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80 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bolano's Masterpiece
Bolano's 1100 page (Spanish Edition) magnus opus is mesmerizing and hypnotic; full of magical stories, violence, sex, meta-fiction, and lies--a lot of lies and a great deal of misdirection.

When I finished the novel I started again; it was the only thing to do; there was too much to absorb on the first reading; too many themes--writing, violence, detectives,...
Published on 8 Sep 2009 by Keith W. Harvey

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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I just don't get it
So 2666 is the last work by celebrated Spanish author Roberto Bolano and after reading it I just don't get what he set out to achieve. Given the other reviews on here I am prepared to admit that this may well be a problem with me, but as I got it on the vine program here's my review.
The novel is really 5 interlinking stories, each of which can be read as a...
Published on 12 Mar 2009 by Richard Kelly


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80 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bolano's Masterpiece, 8 Sep 2009
This review is from: 2666 (Paperback)
Bolano's 1100 page (Spanish Edition) magnus opus is mesmerizing and hypnotic; full of magical stories, violence, sex, meta-fiction, and lies--a lot of lies and a great deal of misdirection.

When I finished the novel I started again; it was the only thing to do; there was too much to absorb on the first reading; too many themes--writing, violence, detectives, murder, identity, travel, death, books, libraries, biographies, success, failure, race, fascism, Nazis, and war.

The writing in itself is beautiful, a poet's book, written by a poet, and translated beautifully by Natasha Wimmer.

The story, in a nutshell, is the life story of a German soldier by the name of Hans Reiter, who, in mid-life in the bombed-out city of Cologne, after the Second World War, changes his name to Benno von Archimboldi and writes his first novel. This story seems to be a conflation of several writers' biographies--Heinrich Boll, Gunter Grass, and surely Prince Hermann Ludwig Heinrich von Pückler-Muskau (I don't think you will see this in any other critique of the book but Bolano gives a brilliant clue at the end of the novel and the parallels between Benno and Prince Herman are quite interesting to trace. Why did he chose him? Because he is better remembered for the ice cream named after him than the books he a wrote and the life he lived.)

From this brief synopsis grows a story of the world in the Twentieth Century. It begins with Reiter's birth in Prussia and ends in the present day. The book contains hundreds of characters and their stories, each told by the same voice, a narrator, who Bolano once said was the fictional poet, Arturo Belano, a character in his brilliant novel--"The Savage Detectives."

So, we have a story told, not shown, which covers eighty years.

The novel contains five parts, which are almost self-contained, but when read together fit perfectly. The five parts are: (1) The Part about the Critics; (2) The Part about Amalfitano; (3) The Part about Fate; (4) The Part about the Crimes; and (5) The Part about Archimboldi.

Part One tells the story of four academics reading, studying, and writing about the reclusive Archimboldi, who is being considered for the Nobel Prize. Their study leads them ultimately to Sonora, to Santa Teresa (a conflation of Jaurez and Heroica Nogales), where a serial killer is operating.

Parts Two, Three, and Four take place in Sonora and involve--a university professor, an American journalist, and many detectives. These three sections all involve the killings in Santa Teresa from one view or another.

Part Five is a chronological telling of the life of Archimboldi, which precedes the action in Part One.

Throughout the telling of the story hundreds of books are mentioned and discussed. Some are real books; some are made up; and others are simply conflated. However, ultimately, it is a writer's book or perhaps just a book for readers, real readers, readers interested in mystery and games, language games, and ghastly murders.

The plot of the novel is driven by mysteries: where is Archimboldi, who is Archimboldi, who is killing the women of Santa Teresa? However, the beauty of the book is in the slow telling of the stories and the minutia of the details.

