2666 A Novel

Roberto Bolaño; Translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer




Trade Paperback

912 Pages



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Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award
Winner of the PEN Translation Prize
A Los Angeles Times Favorite Book of the Year
One of The New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year
A New York Times Book Review Notable Book
Time Magazine's Best Book of the Year
One of The Washington Post 10 Best Books of the Year
A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year
A Seattle Times Best Book of the Year
A Village Voice Best Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year

Three academics on the trail of a reclusive German author; a New York reporter on his first Mexican assignment; a widowed philosopher; a police detective in love with an elusive older woman—these are among the searchers drawn to the border city of Santa Teresa, where over the course of a decade hundreds of women have disappeared.

Published posthumously, 2666 is, according to La Vanguardia, "not just the great Spanish-language novel of this decade, but one of the cornerstones that define an entire literature."


Praise for 2666

"Well beyond his sometimes nomadic life, Roberto Bolaño was an exemplary literary rebel. To drag fiction toward the unknown he had to go there himself, and then invent a method with which to represent it. Since the unknown place was reality, the results of his work are multi-dimensional, in a way that runs ahead of a critic's one-at-a-time powers of description. Highlight Bolaño's conceptual play and you risk missing the sex and viscera in his work. Stress his ambition and his many references and you conjure up threats of exclusive high-modernist obscurity, or literature as a sterile game, when the truth is it's hard to think of a writer who is less of a snob, or—in the double sense of exposing us to unsavory things and carrying seeds for the future—less sterile . . . 2666 was published in Spanish in 2004, a year after Bolaño's death. It runs to 898 pages in English and was not quite finished—yet one doesn't really feel the lack of final revisions doing much to diminish its power . . . With his skill at letting small details and their implications work in our minds, Bolaño allows us to start to map out for ourselves the larger social pattern. From description, we could probably sketch the city of Santa Teresa, quadrant by quadrant, from upscale condos to sports fields to bus stops and shacks by a makeshift latrine. Factories beckon migrants from all over Mexico to work, but offer no transport home at night beyond long, solitary walks in the dark. A creepy German national—whose height and blond fairness give him, in the Mexican context, a rather monstrous aspect—is held on suspicion of murder. The worst police seem wired to power; the better police are under pressure to nab a suspect—and the crimes go on. Fascinatingly, the United States appears as a part of characters' remembered visits; a Mexican-American sheriff from Arizona crosses over to find out what happened to a blue collar woman from his town. But the United States' relationship to the drug trade and the history of the assembly plants are not explored directly or at length. Instead of belaboring the obvious, Bolaño seems to have chosen the challenge of representing something pervasive . . . Bolaño's vision is fierce . . . Near the end of the novel, we learn the reason Reiter is headed for Mexico. And then he is gone. Instead of completion we have the physical sense of being in the presence of a controlling object, which we are not yet done investigating. For a while yet, our brain feels rewired for multiplicity. This is not just a cultural or geographical question, though if 2666 contains a lesson it is that people are always from some confluence of factors more bizarre than a country. And it goes deeper than the question of multiple voices. We have eavesdropped on characters and then felt ourselves in the funny, sad, and dangerous process of needing and making meaning. Since there is no logical endpoint, we close with an image from the novel that is out of time. A world of 'endless shipwreck,' but met with the most radiant effort. It is as good a way as any to describe Bolaño and his overwhelming book."—Sarah Kerr, The New York Review of Books

