"The nearly 900-page magnum opus of the Chilean master who died, at 50, in 2003 concerns: (1) a mysterious German novelist; (2) a quartet of literary scholars obsessed with his work; (3) the deaths of hundreds of women and girls in the Mexican city of 'Santa Teresa,' Bolano's name for Ciudad Juarez; (4) the history of the 20th century; (5) you name it. Extravagant, punishing and weirdly beautiful."—Bloomberg
"More vast and more lurid than his previous novels . . . The reader will be impressed by the range and power on display."—The New Yorker"Apocrypha, secret history, and murder salt Robert Bolaño's posthumous titan of a novel. United by the gravitational pull of Santa Teresa (a stand-in for Mexico's Ciudad Juárez), Bolano's characters confront madness and a host of mysteries that are all, ultimately, the same mystery: lost writers, lost women, lost faith."—Zach Baron, The Village Voice (Best Book of 2008)"Roberto Bolaño was a renegade artist, always suspicious of success. Toothless, a heavy smoker with an atrocious diet and no sleeping habits to speak of, he died in 2003, at the age of 50. This brilliant, rambunctious, hard-boiled literary nomad was born in Chile, moved to Mexico in his teens, and went back to Chile in 1973 to support the socialist regime of president Salvador Allende. Arrested after the coup of September 11, 1973, that toppled Allende, he was forced into exile and eventually settled in the Catalonian town of Blanes. Acclaimed in the Spanish-speaking world for his originally, he found a calling in Mexico, where he became the leader of a group of fringe pets (the infrarealistas, or visceral realists) who ridiculed the Mexican literary establishment with a style that was triumphantly eclectic: part apocalyptic vision, part pulp and noir, existential mediation, surrealist dream sequence, and more. But it is since his death that Bolaño has become a totemic figure. While Susan Sontag had described his first book of short stories as 'the real thing, and the rarest,' his reputation in the English-speaking world didn't become outsized until the last few years. Now he is the ultimate poeta maldito, seen as a martyr to literature in a time when literature seems to matter less and less. Such is the craze around the world for Bolaño's oeuvre that almost everything he wrote is being made available in translation at a dizzying pace. In English, his luminous short stories—Last Evening on Earth—and his masterful novellas—Distant Star and By Night in Chile—have made it into the canon in Spanish departments and creative-writing programs. In 2007 his magnum opus, The Savage Detectives—which had been awarded the Rómulo Gallegos Prize, the highest distinction for a novel in the Hispanic world, in 1999—was offered in translation. The story of Arturo Belano (the author's alter ego) and another visceral realist, who search for the mysterious founder of the movement, it has been embraced by critics as proof that literature might be losing readers, but it isn't losing guts. Two other books by Bolaño have also recently been released in English, a collection of poetry called The Romantic Dogs: 1980-1998 and his last, posthumous novel, 2666. They further serve to measure the extent of his genius . . . In his last novel, 2666, the central narrative motif is moral inversion: Good is evil, and vice versa. The plot takes place in a U.S.-Mexico border town called Santa Teresa, which resembles Ciudad Juárez and where hundreds of young woman have been killed with impunity by a serial killer or killers in the last couple of decades. (There are also portions set in Italy, England, France, Spain, Mexico, Chile, ad the United States.) In Santa Teresa, nothing is real. In one section that is a novella of its own, a group of international literary critics searches for Benno von Archimboldi, a German author and eternal Nobel Prize nominee who has disappeared from the public eye and might have ended up in Santa Teresa. in another, a black reporter for a Harlem magazine arrives in Santa Teresa to cover a boxing match, only to realize there's a larger story in the murdered señoritas. In a third part, a philosophy professor, Amalfitano, and his daughter make their way to Santa Teresa. There are five sections, and the diverse plots intersect by way of serendipitous connections among characters. 2666 is an extraordinary book, as ambitious a literary project as a Spanish-speaking fiction writer has ever embarked on . . . Witnessing Bolaño's canonization in academe has been fascinating. Barely a few years ago, he was a don nadie, a supreme nobody; now The New Yorker puts its imprimatur on him with a review, he's a household name at symposia, and he's taught as a refreshing perspective, a kind of Jack Kerouac for the new millennium. Alas, Bolaño's work is rapidly becoming a factory for scholarly platitude. More than a year ago, I had a student who wrote his senior thesis on the author. My student started early in his junior year with a handful of resources at his disposal. By the time he had finished, the plethora of tenure-granting studies was dumbfounding: Bolaño and illness, Bolaño and the whodunit, Bolaño and the beatniks, Bolaño and eschatology, etc. Since