inventiveness, and bravery) based in part on the still unsolved murders of hundreds of women in Ciudad Juárez, in the Sonora desert near the Texas border."--FRANCISCO GOLDMAN, The New York Review of Books
"Not just the great Spanish-language novel of [this] decade, but one of the cornerstones that define an entire literature."--J. A. MASOLIVER RÓDENAS, La Vanguardia
"One of those strange, exquisite, and astonishing experiences that literature offers us only once in a very long time . . . to see . . . a writer in full pursuit of the Total Novel, one that not only completes his life’s work but redefines it and raises it to new dizzying heights."--RODRIGO FRESÁN, El País

"Bolano's savoir-faire is incredible ... The exploded narrative reveals a virtuosity that we rarely encounter, and one cannot help being bowled over by certain bravura passages--to single one out, the series of reports describing murdered young women, which is both magnificent and unbearable. We won't even mention the 'resolution' of this infernal 2666, a world of a novel in which the power of words triumphs over savagery."--Baptiste Liger, L'EXPRESS

"Splendid . . . The jaw-dropping synthesis of a brief but incredibly fertile career."--Fabrice Gabriel, LES INROCKUPTIBLES

"The event of the spring: with 2666 Roberto Bolano has given us his most dense, complex, and powerful novel, a meditation on literature and evil that begins with a sordid newspaper item in contemporary Mexico."--Morgan Boedec, CHRONIC ART

"Including the imaginary and the mythic alongside the real in his historiography, without ever dabbling in the magical realism dear to many of his Latin-American peers, Bolano strews his chronicle with dreams and visions. As in the films of David Lynch (with whom Bolano's novel shares a certain kinship) these become a catalyst for reflection . . . In such darkness, one must keep one's eyes wide open. Bolano invites us to do just that."--Sabine Audrerie, LA CROIX

"An immense moment for literature . . . With prodigious skill and his inimitable art of digression, Bolano leads us to the gates of his own hell. May he burn in peace."--TECHNIKART

"Bolano constructs a chaos that has an order all its own . . . The state of the world today transmuted into literature." --Isabelle Ruf, LE TEMPS

"To confront the reader with the horror of the contemporary world was Bolano's guiding ambition. He succeeded, to say the least. Upset, shocked, sometimes even sickened, at times one is tempted to shut the book because it's unbearable to read. Don't shut it. Far from being a blood-and-guts thriller meant to entertain, 2666 is a 'visceral realist' portrait of the human condition in the twenty-first century."--Anna Topaloff, MARIANNE

"On every page the reader marvels, hypnotized, at the capacity of this baroque writer to encompass all literary genres in a single fascinating, enigmatic story. No doubt many readers will find 2666 inexhaustible to interpretation. It is a fully realized work by a pure genius at the height of his powers."  --LIRE

"His masterpiece . . . Bolano borrows from vaudeville and the campus novel, from noir and pulp, from science fiction, from the Bildungsroman, from war novels; the tone of his writing oscillates between humor and total darkness, between the simplicity of a fairytale and the false neutrality of a police report."--Minh Tran Huy, LE MAGAZINE LITTERAIRE (Paris)

"The book explores evil with irony, without any theory or resolution, relying on storytelling alone as its saving grace... Each story is an adventure: a fresco at once horrifying, delicate, grotesque, redundant, and absurd, revealed by the flashlight of a child who stands at the threshold of a cave he will never leave."--Philippe Lancon, LIBERATION

"If THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES recounted the end of a century of avant-gardes and ideological battles, 2666, more radically, evokes the end of humanity as we know it. Apocalyptic in this sense, wavering between decomposition and totality, endlessly in love with people and books, Bolano's last novel ranges over the world and history like the knight Percival, who in Bolano's words 'wears his fool's motley underneath his armor.'"--Fabienne Dumontet, LE MONDE DES LIVRES (Paris)

"A work of genius: a work of immense lucidity and narrative cunning, written with a unique mixture of creative power and intimate existential desperation, the work of a master whose voice has all the authority and seeming effortlessness that we associate with the great classics of the ages ... It is impossible to read this book without feeling the earth shift beneath one's feet. It is impossible to venture deep into writing so unforgiving without feeling inwardly moved--by a shudder of fear, maybe even horror, but also by its need to pay attention, by its desire for clarity, by its hunger for the real."--Andres Ibanaz, BLANCO Y NEGRO

"Without a doubt the greatest of Bolano's productions . . . The five parts of this masterwork can be read separately, as five isolated novels; none loses any of its brilliance, but what's lost is the grandeur that they achieve in combination, the grandeur of a project truly rare in fiction nowadays, one that can be enjoyed only in its totality."--Ana Maria Moix, EL PAIS

"Make no mistake, 2666 is a work of huge importance . . . a complex literary experience, in which the author seeks to set down his nightmares while he feels time running out. Bolano inspires passion, even when his material, his era, and his volume seem overwhelming. This could only be published in a single volume, and it can only be read as one."--EL MUNDO

"An absolute masterpiece ... Bolano writes almost without adjectives, but in his prose this leads to double meanings. The narration is pure metonymy: it omits feelings in favor of facts. A phone call or a sex act can express real tragedy, the sweep of the vast human condition."--Andres Lomena, LA OPINION DE MALAGA

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Roberto Bolaño est né à Santiago du Chili en 1953. Après avoir vécu au Mexique, il retourne dans son pays d’origine au moment du coup d’État de Pinochet. Il y sera brièvement incarcéré. Revenu au Mexique, il fonde « l’infraréalisme », groupe littéraire d’avant-garde, héritier de Dada et de la Beat Generation, entre autres. Il est arrivé comme une bombe sur la scène littéraire espagnole avec, d’abord, La littérature nazie en Amérique, puis Les détectives sauvages. Il a reçu le Prix Herralde en 1998, le Prix Romulo Gallegos, le plus prestigieux d’Amérique latine, en 1999. Héritier hétérodoxe de Borges, de Cortázar, de Artl, d’Onetti, à la fois poète et romancier, il saisit à bras le corps la littérature et l’histoire de sa génération, et est passé maître du brassage des registres, situations et personnages. Roberto Bolaño est mort en juillet 2003 à Barcelone à l''âge de 50 ans.