"Shortly before he died of liver failure in July 2003, Roberto Bolaño remarked that he would have preferred to be a detective rather than a writer. Bolaño was 50 years old at the time, and by then he was widely considered to be the most important Latin American novelist since Gabriel García Márquez. But when Mexican Playboy interviewed him, Bolaño was unequivocal. 'I would have liked to be a homicide detective, much more than a writer,' he told the magazine. 'Of that I'm absolutely sure. A string of homicides. Someone who could go back alone, at night, to the scene of the crime, and not be afraid of ghosts.' Detective stories, and provocative remarks, were always passions of Bolaño's—he once declared James Ellroy among the best living writers in English—but his interest in gumshoe tales went beyond matters of plot and style. In their essence, detective stories are investigations into the motives and mechanics of violence, and Bolaño—who moved to Mexico the year of the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre and was imprisoned during the 1973 military coup in his native Chile—was also obsessed with such matters. The great subject of his oeuvre is the relationship between art and infamy, craft and crime, the writer and the totalitarian state. In fact, all of Bolaño's mature novels scrutinize how writers react to repressive regimes. Distant Star grapples with Chile's history of death squads and desaparecidos by conjuring up a poet turned serial killer. The Savage Detectives exalts a gang of young poets who joust against state-funded writers during the years of Mexico's dirty wars. Amulet revolves around a middle-aged poet who survives the government's 1968 invasion of the Autonomous University of Mexico by hiding in a bathroom. By Night in Chile (2000) depicts a literary salon where writers party in the same house in which dissidents are tortured. And Bolaño's final, posthumous novel, 2666, is also spun from ghastly news: the murder, since 1993, of more than 430 women and girls in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, particularly in Ciudad Juárez . . . By setting his novel in Santa Teresa, a fictional town in Sonora, rather than in Juárez, Bolaño was able to blur the lines between what he knew and what he imagined. But he was deeply concerned with understanding the circumstances facing Juárez and its inhabitants. Bolaño was already familiar with the region's bleak, arid landscape—he'd traveled to northern Mexico during the 1970s—but the femicides didn't begin until sixteen years after he had left for Europe, and he'd never visited Juárez. Since he didn't know anyone living in the city, his knowledge was limited to what he could find in newspapers and on the Internet. From these sources he would have learned that Juárez had become the perfect place to commit a crime . . . Juárez and its fictional counterpart bear little resemblance to the cultural centers where Bolaño set most of his novels—even Distant Star takes place in the most important university town in southern Chile. There are no writing workshops amid the shantytowns of Santa Teresa, nor gangs of rebellious poets. Like all of Bolaño's fiction, 2666 teems with writers, artists and intellectuals, but these characters come from elsewhere: from Europe, South America, the United States and Mexico City. Stuck in the badlands of northern Mexico, the same region where Cormac McCarthy's gang of merry killers rampage in Blood Meridian, Santa Teresa is literally and culturally parched . . . I've read it three times, and I find it to be dense, brilliant and horrifying, with scattered scenes of cleverness and fun. Page one plunges us into the lives of four European academics who adore the books of a reclusive German author named Benno von Archimboldi almost as much as they enjoy luring each other to bed. Bolaño's approach to the murders in the first two parts of 2666—'The Part About the Critics' and 'The Part About Amalfitano'—is coy, elliptical. 'The Part About Amalfitano'—which clearly derives from the book Bolaño described to Rippey in 1995—moves closer to the locals, while still keeping the murders at arm's length. If part one is a brainy romance, part two is an existential drama. A Chilean philosophy professor who has left Europe for the University of Santa Teresa founders in quiet desperation. He fears that he's going crazy—a voice speaks to him at night. He fears that the city's violence may reach out and grab his daughter—a black car keeps appearing just outside his house . . . This vision of violence brings to mind America's own apocalyptic writer, Cormac McCarthy, but Bolaño's novel has more sex and comedy, and his hero is quite different from those in The Road or Blood Meridian. Archimboldi marches through the battlefields of Poland and Romania like a man trolling along the bottom of the sea, immersed in the deep's dark horror yet untouched by it. As a teenager, he reads Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival and is captivated by the idea of a 'lay and independent' medieval knight. His own holy grail turns out to be a dead man's diary he discovers in an abandoned shtetl. A lay and independent knight: these words could describe both the great detectives and the great writers who wander through the pages of 2666. All of them are loners who devote themselves to reading and swimming in the abyss. Being a writer in this world is as dangerous as being a detective, walking through a graveyard, looking at ghosts."—Marcela Valdes, The Nation