then, interviews, photographs, e-mail messages—everything by or about him—are perceived as discoveries (even though most of the material was never lost to a Spanish-language audience). And why Bolaño now? Because once again, literature in the west seems to have grown complacent: It isn't so much written as manufactured. The genres dictated by mainstream publishing are suffocating. We're in need of a prophet—or an enfant terrible—to wake us from our slumber . . . The attention, however, adds a welcome supplement to the repetitive teaching of the so-called Boom masters of the 1960s . . . Studying him shatters the traditional boundaries of Latin American letters. This Chilean's Spanish is the most dazzling Mexican Spanish I've ever read. So translation is at the core of Bolaño's endeavor: not the standard rendering of sentences from one language into another, but the reimagining of a country's linguistic self."—Ilan Stavans, The Chronicle of Higher Education"In Roberto Bolaño's massive novel 2666, a pharmacist says that he prefers A Christmas Carol to anything else by Charles Dickens . . . This perfectly describes what Bolaño has achieved in 2666. Few writers who could get away with a beginning a nearly 900 page novel with 159 pages that follow the interaction of a group of academics, scholars of a fairly obscure German writer named Benno von Archimboldi. Even fewer could get away with writing 280 pages of nearly unbroken descriptions of murdered women. It seems that only the now-legendary Chilean writer would be given this much leeway in his final novel, a book which his certainly a 'great, imperfect, torrential work.’ As rewarding and re-readable as the smaller works are—Amulet, Distant Star, even the monumental Nazi Literature in the Americas—they all feel like a warm-up for 2666, the studies an artist prepares before beginning his masterpiece in earnest. Bolaño was racing against a failing liver as he rushed to complete 2666, and it shows: he furiously takes on anything that comes to mind, throws in whatever he can think of, often teases us that he may have lost control, yet always manages to pull everything together. In one stunning paragraph Bolaño writes about a Mexican heavyweight who is unusually tall, but quickly goes off into tangents about morphology, class division, ethnic cleansing, eugenics, and rape, before bringing it back to the boxer two pages later. In many ways the entire novel operates in this manner, on a much larger scale . . . What holds it all together? Bolaño's writing is immense, his imagination broad, and his ability to synthesize big ideas and plot points, often separated by hundreds of pages, is predicated on what initially seem like throwaway similes and metaphors, where little details are wrung out before moving on: multiple sclerosis is a 'strange and spectacular accident,' the sea is 'like a pack of wolves,' the quadrangular sky [looks] like the grimace of a robot.' Early on, fate, driving around, sees that 'there were no lights on in the houses, as if the inhabitants had died that very night and a breath of blood still lingered in the air.' Such is Bolaño's gift, that these images are refracted throughout the novel to create an intricate poem. Moreover, Bolaño's characters, from the major semi-recurring characters to the minor ones, are all so well drawn that even if they don't appear for hundreds of pages, it's easy to remember who they are. And there are dozens and dozens of characters (not counting the hundreds of dead women): scholars, police investigators, Black Panther activists, vile prisoners, lawyers, prostitutes, artists, sports reporters, medical examiners, waitresses, slimy men from the seedier parts of Mexico, daughters, Holocaust victims, factory workers. The impulse is to read quickly, to take it all in, to try and keep it all in your head. But the middle of the second part, there's just so much there to think about that it becomes difficult to read more than ten or fifteen pages at a stretch; every paragraph is so loaded with meaning that to read too quickly would be a disservice to Bolaño's work . . . A towering masterpiece, 2666 is monstrous in its subject matter, massive in size, and one of those wonderful, flawed, ambitious novels like Women and Men and The Royal Family and Underworld. Bolaño was very prolific in the short time he was publishing, but 2666 is certainly his 'big book,' his life's work, the one that all his stories and poems and novels and novellas were leading up to. Despite it being unfinished—Bolaño never got to edit it for publication—it feels complete in its rawness, its energy, its savagery, and its beauty."