Ben Winch's Reviews > 2666

2666 by Roberto Bolaño
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Dec 16, 11

bookshelves: chilean, latin-american, 5-stars
Read in January, 2009

Love or hate it, I don't think anyone can deny that 2666 is an event the like of which is rarely seen in literature. For me, its discovery was something like that of Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle 15-or-so years ago. Both books gave me a sense of 'Wow, I didn't know they still wrote books like this' - that is, books that are unafraid to be both pulp and highbrow, that do not apparently acknowledge any limitations of style or subject matter, that are simultaneously examples of good old-fashioned storytelling and of experimentation. Of course, Bolano's is a much darker work, and less accessible, and has been embraced more immediately and passionately by the establishment than Murakami's. But both open our eyes to a previously-unseen dimension, and remind us of the existence of traditions outside of our own - something which the English-speaking world is perennially in need of. Where 2666 excels is in managing to seem international - in spreading itself across Latin America, North America and Europe while never losing its focus on a terrible corner of Mexico. Most people in the English-speaking world (me included) came to Bolano through The Savage Detectives, but to me 2666 is far superior, and proves that with that earlier novel he was just messing about. It's over 2 years since I read this, and I really can't say more right now, except that reading 2666 transformed me, in some way I will probably not understand until I re-read it. It is certainly far from perfect, but it bears all the hallmarks of a life-or-death struggle between an author and his mysterious source of inspiration, and in the last analysis, to me, that is probably the most important quality a work of art can have.
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