I cannot do the novel justice; it has to be read closely to appreciate it, but there is a clue to its most fundamental theme: throughout the novel people are buried in mass graves, the graves are hidden because more often than not the murderers are trying to hide their crimes. However, in each instance, the graves are discovered and the bodies uncovered; just as stories are told and the secrets revealed. And herein lies the meaning of the title and I think the fundamental theme of a book full of themes and ideas; it arises or it is hidden in a quote from the "Savage Detectives:" "Guerreo, at that time of night, is more like a cemetery than an avenue, not a cemetery in 1974 or 1968, or 1975, but a cemetery in the year 2666, a forgotten cemetery under the eyelid of a corpse or an unborn child, bathed in the dispassionate fluids of an eye that tried so hard to forget one particular thing that it ended up forgetting everything else."

In other words, our world is more like an uncovered cemetery of the future, full of violence and death. The science of the Twentieth Century devised ways to systematically kill thousands of people. But even now, after the war, the killing continues in the bizarre nightmare milieus of border towns, the situs of the maguiladoras, in refugee camps in Africa, in race wars all over the war, the Fifth Ward, in Compton, in our back yards.

Santa Teresa is supposedly modeled on Juarez where there are 340 maguiladoras operating. Here is the future, stranger than we can imagine, which makes the book in my mind slipstream.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An angry passionate and eloquent voice, 6 Sep 2011
This review is from: 2666 (Paperback)
I have just finished this epic work and it will certainly linger in my mind. I think it is tough to begin another book after reading this one. Sometimes the writing has that quality of inspiration that is only rarely encountered - I think of Lolita or The Alexandria Quartet. The section which covers the appalling chaos towards the end of World War II - where people seem more like ghosts. The cumulative effect of the vicious murders each one detailed with a forensic clinical precision - a coldness which lets us see this violence without sensationalism or self dramatisation. Bolano seems to have an inexhaustible invention in the imagery he employs in the descriptive writing - a sentence can often take a startling or surreal turn. I was so riveted that I read sometimes throughout the night. The violence is at times almost unbearable - however love does survive and is indicated with delicacy and charm as in the detective inspector's love for the asylum director or Hans's devotion to Ingeborg. A truly memorable work which I urge others to read.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it one go!, 20 Sep 2011
This review is from: 2666 (Paperback)
Back in spring I had 3 weeks with not an awful lot to do and was up for some meaty fiction, so obviously the thickness of this book on my parents' bookshelf attracted me, as did a previous interest in Latin American fiction. It was a while ago that I read it now but when I think of the time I still feel a kind of excitement, a breathlessness and a feeling like I'm staring into the void. The part about the killings IS horrible, but I think Bolano meant this as a way of making us feel the suffering of all those women killed in Cuidad Juarez instead of just statistics, which justifies it. Reading this part noon and night (partly absorbed, partly wishing it would finish) gave me this impression. I can see that if it was your bedtime reading it might get tedious. So follow the example of the characters in the part about the critics, and read every day till the sun comes up (take a few weeks off work!).

This book really inspired in me a new love of life and art, I would go so far as to say it actually changed my life. It makes Garcia Marquez and the magic realism I used to so enjoy look childish!
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68 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Heart of Corruption, 14 Feb 2009
By 
Nigel Seel (Wells, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 2666 (Hardcover)
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On a recent trip I passed through Manchester airport and was amazed to see copies of 2666 piled high in the bookstore at the departure lounge. Who did they think the target audience was for this lengthy literary novel?

Part 1, The Part About The Critics, tells a mostly self-contained story about a quartet of academics who specialise in the obscure German author Benno von Archimboldi. Each of the four gets their own back-story, and we follow their quest to find the author, a trail which leads to the Mexican border town of Santa Teresa (based on Ciudad Juarez). The story has highly stylised sections (do academics ever beat up taxi drivers?) and appears to end inconclusively - perhaps a meditation on the strange paths of love, or the fickle ways of women? Or Santa Teresa's powers of deflection.

At this point of my journey, I'm wondering where this story gets us, noting that not a whole lot has happened, and that I'm only on page 159 of an 893 page novel.

