Danny's Reviews > 2666

2666 by Roberto Bolaño
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Mar 18, 11

bookshelves: listened-to, library-book

I would never have made it through this book if I hadn't listened to it on my commute. It's the kind of book that has a lot going on, the author takes any chance he gets to go off on a tangent, and it's very, very long if you're used to books that top out at around 300 pages. Add to that its difficult subject matter, the repeated use of words I personally find offensive, and long passages detailing brutal killings, rapes, and other assorted awfulness, and I'm actually surprised I got through it even listening to it. But I did.

The book has an interesting history in that the author died before publication and asked that it be published as 5 separate novels (novellas?) but the publisher and his family decided that it should be published as he originally intended it, as a big, long book.

The plot point that comes up in each novella is the story of the murders of women in a Mexican town near the U.S. border, mirroring the real killings taking place in a similar town in the real world. But the books are very different from each other. The first have to do with European academics who all write about a specific author, and their search to find that author. The second has to do with a professor in the town in Mexico, who the professors from the first novel meet when the travel there, and his daughter and his worries about her. The third has to do with a reporter in the Mexican town to cover a boxing match, but he gets interested in the murders and starts asking questions, and eventually runs into the daughter of the professor. The fourth book details many of the murders and the efforts of the police to solve them. The fifth tells a story from WWII about a German soldier who eventually becomes the author the academics in the first book were looking for, and his family, one of whom is in jail in Mexico suspected of the murders of women.

The whole thing does have a narrative thrust, and ideas big and small flow throughout. In the end it seems like a very pessimistic book, with the title (not referenced anywhere in the book) seeming like a Doomsday warning.

Rough going, but if you want a well-written, challenging book you could do worse.
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