- Hardcover: 898 pages
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (November 11, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0374100144
- ISBN-13: 978-0374100148
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.8 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 341 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #268,562 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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2666: A Novel Hardcover – November 11, 2008
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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
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.)
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2666 is a difficult book to explain, and therefore to review. I'm sure I've not yet understood everything there is to know within its pages.
The novel is really five individual books or novelettes, loosely connected by some similar characters, locations, and interwoven thematic material. They are, however, somewhat stylistically different.
The first, THE PART ABOUT THE CRITICS, follows a disparate group of European literary scholars as they try to track down the mysterious and reclusive German author Benno van Archimboldi. Ultimately, in their quest to find their literary hero, they are led to the northern Mexican border town of Santa Teresa, where they meet a Chilean professor, Amalfitano, who in 1974 translated one of Archimboldi's novels. But was Archimboldi really in Santa Teresa? If so, what on earth would have brought him there?
Part two, THE PART ABOUT AMALFITANO, tells the story of philosophy professor Amalfitano, his wife Lola, and his daughter, Rosa, about how they came to Santa Teresa, and what happened there.
In part three, THE PART ABOUT FATE, we're introduced to a new character, Oscar Fate, an art reporter for a New York newspaper who is sent to cover a boxing match in Santa Teresa, Mexico.
Part four, and longest of the five, THE PART ABOUT THE CRIMES, is brutal and relentless. For nearly 300 pages, Bolaño dispassionately catalogs dozens upon dozens of rapes and murders of women in Santa Teresa through the eyes of local law enforcement who believe they have one or more serial killers in their midst. This was the most difficult of the sections to finish. As the crimes and clinical descriptions pile up, one after another after another, you become numb, and the horror turns to mere tedium. I'm sure it's the exact effect the author had in mind.
Finally, part five, THE PART ABOUT ARCHIMBOLDI, and the novel turns finally to the mysterious German author, the focus of the search from part one, and the reason for being in Santa Teresa in the first place.
While it is easy to summarize the sections, it is not so easy to dig deeper and capture the real spirit of the novel in a review like this. I'm not exactly sure how Bolaño does it, but he writes in a way that mesmerizes the reader. While his prose is beautiful, it treats everything, even the horrific, in a prosaic, deadening manner. It has a strange dulling of the senses effect, but keeps you reading, turning the pages.
Bolaño often goes on extended digressions, sometimes many pages long to the point that you forget the original point. He peppers the novel with strange and sometimes humorous non sequiturs.
It had been very long since Lotte thought about her brother and Klaus's question came as something of a surprise. Around this time Lotte and Werner had gotten involved in real estate, which neither of them knew anything about, and they were afraid of losing money. So Lotte's answer was vague: she told him that his uncle was ten years older than she was, more or less, and that the way he made a living wasn't exactly a model for young people, more or less, and that it had been a long time since the family had news of him, because he had disappeared from the face of the earth, more or less. 
Throughout the novel, Bolaño tosses in seemingly extraneous details, bits of information, which, in the end, really do turn out to be extraneous. Characters come and go, never to be seen again. 2666 is a slice of life – it's messy, many mysteries are left unexplained. There is no tidy bow. And, more than anything, the deaths in Santa Teresa haunt everything in the book. If there is anything that ties the five sections together, it's the mystery of the killings of Santa Teresa, and the constant threat of death.
And I know I say this a lot, but: the book will not be to everyone's liking. Definitely not a summer beach book. And, no, the title is never explained.
Bolaño's writing covers the spectrum of styles: dark and brooding, poetic and lyrical, dry and empty while still stunningly gorgeous. Not every one of the 900 pages inside 2666 is a drop-dead winner, but there is too much excellence here to even notice where it slightly falters. Some have argued that Bolaño's publisher should have released this big book as five separate novels as the author first intended, but I disagree; I like it as is: chopped up, messy, dirty, and scattered as all hell, like a diverse smorgasbord of literary delight.
The largely looming character throughout, Archimboldi, is as memorable as any other character from classic postmodern literature. By the time we get inside Archimboldi's head and experience his world after the long lead up, the reward is intensely satisfying. Like a benevolent version of McCarthy's "The Judge" from BLOOD MERIDIAN, Archimboldi is unforgettable.
Bolaño proves that plot *can* be overrated. Love triangles, mysterious murders in the desert, disappearing peoples, European academia, and the nature of war on the soul: it's all fair game for 2666. It's about everything and it's about nothing, and when done right, that's where some of our best stories can come from.
2666 tiene partes que le dan a uno esperanza, emoción, desasociego, rabia, asco. Es una obra maestra para mi gusto. Tiene el tipo de poder que aunque no hubiera "desenlace" (aunque de cierta manera sí lo hay), uno se queda satisfecho completamente. Se completa el círculo y aunque al principio parece que no se va a ningún lado (o casi al final se pregunta uno si al final vamos a entender qué es lo que pasa), después todo va teniendo sentido, las cosas y los personajes se van relacionando y hasta un detalle que primero pensamos insignificante después vemos que era relevante. Y se completa la historia.
Bolaño ademas tiene un estilo muy interesante. Esta es la primera obra que leo de él y al principio no estaba segura si era su manera de escribir o si le había hecho falta un editor y me preguntaba si era parte de su belleza como una novela "inconclusa" y publicada póstumamente. Eventualmente me dí cuenta de que ese es el estilo de Bolaño. Al pasar de las hojas uno empieza a apreciarlo: Bolaño utiliza oraciones largas, a veces parecieran repetitivas, prácticamente nunca usa entrecomillado, de repente cambia de personaje o tiempo.
Pero ten paciencia que este libro es absolutamente maravilloso. Y Bolaño además me parece era de otro mundo. Inteligente, empático, ecuánime, expresivo... En definitiva, Roberto Bolaño es un autor que lo marca a uno y que como mujer (y además feminista) uno no puede si no añorar que hubieran más escritores como él.