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Book Review: 2666 by Roberto Bolano

It's hard to get excited over an 800+ page book like 2666, yet here I am, giddy as a schoolgirl from having just finished the tome.

2666 is a hard novel to describe, let alone analyze, and review.  To describe 2666, the first word that comes to mind is "crazy."  No, not "crazy," - "Insane!"

2666, a novel by Chilean writer, Roberto Bolano, was published posthumously in 2004.  Bolano was working on 2666 just before he passed away, but an editor's note at the end of the novel assures readers that it is, more or less, complete, and  is the latest version - close to the final product that Bolano had intended to publish.

2666 is divided into 5 parts.  Part 1 - The Part About the Critics; Part 2 - The Part About Amalfitano; Part 3 - The Part About Fate; Part 4 - The Part About the Crimes; and Part 5 - The Part About Archimboldi.

Bolano originally intended for each part to be published separately and independent of each other, for the reason that each part could stand on its own.  However, his editors advised against this, and published the novel as one giant volume, divided into 5 parts.

Part 1, the Part About the Critics, introduces 4 literary scholars, obsessed with the works of German author, Benno von Archimboldi.  Though the 4 scholars discovered Archimboldi on their own and under different circumstances, their paths eventually cross due to their common work and interests.

Fascinated and obsessed with the obscure German author, the 4 scholars/critics devote their lives to the study of his novels, and set out to try to find the elusive writer.

Their investigation leads them to Santa Teresa, Mexico, where a man claimed to have seen and assisted the writer, Archimboldi.  When the scholars reach Santa Teresa, they are assisted by the local university, and Archimboldi scholar, Prof. Amalfitano.

Part 2, the Part About Amalfitano, introduces Professor Amalfitano and his daughter, Rosa.  Part 2 describes Amalfitano's insane wife, their teenage daughter, Rosa, their life in Santa Teresa, and the strange voice that talks to Amalfitano when he's alone.

Part 3 is the Part About Fate.  Oscar Fate is an American reporter, sent to Santa Teresa by his editor to cover a boxing match.  While in Santa Teresa, Oscar discovers that hundreds of women in Santa Teresa have been disappearing mysteriously, only to re-appear days later in the desert or near the highway, raped, beaten, and murdered.

In the course of his stay in Santa Teresa, Fate meets Guadalupe Roncal, a reporter assigned by her newspaper to interview the man convicted of the murders of the women; and Rosa Amalfitano, daughter of Prof. Amalfitano.

The Part About the Crimes describes the different crimes that took place in Santa Teresa.  Victims of the murders were usually women, between the ages of 12-35, with long black hair, usually working in factories or identified as whores.  The women are usually raped, vaginally and anally, beaten, tortured, and then strangled to death.

In part 4, a host of police officers and detectives assigned to the unsolved murders are introduced, as well as a seer, different reporters, a congresswoman looking for her missing friend, who may have been a victim of the murders, criminals, gang members, and Klaus Haas, a German businessman accused of the murders.

The last part is the Part About Archimboldi.  Part 5 is devoted to the life of Archimboldi, from childhood to the present.  Archomboldi, the son of a one-legged man and a one-eyed woman, was frequently described as a boy who looked like seaweed.

As a young man, he was befriended by a Baron's nephew, and later was drafted in World War 2.  During the war, Archimboldi meets different people and experiences the hardships of war.

After the war, Archimboldi tries to find his parents, and sister, Lotte, and later, eventually settles down with a woman and tries to live a normal life. Archimboldi goes on to write novels, published by Mr. and Mrs. Bubis, who become good friends with Archimboldi.

Part 5 also talks about Archimboldi's sister Lotte who, after surviving the war, eventually marries and has a son.

Reading 2666 may seem daunting at first because of it's size, but readers will discover right away that it is quite an easy read, despite it's shifts in narrative styles, non-linear storytelling, and numerous, seemingly inconsequential side stories.  It is a barrage of images, ideas, philosophies, facts, characters, and stories which will leave readers entertained, amused, confused, frustrated, and even angry.

The end of 2666 leads readers right back to the beginning, leaving them with more questions than answers, not the least of which is: What is 2666 really all about?

Tags: author: b, genre: fiction, review
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