"At one point in 2666, the enormous, posthumously published novel by Roberto Bolaño, a character complains about the meager ambitions of modern readers, accusing them of being 'afraid to take on the great, imperfect, torrential works, books that blaze paths into the unknown. They choose the perfect exercises of the great masters'—he cites Melville's Bartleby and Kafka's Metamorphosis. 'They want to watch the great masters spar, but they have no interest in real combat, when the great masters struggle against that something that terrifies us all, that something that cows us and spurs us on, amid blood and mortal wounds and stench.' ¿Quién es más macho? Since this observation occurs in a novel that, in its English translation, runs to 898 pages, it seems reasonable to assume that the character is speaking for the author. Certainly there is nothing modest about this book, which contains dozens of principal characters, covers more than 80 years of history and features five distinct narratives that overlap in something like a literary Venn diagram. Its principal theme is nothing less than the malignancy of modern culture, inoperable and pervasive (the Third Reich, serial killing), sometimes dormant, always threatening and erupting without warning. History, in this concept, is like a collective nightmare, and reading 2666 is much like enduring a horrific dream—all you want to do is wake up but you can't—because the multitalented Bolaño was a spellbinder: he knew how to make readers keep turning pages. Bolaño, who died of liver failure in 2003 at the age of 50, was born in Chile and grew up there and in Mexico City, where he became a Trotskyite revolutionary. He returned to Chile in time to witness the overthrow of the socialist Allende government by the military, did a few days in jail (he got out because two of the guards were childhood friends who recognized him) and eventually returned to Mexico City, where he helped found a revolutionary literary group inspired by the Beats and the Dadaists and dedicated to opposing what they considered complacent, middle-class art. At that time, he was a poet, publishing his first collection in 1976. The next year, he moved to Spain and not long thereafter, he fell off the literary map, supporting himself with a series of marginal jobs—dishwasher, bellhop, garbage collector. But he was always writing and in the early '90s, he began publishing again (and supporting himself and his family in the oddest fashion: by winning small literary prizes for his books). By then he had turned to fiction and in the next decade completed three story collections and 10 novels. None of this biographical information is necessary to read 2666, but it helps explain the scope of the book. Bolaño was not a Chilean novelist, a Mexican novelist or a Spanish novelist. He was equally at home writing about serial killings in northern Mexico and the savageries of the Russian front in World War II. He saw life on an immense scale, and that's how he wrote about it—as an epic that ended, more often than not, in failure, but not without grandeur. Detectives play central roles in 2666, and if their searches are ultimately fruitless, that almost seems beside the point. The search, for Bolaño, was all. His final novel begins with four European academics seeking to find the reclusive German novelist Benno von Archimboldi, a Pynchonesque writer and perennial Nobel candidate most recently sighted—maybe—in Mexico. But when three of the four travel to the northern Mexico city of Santa Teresa (a fictional stand-in for Juárez) they lose the trail. Looking over their shoulders, as it were, we get a glimpse of a situation that will come to dominate the central sections of the book: the abduction, rape and murder of several hundred of the city's young women (based on unsolved serial killings in the real Juárez). The second and third sections concern, respectively, a Santa Teresa professor and an African-American journalist sent to Santa Teresa to cover a boxing match. Again, like a photograph in a developing tray, the murders come a little more into focus, and in the fourth section, the murders are Topic A, as the police search fruitlessly for the killer or killers. The last chapter—and each chapter is long enough to be published as a novel by itself—abandons both Santa Teresa and the present tense to tell the story of the novelist Archimboldi, whom we first meet as Hans Reiter, a German soldier in World War II. After the war, Reiter becomes a novelist under his baroque nom de plume, and in the last scene he is seen heading for Mexico, bringing the events of the story full circle."—Malcolm Jones, Newsweek