—Scott Bryan Wilson, Rain Taxi "There is a void at the center of all of Roberto Bolaño’s work. This is not simply a void in the sense of a blackness, a blankness, an emptiness, or a space from which nothing can emerge—although, at times, it is all of these things—Bolaño’s void takes as many forms as humans can find ways to be evil, or forgotten. The potential for this void is limitless, and over the course of Bolaño’s career he left us with a number of unforgettable incarnations of it: a guilt-ridden old priest; a murderous fascist airman; a woman trapped in a bathroom during a minor fascist moment; a generation of lost poets; a continent’s incipient totalitarian impulse; hundreds of bodies of dead women on the Mexican border. Bolaño’s final, posthumously published novel, 2666, is dominated by the void. It most frequently manifests the void in the form of madness, madness that is often masked, as Bolaño puts it near the end, 'under a suit of armor.' This is a book mad with madness: mad artists, mad writers, mad poets, mad professors, mad murderers, mad cops, mad prisoners. Its characters are not so much fully realized individuals as searchers single-mindedly in pursuit of that one thing that will, momentarily, sate their madness . . . The book contains two poles between which everything else that occurs or appears within it can be fit: the fictitious German novelist Archimboldi (a void in the sense of a blank), and the ongoing nightmare of murdered women in the Mexican border-city of Ciudad Juarez (a void in the sense of horror). The book’s first 150 pages concern the four academics who 'discover' Archimboldi, translate him, make him studied, famous, talked about. Although none of the four academics ever becomes an actual character, systemically this section is sure-footed, as the interconnected lives of the four academics are well-orchestrated to pose questions and hint at answers. Here, Bolaño here is on familiar turf: the mythification of the author. Archimboldi is reclusive, virtually nothing about him is known, and, of course, the bespectacled masses of humanity that earn their bread of by dissecting and debating every gnomic utterance that can be attributed to him can have no wetter dream than to unveil the details of his life’s biography. This way lies academic immortality. As befits a drama of intellectuals, this first section is the novel’s most classically neat and logical. It is here that the relationships between the characters become the most complex and rewarding; here that the outside world is the least present; here that the language is the most sculpted. The madness to be found in 'The Part About the Critics' is the madness of love, occasionally abetted by the madness of an artist that the titular critics stop to investigate bemusedly. Although the general sensation of this section is safety and sterility, there are some intimations of what will come: notably the savage beating of a British taxi driver and one critic’s eerie confrontation with a mirror in Santa Teresa. As in his other works, here Bolaño’s language, though tidy (and almost plain), manages to withhold meaning: some of the sentences in this first section are stories unto themselves, not in the sense of Monterroso’s 'when he awoke the dinosaur was still there' but in the sense of snaking, doubling collections of clauses that in their capacious ambiguity charmingly resist clear interpretation or simple solutions . . . Ciudad Juarez (known in 2666 as Santa Teresa), enters the picture when the academics journey there on the slenderest of chances that Archimboldi has absconded to the Mexican border. Once the academics depart for Santa Teresa, 2666 begins its slow, explosive inflation into monstrous proportions, a metamorphosis that reaches full flower in the book’s largest, fourth section, 'The Part About the Crimes.' As regards that fourth section, one is reminded of Shostakovich’s Eighth Symphony, Picasso’s Guernica, McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, difficult, unflinching works that breathe the black smoke of atrocity and circulate tar as lifeblood . . . 'The Part About the Crimes' can stand among Bolaño’s greatest work, a genuinely horrible and singular take on pure evil. When we reach this point, the frame of view has shifted entirely away from the academics and come to rest square on the horror that is Santa Teresa. If Mexico is the world’s future, as one character declares in The Savage Detectives, then Santa Teresa will be the globe’s nadir. The plodding baseline to this section consists of the murders, narrated to us as the numbingly similar discoveries of body after mutilated and raped body . . . Significant among the questions here is the nom de plume Archimboldi: What does it mean that our reclusive author takes his name from a 16th-century gimmick painter who is best known for arranging everyday objects to look like faces? (And is the fact that the Surrealists claimed him significant here?) This is Bolaño at his finest: a simple, enigmatic, almost playful gesture that suggests a number of likely, non-mutually exclusive readings . . . Bolaño could do a number of things with astonishing grace, and he perhaps did nothing better than find ways to make the political integral to his novels without ever making them political novels, but here he has chosen to take us right up to the cusp of Nazism—and then divert us away from it without even acknowledging the tease. Perhaps there is some good reason for this elision of the moral, political, and philosophical underpinning of his life’s work, but to me it feels like a strange discontinuity . . . 