2666: A Novel - book cover
  • Publisher : Picador; Reprint edition
  • Published : 01 Sep 2009
  • Pages : 912
  • ISBN-10 : 0312429215
  • ISBN-13 : 9780312429218
  • Language : English

2666: A Novel



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.

Editorial Reviews

"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 conte...

Readers Top Reviews

Roman ClodiaCletusRo
Five novels, over 900 pages - this certainly isn't a relaxing read. But if you're interested in where literature is today, this is probably an essential one. I'm not going to discuss the plot, partly because that's already been done here and partly because this is not a work that's about plot. Never an easy read, it demands the reader work at the text in the same way that a T.S.Eliot, a Dante or a Baudelaire does. Replete with images, mythic resonances, historical and cultural allusions, this is ultimately a rich text that builds up layer by layer, and meaning resides as much in what isn't said, in the interstices of the story, as it does in what is said. This is the kind of book that will appear on university syllabuses for courses on modern and post-modern literature; and I would guess it won't be long before theses will start to be written on it. I'm not sure that I would exactly say that I enjoyed reading it, but even while reading it I felt that it was important. So don't expect a gripping, just-one-more-chapter read, or a linear plotline - this is far more leisurely and diffuse. But its power builds up surely as you become immersed. An undoubtedly authoritative achievement, but unlikely to be a book that people have an emotional love for.
Dwight Braxton
Where do you start to review a novel of 893 pages? Well, let's begin by saying that reading Bolano is like viewing an exquisite painting; a triptych by Hieronymous Bosch, perhaps. Bolano's prose is the work of a true craftsman, and is both beautifully written and sensitively translated into English. His story-telling is superb, and the novel covers a wide range of themes and settings - from the introspection of European literary academics, to the drug wars of Mexican narcotic cartels, to the ruthless administrative efficiency of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe in 1945, and many other dramatic scenes. Breaking up the novel into five individual stories which converge in the final sections is a real masterpiece. His recurring motifs are intriguing, with all sorts of oddities - very tall people, people missing limbs and eyes, age gaps between lovers, and, of course, murder. Lots of murder, much of it very explicit and gruesome, and not for the faint-hearted. Altogether, a fascinating novel and undoubtedly one which the reader should go back to - definitely one of those novels which will benefit from a second and third reading to unlock the subtleties and cement the connections. Fantastic - treat yourself.
The author sold infinitely more books since dying than when alive. Read his earlier works and found them intricate, but ultimately dull and self-absorbed. This one draws interesting characters in a rambling narrative that would have benefited from much tighter editing. Whether you like it or whether you don't is a matter of tolerance for literary self- indulgence versus a mildly interesting story line. Has pluses and minuses. Given the effort level to finish the tome, I am at 51% like as opposed to dislike, but it's close. YMMV.
Walter DesmondBara B
I have read many intellectually challenging works that plotlessly meander. Several have been very good and well worth the read. Why? Because they were exceptionally well-phrased. Because they were high-caliber and very literary. They were artistic. They were hauntingly evocative and memorably poetic. Bolano's novel fell far short of these things. It had its moments, but these were far and few between. A lot of the writing was pedestrian and tedious. The section about the crimes in Santa Teresa was interminable, repetitive, boring. I read the book to its last page, and I found---for me---no pay-off---nothing that made it a really valuable or worthwhile book. It showed much promise. Initially, I was quite absorbed in the search for Archimboldi on the part of a small group of European academics---but what happened? I had such high hopes for this novel.
M.D. Kuehn
I would guess that one of the most complimentary things you could say about a book just read is that you can’t wait to read it again. Perhaps even more so when that book is a dense 893-page epic, in that reading it even one time takes extreme devotion and time. Well, that’s the way I felt after turning that final page of 2666 by Roberto Bolaño, partly because I simply enjoyed the journey, overwhelmed by his hypnotic prose, and partly because of the structure of the novel itself, and the nagging thought I have that I’m missing something beyond the obvious that ties together the five parts of the book, some hidden nexus that even now lies just outside my grasp. 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 ...