From The Washington Post

From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com Reviewed by Steven Moore The Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño died in 2003 at the relatively young age of 50, but since then a steady stream of English translations has introduced American readers to the Gabriel García Márquez of our time: politically engaged, formally daring and wildly imaginative. The Savage Detectives, a huge novel published last year to wide acclaim, looked like his masterpiece, but now comes a monstrous novel twice as long and daring, and one that should cement his reputation as a world-class novelist. Knowing that his liver ailment would probably kill him, Bolaño pulled out all the stops for his last novel and threw out the rulebook for conventional fiction. A catch-all for many of his concerns, 2666 is at heart a fascinating meditation on violence and literature, on how writers "turned pain, which is natural, enduring, and eternally triumphant, into personal memory, which is human, brief, and eternally elusive." At its simplest level, 2666 leisurely follows a handful of characters who are drawn, like vultures to a rotting carcass, to the northern Mexican city of Santa Teresa in the 1990s. For "Santa Teresa" read Ciudad Juárez, the killing fields since 1993 for over 400 girls and women -- most of them raped, mutilated, then dumped into the nearby desert -- with justice for none due to official corruption, incompetence and macho indifference to women. (The Daughters of Juárez, by Teresa Rodriguez, provides an informative overview of this tragedy.) While the murders of Santa Teresa occupy the center of the novel, the perimeters make for the most satisfying reading. In the first of the novel's five semi-independent parts, we're told how three European literary critics became obsessed with the work of a mysterious writer named Benno von Archimboldi -- think B. Traven or Thomas Pynchon. They travel to Santa Teresa after hearing the elusive writer may be there researching his next novel. Part 2 concerns an Archimboldi expert currently living in Santa Teresa and watching over his daughter, who seems destined to be another victim in the femicide epidemic. In part 3, a black American reporter travels to Santa Teresa to cover a prizefight and becomes embroiled in the ongoing murders. Part 4, the longest of the novel's five parts, is a numbing chronological account of individual murders from 1993 to 1997, narrated in police-report fashion, along with digressions on various officials, policemen, lawyers and reporters involved in the cases. And finally, part 5 is a mesmerizing account of how a strange Prussian boy became the enigmatic Archimboldi, an author neglected at first but considered Nobel-worthy after he's rediscovered by the scholar-detectives of part 1. We also learn his real reason for going to Santa Teresa. Archimboldi never meets his critics, the reporters never solve the crimes, and nothing is resolved at the novel's end. (Even the title is left unexplained, though an editor's note offers a clue.) This is not because Bolaño didn't finish it but because he was more interested in conveying the culture of violence and how writers respond to it than in telling a tidy story. In one of many self-reflexive comments on his work, he has a character sneer at a reader who prefers short, well-made works of literature, "afraid to take on the great, imperfect, torrential works, books that blaze paths into the unknown." 2666 is just such a work, with a historical reach extending back to the bloody rituals of the Aztecs, to the horrors of the Eastern front during World War II, to the Black Panthers of the '60s. Countless fascinating subplots blaze paths into unknown corners of 20th-century culture, and there are enough references to Greek mythology to give the whole work a timeless quality. Uniting the sprawling work are moments and metaphors where sex and violence collide. This is a delightfully bookish novel, filled with writers, critics, publishers, copy editors, reporters -- all illustrating how reading and writing help make sense of the world. Archimboldi is a grim, humorless character, but we're told "he derived pleasure from writing, a pleasure similar to that of the detective on the heels of the killer"; Bolaño likewise exults in his indefatigable storytelling skills and his mastery of an arsenal of styles, from factual to frivolous, from plain to purple. In this he is expertly partnered by Natasha Wimmer, whose translation is fluid and faithful. The novel is probably longer than it needs to be, but there isn't a boring page in it, and I suspect further study would justify everything here. With 2666 Bolaño joins the ambitious overachievers of the 20th-century novel, those like Proust, Musil, Joyce, Gaddis, Pynchon, Fuentes and Vollmann, who push the novel far past its conventional size and scope to encompass an entire era, deploying encyclopedic knowledge and stylistic verve to offer a grand, if sometimes idiosyncratic summation of their culture and the novelist's place in it. Bolaño has joined the immortals.
Copyright 2008, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From AudioFile

Roberto Bolaño's surrealist magnum opus, set in Europe and South America, is divided into five books, each read here by a different narrator, each in his way extraordinary. John Lee is especially subtle with accents, Armando Duran brings his mostly Spanish-flavored section to vivid life, G. Valmont Thomas lends The Part About Fate a deadpan humor, and Grover Gardner gives the saga of the writer Benno von Archimboldi a compelling pace. Scott Brick takes a risk that might have worked but doesn't: presumably to convey the mythic and irrational nature of his part, about horrifying serial rape-murders in Mexico, he tries a singsong narration as if he were reciting an epic poem. A smart idea, but tiresome to listen to. His characters' voices are outstanding, though. B.G. © AudioFile 2009, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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