2666 does leave the reader with a very definite feeling, and, notably, 2666 makes itself understood with virtually no authorial editorializing. So little is the author’s intrusion into this text that even the section titles, generally one of the most dependable clues to authorial intention, don’t offer much in the way of help here. Almost the only direct clues to interpretation found in this massive novel are its title and its epigraph. The title, as many have pointed out, is directly referenced at various points in Bolaño’s other works (most notably in Amulet) and seems to have represented something of an endpoint or void for him. If Bolaño’s personal mythology can be likened to a religion, the year 2666 is his Judgment Day . . . Intentional or not, the ambiguity is fitting. Although Bolaño’s final novel is nothing if not fecund with the tiny reservoirs of horror that lurk within and perversely dominate otherwise mundane lives, in 2666 Bolaño is most successful at realizing this horror when finding it in the landscape. His evocation of the horror of Santa Teresa must stand as one of his greatest, most disturbing achievements, and his use of this location as a central metaphor around which to array the personal horrors of a vast cast of characters is a fittingly ambitious conceit for a thousand-page novel . . . The book should be read if only because here Bolaño gets as close as possible to naming what for him was unnamable. As previously mentioned, section four of 2666 is distinguished by its numerous journalistic accounts of dead bodies that are found in and around Santa Teresa. One of these bodies we are permitted to see just before it becomes a cadaver: somehow a beaten, bludgeoned woman has crawled her way to the door of a hospital. The moment is electric: if this woman lives, we will know! Finally, we will know! She will tell us who or what attacked her, and perhaps she will tell us why. The senseless murders will finally have an explanation. Inevitably, this woman expires before she can reveal what only the dead have access to. Bolaño’s 2666 is like this woman. It is our best and most complete chance at knowing the author’s void. Whether or not Bolaño knew it would be his last book, it is the logical conclusion of his life’s work . . . A bracing vision, quite essential for those who have fallen under the sway of Bolaño’s writing."—Scott Esposito, Quarterly Conversation"Jorge Luis Borges wrote of the desert as a labyrinth without walls or center, unending and inescapable. That's a fair description of Roberto Bolaño's 912-page last work. (He died in 2003, age 50.) 2666 does have a circumference of sorts, however, a circular narrative that begins, like his previous novel, The Savage Detectives, with academics searching the wastelands of the Sonora province of Mexico for a legendary writer and ending . . . well, it's hard to say, somewhere in that general vicinity. Like Moby Dick, this book confronts the nature, the ubiquity, and the elusiveness of evil. And as such it can also make a claim for being the Great American Novel, both North and South."—Jon Garelick, The Phoenix (Boston) "Divided into five sections that straddled eight decades, this massive novel by the late Chilean Roberto Bolaño is a hulking, horrifying, hugely ambitious crime story with more diversions than a Miles Davis track. At the heart of it all: the murder and mutilation of female factory workers in an imaginary border town."—John Freeman, The Star Tribune (Minneapolis)"2666 is in many ways a literary event. Published in Spanish in 2004, a year after its author's death at age 50, it comes to English readers in a fine translation with the physical weight of a doorstop and the literary weight of a masterpiece . . . Bolaño has a fecund imagination, spinning stories out of stories. This is why, though Bolaño is a literary master who, had he lived, may have won a Nobel Prize, his writing is captivating. And if readers can cope with the violence and sexual behavior of it characters, they will be immensely entertained . . . While Bolaño can be playful and humorous in his writing, he tackles here a major theme, the 20th century's evils . . . Bolaño's writing mixes beauty with a certain bleakness . . . Bolaño is a writer's writer, reflecting a love for literature while sneering at criticism . . . Bolaño in several places pokes fun at himself. Archimboldi's mother unknowingly reads one of his novels and notes that 'the writing was sometimes clear and sometimes even transparent, but the way the stories followed one after another didn't lead anywhere.' This, I imagine, is how Bolaño sees his critics viewing his own writing. And I often felt that while reading this massive, complex work. Yet reading it and reflecting on it takes me into myself and helps me look at the world with new eyes."—Gordon Houser, The Wichita Eagle"Last year, the English translation of The Savage Detectives earned late Chilean poet and novelist Roberto Bolaño a host of new fans . . . The good news for Bolaño fans is that the new translation of his curiously titled 2666 is available Nov. 11 . . . Those who take on the 912-page novel will not regret it. The stunning talent, humor and inventiveness on display in 2666 is more proof that when Bolaño died in 2003 at age 50, the world lost not just a great Latin American writer, but perhaps one of its greatest writers, period. One of Bolaño's great strengths in 2666 is that he avoids emotional gimmicks. He writes like an anthropologist: An amusing sex scene or a person's admiration for the beauty of seaweed is described in an objective, controlled voice that seems to appreciate all human behavior. The rigor of this technique allows Bolaño to create a novel that is as intricate and trustworthy as the aluminum and carbon-fiber body of a 747."