"There could be nobody better suited to describe the hilarious, improbable triumph of Robert Bolaño than Bolaño himself, which is a shame because he's dead. At the time of his death, in 2003, Bolaño was a major writer in the Spanish-speaking world but virtually unknown and untranslated in English. Why that should be is not much of a mystery. Bolaño was a difficult, angry, self-reflexive writer who lived an erratic and occasionally unpleasant life. And Americans, as the head of the Swedish Academy has annoyingly but rightly pointed out, don't read much fiction in translation anyway. But when the first of Bolaño's major novels, The Savage Detectives, a massive, bizarre epic about a band of avant-garde Mexican poets, was published in the U.S. last year, it instantly became a cult hit among readers and practically a fetish object to critics. Bolaño's second (and last) major novel is titled 2666, and if anything, it is even more massive and more bizarre. It is also a masterpiece, the electrifying literary event of the year . . . Adding to an oeuvre that includes several collections of short stories, numerous novellas and minor novels, and a volume of poems due out later this month from New Directions—Bolaño's posthumous conquest of the U.S. will be complete . . . The 898 pages of 2666 are divided into five parts, and it will give you some idea of the book's tone, rigorously literary and ridiculously informal at the same time, to know that those parts are titled 'The Part about Fate,' 'The Part about the Crimes' and so on, as if they were Friends episodes. (The flawless translation, by Natasha Wimmer, is appropriately loose and relaxed.) Part 1 is called 'The Part about the Critics' . . . 2666 is not a novel that any responsible critic could describe with words like brisk or taut. (Not like all those other brisk, taut 898-page novels.) That's not Bolaño's method. He's addicted to unsolved mysteries and seemingly extraneous details that actually do turn out to be extraneous, and he loves trotting out characters—indelible thumbnail sketches—whom we will never encounter a second time. If three people spend the night at a hotel, you can count on Bolaño to stop the story cold for 10 pages while he describes each of their dreams. He'll do it gorgeously, but still. This habit can be exhausting. Bolaño is often compared to Jorge Luis Borges, but Borges would never have written 2666. He would have written a short story, an exquisite miniature about a crazy graphomane who talks about writing 2666, and then called it a day. But the relentless gratuitousness of 2666 has its own logic and its own power, which builds into something overwhelming that hits you all the harder because you don't see it coming. This is a dangerous book, and you can get lost in it. How can art, Bolaño is asking, a medium of form and meaning, reflect a world that is blessed with neither? That is in fact a cesspool of chance and filth? In Part 2 of 2666 the philosophy professor, whose name is Amalfitano, recreates one of Marcel Duchamp's ready-made artworks: he hangs up a geometry textbook outside his house by a string so that the elements can gradually corrupt and destroy its tidy diagrams. He contemplates the book for hours as random, meaningless, non-Euclidean reality invades it, forcing it to register the presence of a world it cannot describe. It is not one of Bolaño's most successful digressions, but it is an excellent metaphor for 2666 itself: 'Images with no handhold,' the professor says of those ruined pages, 'images freighted with all the orphanhood in the world, fragments, fragments.' This is the novel corrupted, but its corruption is its salvation, because an orderly book, all signal and no noise, would not be a true book. There is, of course, something incontrovertibly Bolañoesque about 2666 itself: an enigmatic, unfinished novel, translated from another language, orphaned by its author. The world, whose number Bolaño indisputably had (was it 2666? We never learn), has subtracted Bolaño from the picture, and we must read his work in his absence. But in a tragic, paradoxical way, his death completes the book: it touches 2666 with the disorder and rootlessness that is its subject. And what more could Bolaño have told us anyway? With what final wisdom could he have supplied us? Gazing at his ruined geometry book, Amalfitano fantasizes about meeting a 19th century philosopher on his deathbed and asking him for advice. 'What would his response have been?' Amalfitano wonders. 'Be happy. Live in the moment. Be good. Or rather: Who are you? What are you doing here? Go away.'"—Lev Grossman, Time

