Chris's Reviews > 2666

2666 by Roberto Bolaño
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Nov 07, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: favorites, literature-south-middle-american, minority-unclear-hero-or-heroine

2666 is a masterful novel. It is one of those books that you read, and then it hits you that it is really a masterpiece. It is also a very strange novel.

The novel draws upon the real world tragedy, sin, and horrible reality of the multiple murders of women around the United States and Mexican border. It, however, takes a whole section, roughly about 165 pages, for this to come to become more than background.

The story is told in five interconnected parts or novellas. The first part concerns four critics who study the works of a famous German writer, whose story makes up the last section, making two interesting book ends for the central story. During this section, and eventually in other sections of the novel, I thought that Bolano was trying to beat out James Joyce for the longest sentence in the world. Yet, it wasn’t annoying. There are also strange, funny reactions. There is a scene in the first section where two of the critics assault a cab driver. This is disturbing, and yet it is also funny because the critics scream out that the attack is for Rushdie, even though neither one likes his work.

The second and third stories centers on a reporter and a philosopher professor (who was introduced in the first section). It is in this section that the language at times becomes coarser and the murders of the women begin to play a wider part. There is also a stronger sense of doom in these sections.

That sense of doom explodes in the fourth section of the novel. For me, the fourth section of the novel was the hardest part of the novel to read. It is the longest section, and it is the most violent. In this section, Bolano focuses on the victims, on violence against women. In many ways, this section is a roll call of the dead, and, therefore is not enjoyable reading. It is compelling, disturbing, it is as good as the rest of the book, but enjoyable? No. And yet, the book needs this section. It is in this section that the tragedy of human life and the cost of death unfold. It is also spooky. I read part of this section as I was coming home from work, and even though my trolley stop is a half a block from my house, and my house is on an active street, I was spooked, when I am not usually. (It was dark, but it was on 6:30).

The fifth and final section of the novel concerns the author the critics of the first part love. It is the story of his life and the life of his sister. Despite the initial appearance, the two are connected to the murders. It makes a nice end. The style in terms of languages becomes cleaner, more like the first section, though there are parts that harkens back to the other sections of the novel.

The novel does raise the question about what it is about. There are reoccurring themes. The most overwhelming of these themes seems to be the mystery of women or why men act the way they do around women. This does not only tie in with the mystery of the violence against women that predominates the fourth section of the book, but also with the various relationships between the sexes that occur in the other sections of the novel. In each of these relationships, the woman confuses or confounds the man. Perhaps, Bolano is making a comment on relations between the sexes. While the book does have violence towards women, Bolano writes believable women, realistic women, and strong women. It is not a misogynistic book.

It is also hard not to say that Bolano is making a comment about the horrific crimes that occur on the border. Even though he describes the murders of the women in almost dispassionate tones, there seems to be a sense of anger simmering below the surface. It is as if the whole rest of the novel is an excuse to write this fourth section. That this fourth section is trying to raise an outcry about what is happening or happened.
Then there is the title. According to the afterword, 2666 is the year that all the stories are supposedly heading towards. I can’t help but wonder, however, if it has darker and deeper reference, perhaps about the demons that live in people and the darkness that comes from them.

A tough book, but a thought provoking one.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
November 7, 2009 – Shelved
November 19, 2016 – Shelved as: favorites
November 19, 2016 – Shelved as: literature-south-middle-american
February 3, 2018 – Shelved as: minority-unclear-hero-or-heroine

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Laura great review Chris, thanks!!


Chris Welcome.


message 3: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Thanks for the review Chris, it's great to know what's actually going on between the covers here. The few editorial reviews I have read didn't cover enough of the 'meat' to make me interested in the book.


message 4: by Lila (new) - added it

Lila I am currently reading a book called An Unnecessary Woman, about a woman who translate books into Arabic and this is one of the books she plans on translating! I had to check it out! Now I'll definitely read it!


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