—Matt Jakubowski, Philadelphia City Paper"2666 is messy, bloated, and unresolved (and Bolaño is a kind of Latin American Melville) but it is also rich with stories that cow us and spur us on, amid blood and mortal wounds and the stench of dead women discovered in the Mexican desert. He wants us to lose ourselves in his daisy chains of inferences and unresolved tensions, to keep us curious, anxious, and reading . . . With 2666, Bolaño joins that cabal of writers—Jorge Luis Borges, Thomas Pynchon, William Blake—who suck critics, college students, and other literary cryptographers down a hermeneutic rabbit hole."—Brendan Kiley, The Stranger (Seattle)"Bolaño knew he was dying when he wrote 2666. The celebrated author—born in Chile, settled in Spain, but always dreaming (and writing) of Mexico—saw his international star rise just as his liver began to fail. And so death haunts each of his final book's 900 pages, its shadow the only constant in a sprawling narrative loosely orbiting true-life accounts of the murders of hundreds of women in a Mexican town. It's electrifying literary heavy-lifting, the kind of writing one of 2666's protagonists calls 'real combat . . . against that something that terrifies us all' . . . Bolaño died in 2003, days after completing 2666. It is a testament to his triumph that this book about death feels so intoxicating alive."—Andy Greenwald, Entertainment Weekly" is a masterpiece you won’t be able to put down. Bolaño, author of The Savage Detectives (a sleeper hit in 1998), was in his 40s when he started writing 2666. But there was a hitch: His liver was failing. He wrote furiously to finish before time ran out, researching extensively and drawing on his experience in a Chilean jail. But in 2003, at age 50, Bolaño lost his battle, leaving behind the 1,200-page manuscript that would become 2666. A hard-boiled page-turner and darkly hilarious farce, the tome is a study of violence so horrific it turns your stomach, comprised of five narratives that subtly or explicitly relate to the unsolved murders of hundreds of women in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico ('Santa Teresa' in the book). There’s a group of lascivious scholars looking for a reclusive German writer hiding in Mexico; a widowed Chilean father who lives with his daughter and slowly loses his mind; and an African-American journalist who stumbles onto a possible link between the Mexican police and the murders. A catalog of the crimes covers almost a hundred pages, allowing the reader to empathize with the victims as well as those who find their bodies: '[The woman’s] head was buried in a hole . . . As if [the killer] had thought by covering the head with earth the rest of the body would be invisible.' Think Cormac McCarthy meets Gabriel García Márquez meets Don DeLillo meets that drunken genius who told you all those weird stories at the hotel bar in Mexico. The voice and characters lodge in your skin like shrapnel and haunt your dreams like a friend taken too soon."—Bret Anthony Johnston, Men's Journal“Poet and novelist Roberto Bolaño wrote about strangulations, stabbings, rapes, drug deals, pistol-whippings and love gone wrong like the Marquis de Sade on a Mexico City bender. His flat, police-report style—notably in short-story collection Last Evenings on Earth and novel The Savage Detectives—earned him almost as much notoriety as his garrulous presence on the international literary scene. By the time Bolaño died of liver failure in 2003, many critics echoed Vinnie Wilhelm, who—writing in The San Francisco Chronicle—called the flinty Chilean ‘the most important writer to emerge from Latin America since García Márquez,’ while many of Bolaño’s contemporaries echoed Isabel Allende, who said, ‘Death does not make you a nicer person.’ A jerk but a genius, Bolaño felt his demise closing in on him for more than 10 years, and in that time went deep into the woodshed to work on a thousand-page opus titled 2666. In interviews, the chain-smoking ex-junkie author would only let on that 2666 was based on the mysterious killings of more than 300 women in the Northern Mexico town of Cuidad Juarez, a strange subject for a writer seemingly drunk on his own machismo. Published posthumously, first in Spanish by Anagrama and now in English by FSG, 2666 revolves around a reclusive but brilliant German author and his relationship to hundreds of women killed in Northern Mexico. True to form, 2666 is a chilling tour de force. Bolaño’s main character is not unlike the author himself, if a more extreme and mythological version. He roams Europe with only his typewriter and a few books, writing infuriating novels of exquisite singularity. As in all Bolaño’s work, fact and fiction mix deliciously. The book’s central question is one Allende might have asked herself late at night: Could the same qualities that made a man a great writer also make him a serial killer? 