"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 Juárez; (4) the history of the 20th century; (5) you name it. Extravagant, punishing and weirdly beautiful."—Bloomberg
"Since his death in 2003, the Chilean novelist Roberto Bolaño has become one of the more colorful gods in the pantheon of international literary myth. (Who can forget the time he impregnated a dragon using nothing but the power of his neglected avant-gardism?) My favorite episode of his biographical legend is the part where, at the age of nearly 40, having spent his wild-haired youth as an experimental poet obscurely chasing revolutions (political and aesthetic) all over Latin America, he finally decided it was time to hang up his spurs (or whatever revolutionaries had worn in the seventies) and try, with the air of a man resigning himself to becoming a vacuum salesman, to earn a stable living by writing fiction. This is funny because Bolaño's fiction—dreamy novellas in which air-force pilots skywrite opaque poetry and priests tutor despots in Marxism—is perhaps the least commercially viable body of literature ever written for the alleged purpose of making money. His novelistic skill-set seems designed to repel consumers. He has an apparently life-threatening allergy to cuteness, fictional convention, and reader-enabling shortcuts. He seems personally offended by the artifice of narrative closure; although he's addicted to detective plots, he employs them almost purely as philosophical exercises, often abandoning them halfway through. He loves (like Borges) to invent elaborate bibliographies for fictional authors, which occasionally creates the sensation that you're reading a card catalogue instead of a novel. He follows his restless talent down every available rabbit hole of improvisation, no matter how dark and unpromising. Single sentences stretch on for pages, obsessively sifting the most minor gradation. Surreal metaphors bloom without warning: 'It was raining in the quadrangle. and the quadrangle sky looked like the grimace of a robot or a god made in our own likeness . . . the grass and earth seemed to talk, no, not talk, argue, their incomprehensible words like crystallized spiderwebs or the briefest crystallized vomitings.' This all adds up, indisputably, to great literature—at his best, Bolaño strikes a new kind of balance between aim (quests, escapes, investigations) and aimlessness (dream, description, metaphorical riffing), in which the aimlessness is so energetic and oddly urgent it steps up as a whole new species of purpose. But in what world would it ever possibly sell? Well, apparently in this one. The newest entry in Bolaño's legendary oeuvre is the enormous, posthumous, ambiguously complete, inscrutably titled novel 2666—which arrives omni-buzzed and hyper-designed, poised to be the most fashionable literary blockbuster of the holiday season . . . Bolaño has a lyric poet's feel for narrative logic, and 2666 is a modular epic—a novel built out of five linked novellas, each of which is itself a collage of endless stand-alone parts: riffs, nightmares, set pieces, monolgues, dead ends, stories within stories, descriptive flourishes. It begins with four literary critics—three Europeans and an English-woman, embroiled in a fierce international love quadrangle—who've built academic careers based entirely on their obsession with a vanished German novelist, the absurdly named Benno von Archimboldi. On a tip, the scholars go searching for Archimboldi in Santa Teresa, a dystopic Mexican boomtown ('equal parts lost cemetery and garbage dump') near the U.S. border, where, they soon discover, hundreds of woman have recently been kidnapped, raped, and murdered. These mysterious killings, based on a real-life crime wave that broke out in Ciudad Juárez in the nineties, become the center of 2666, around which Bolaño mobilizes his small army of cosmopolitan protagonists: a Chilean professor who's terrified that his teenage daughter will be the next victim; a black American journalist assigned, on a fluke, to cover a boxing match in Santa Teresa; and the elusive Archimboldi himself, drawn toward the murders at the end of his life by a surprising family connection. The heart of 2666 is its fourth and longest section, called simply 'The Part About the Crimes.' It is, flat out, one of the best stretches of fiction I've ever read. I broke my pencil several times writing catatonically enthusiastic marginalia. Bolaño takes the crimes on directly, one by one, compiling a brutal, almost journalistic catalogue of the murdered woman. Although he's clearly outraged by the culture of misogyny, exploitation, and indifference that enables the killing, he refuses to load the fictional dice. He humanizes not only the women and their families but the corrupt police and even the murder suspects. It's a perfect fusion of subject and method: The real-world horror anchors Bolaño's dreamy aesthetic, producing an impossibly powerful hybrid of political anger and sophisticated art . . . 2666 is Bolaño's everything book: It aspires to say all he had to say about his career, his central obsessions, and his geographical touchstones (Chile, Mexico, Spain, Germany). His death, in the last moments of its creation, applies the final indeterminate Bolañoesco touch: mystery, openness, imperfection—a simultaneous promise of everything and of nothing."—Sam Anderson, New York magazine

"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 originality, 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, and 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 could get away with 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 is 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. By 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 Juárez (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 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 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 Juárez (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

"Those who take on [this] 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 intoxicatingly alive."—Andy Greenwald, Entertainment Weekly

"[2666] 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 Juárez, 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, Bolaño's last novel ranges over the world and history like the knight Percival, who in Bolaño'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. [Bolaño] 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, 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 Bolaño'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 Juárez 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 . . . Bolaño 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)

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Roberto Bolaño; Translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer

  • 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, Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times Book Review.

  • Roberto Bolaño