2666 has the same detached tone as Bolaño’s earlier writing, and the characters all exhibit trademarked Bolaño cool, but there’s a kind of chilling empathy in the author’s focus on the Sonora workers, many of whom are raped and tortured before being murdered. Daniel Zalewski, for The New Yorker, said the Northern Mexico chapters of 2666 ‘may be the grimmest sequence in contemporary fiction.’ Because of such passages, the novel might just be the crowning achievement of ‘visceral realism’—the fictional literary movement Bolaño dreamed up in The Savage Detectives to counter the noxious effects of magical realism in Latin American literature. A real writer posthumously publishing the crowning achievement of his own fictional movement—it’s a typical Bolaño flourish.”—Travis Nicholas, Paste magazine"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)"Not just the great Spanish-language novel of this decade, but one of the cornerstones that define an entire literature. [Bolano] has revived an idea that the postmoderns seemed to have abandoned: the totalizing novel, one that aspires to create a complete narrative universe. This idea goes back to the dawn of the modernists, to Rememberance of Things Past and Ulysses, and in Latin American literature finds its crucial expression in the Boom . . . 2666 is a magisterial and inimitable novel, in which reality takes on a strange air of unreality thanks to situational oddities and absurdities, hairpin turns of language, dreams, sustained questioning, vague associations, changing landscapes. A novel rising like a delirious mirage in the void."—J.A. Masoliver Rodenas, La Vanguardia"Chilean novelist and poet Roberto Bolaño died in 2003, at only 50, cutting short a career that swept over the literary world like a tidal wave. His final novel, 2666 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), published posthumously, takes on the real-life subject of hundreds of women who have been found killed over the last 15 years in the desert outside Ciudad Juárez on the Mexican-American border, one of the most disturbing series of crimes in Latin American history. Holding a reviewer's copy of 2666 in public was like brandishing the newest Harry Potter at the playground three months before the on-sale date. Half a dozen eager strangers who'd heard about the book spoke to me while I was reading it. Bolaño has particularly captured the imaginations of younger readers because his work is rather like a video game or a set of nested webpages, stories within stories with many apparent authors, and little sense of predetermined purpose. This five-part novel jumps from subject to subject, asking you to intuit the relevance of each to each: an obscure German novelist, a sad Mexican professor, reporters on the Juárez murders, policemen, and more. Bolaño recognizes that we live in a cacophony of a million public voices—his work evokes American pulp, Gabriel García Márquez, and Mexican surrealist Juan Rulfo, a fluid range of styles held together in a structural grip all Bolaño's own. Every scene is powerful and realistic; yet the overall effect is hallucinatory and dreamlike. What he captures so artfully is how a world headed toward chaos, exploitation, and violence can still be home to souls guided by gentleness and truth. The book is long and intense, but it is also the work of an extraordinary artist facing certain ultimate realities, and so will repay every moment of attention you can give it."—Vince Passaro, O, The Oprah Magazine"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 País"Roberto Bolaño spent most of his life as a broke, nomadic poet wandering through South America, Mexico and Europe. A political exile from his home country Chile, he spearheaded the notorious infrarealist poetry movement in Mexico. He eventually left Latin America for Europe, where he lived the rest of his life. He was only 50 when he died of liver failure in 2003. 2666 is Roberto Bolaño’s last and most gut-wrenching novel, which he was still revising up to the last year of his life. The book is made up of 5 parts, and the separate narratives all weave around Santa Teresa, a city based on Ciudad Juarez in Northern Mexico where over four hundred murders of young women have taken place since 1993, and few have been solved. It’s an absolutely singular work of fiction—not as haphazardly romantic or vibrantly poetic as Bolaño’s previous masterpiece The Savage Detectives—and yet 2666 is enigmatic, casually insightful, journalistically styled, and real, real, real. And it’s consumed with death—not surprising, seeing as how Bolaño knew he had little time left as he was struggling to complete the book. The novel begins quietly, pleasantly: the first segment, 'The Part about the Critics,' involves four literary scholars obsessed with the reclusive German writer Archimboldi, who has apparently disappeared in Santa Teresa. They go in search of the author, preoccupied all the while with their sexual liaisons and personal affairs. In contrast with the pages to come, the melancholy portrait Bolaño produces of the scholars discussing literature, forming romantic triangles, and idly reading and traveling seems superfluous, ridiculous in hindsight. But the superfluity is the point. Those notions of romance and yearning prove to be fleeting—they’re swallowed up in the ensuing vastness of the far more primordial and physical forces of sex and death. Each subsequent part contributes a wealth of diverse characters and tales that meander, sometimes flippantly, around the dark course we begin to realize has been set. No matter how cheerful, banal, optimistic, or humorous each anecdote is, they’re inextricable from their environment, which, in Bolaño’s subtly and expertly crafted not-so fictional world, is always filled with dying people, the legacy of the dead, and the unwavering sense of one’s own mortality. Nowhere is this more emphatically the case than in the fourth, and longest, part of the novel, 'The Part about the Crimes.' It’s an unrelenting chronicle of five years in Santa Teresa, and in a cold detached air, it details every gruesome rape and murder that targets the women, mostly young factory workers, of the unfortunate city. Like The Savage Detectives, this is a magnificently rich book—one to be read and reread. But in 2666, there’s no romantic idealism, however faulty it was in The Savage Detectives, to find solace or hope in. There’s merely the overwhelming sense of impermanence, and a tension-addled wait for that great plunge into chaos—which of course never comes, in any way we can quantify, at least. Here, Bolaño draws death out in every way, every form that he can, as if to subject his characters to its enormous, incomprehensible presence—and they of course do what we all do, and ultimately what Bolaño does, when considering death—they move on, ignore it, write about it, fail to confront or contain it, and finally, they acknowledge it."—Brian Merchant, Death + Taxes"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"One of those strange, exquisite, and astonishing experiences that literature offers us only once in a very long time. What 2666 promises and achieves . . . is the sight, equally wonderful and upsetting, of a writer in full pursuit of the Total Novel, one that not only completes his life's work but, at the same time, redefines it and raises it to new vertiginous heights . . . 2666 could be described as a 'cosmic novel' because—as with the universe—the crucial and amazing thing is not that it's unfinished, but that it has no end."—Rodrigo Fresan, El País"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 Opinión De Malaga"Life and art, death and transfiguration reverberate with protean intensity in the late Chilean author's final work: a mystery and quest novel of unparalleled richness. Published posthumously in a single volume, despite its author's instruction that it appear as five distinct novels, it's a symphonic envisioning of moral and societal collapse, which begins with a mordantly amusing account ('The Part About the Critics') of the efforts of four literary scholars to discover the obscured personal history and unknown present whereabouts of German novelist Benno von Archimboldi, an itinerant recluse rumored to be a likely Nobel laureate. Their searches lead them to northern Mexico, in a desert area notorious for the unsolved murders of hundreds of Mexican women presumably seeking freedom by crossing the U.S. border. In the novel's second book, a Spanish academic (Amalfitano) now living in Mexico fears a similar fate threatens his beautiful daughter Rosa. It's followed by the story of a black American journalist whom Rosa encounters, in a subplot only imperfectly related to the main narrative. Then, in 'The Part About the Crimes,' the stories of the murdered women and various people in their lives (which echo much of the content of Bolaño's other late mega-novel The Savage Detectives) lead to a police investigation that gradually focuses on the fugitive Archimboldi. Finally, 'The Part About Archimboldi' introduces the figure of Hans Reiter, an artistically inclined young German growing up in Hitler's shadow, living what amounts to an allegorical representation of German culture in extremis, and experiencing transformations that will send him halfway around the world; bring him literary success, consuming love and intolerable loss; and culminate in a destiny best understood by Reiter's weary, similarly bereaved and burdened sister Lotte: 'He's stopped existing.' Bolaño's gripping, increasingly astonishing fiction echoes the world-encompassing masterpieces of Stendhal, Mann, Grass, Pynchon and García Márquez, in a consummate display of literary virtuosity powered by an emotional thrust that can rip your heart out. Unquestionably the finest novel of the present century—and we may be saying the same thing 92 years from now."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Robert Bolaño was born in Santiago, Chile, in 1953. He spent much of his adult life in Mexico and in Spain, where he died at the age of fifty. His novel The Savage Detectives was named one of the best books of 2007 by The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times Book Review.