I grit my teeth and continue.

The shorter Part 2, The Part About Amalfitano, takes a minor character from the first part - a Chilean literary academic at the University of Santa Teresa and his daughter Rosa - and fills out their back story, mostly concerning the runaway wife, Lola.

Part 3, The Part About Fate, describes an American reporter, Oscar Fate who is sent to cover a boxing match in Santa Teresa. While there, he gets involved with the local narcos and meets Rosa from part 2. Oscar by some miracle manages to escape Santa Teresa with his life. In this part we begin to circle around the increasing numbers of sexually-violated and murdered young women found in deserted parking lots, isolated ravines, abandoned buildings and the desert: crimes which the police seem unable to solve.

Part 4, The Part About The Crimes, takes us directly into the unending horror of underclass life in Santa Teresa. This is by far the longest novel in the collection. We meet the police: uneducated, casually violent, brutally chauvinistic and content to tiptoe around the atrocities of the powerful. We meet the suspect, a German businessman banged up for years while the crimes continue. And we discover the private lives of the narco lords: drug and sex-fuelled parties in their desert ranches with no inconvenient witnesses afterwards.

Part 5, The Part About Archimboldi, takes us back to the mysterious German author who was the subject of the quest in part 1. We now learn his life story, his wartime exploits and why, in his late life, he finally found himself for the first time in Santa Teresa.

In the Notes to the First Edition at the back of the book, Ignacio Echevarria, Bolano's literary executor, tries to account for the title. He looks to an earlier novel of Bolano, Amulet, where a seedy, downbeat avenue at night in some Mexican town is described as like a cemetery: "not a cemetery in 1974 or in 1968, or 1975, but a cemetery in the year 2666, a forgotten cemetery under the eyelid of a corpse or an unborn child, bathed in the dispassionate fluids of an eye that tried so hard to forget one particular thing that it ended up forgetting everything else."

Santa Teresa may be the physical centre of this interlinked novel-set, as Echevarria observes, but it is also a symbol - a submerged, carnivorous, tentacled thing that draws in the powerless and horribly consumes them. Omnipresent corruption, where the powerful use ordinary people for their money or their bodies, then dispose of them with casual, lethal brutality. The murderous events depicted in 2666 actually occurred in Ciudad Juarez, where more than 400 women have been the victims of sexual homicides.

These five novels are five journeys into the heart of corruption, starting from afar and gradually taking us closer to its centre. If anyone thinks a corrupt society is just about the venal sin of taking bribes, this novel will make them think again.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars heart of darkness, 18 Sep 2011
This review is from: 2666 (Paperback)
This is an amazing book, very dark, a journey that begins with the superficial and self absorbed lives of university professors and takes us into the horrors of Santa Theresa where horrific misogynistic murders happen every week. There is no escape from the horror, it broods through the book, as an exile drifts into madness, a detective encounters the violence of those he pursues, a mother discovers her son accused of crimes beyond horrendous. There are endless twisted stories in this labyrinth.
The fourth part which is totally focused on the murders does become unreadable, Bolano spares no detail and the sheer brutality of it all becomes mindnumbing. I did consider packing it in at this stage but I am glad I ploughed on. My difficulty with this stage almost made me give the book four stars.
By the final section I was desperate to find out how the threads connect. The last thirty pages bring a lot together, but many questions remain unanswered, maybe they are unanswerable. As I finished the book I wondered if this was a book that had no end as Bolano shows how everything is connected to everything. An endless butterfly effect. The novel is a huge shaggy dog story illustrating how six degrees of seperation is in operation all the time constantly making the world smaller.
Not an easy read but if you like challenging books which may change your life then don't hesitate, this is a very special book.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still reeling..., 9 Oct 2009
By 
purplepadma (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 2666 (Hardcover)
I finished reading this novel almost two weeks ago, and it's taken me this long to feel that I can think about reviewing it. "2666" is a beast of a book, almost (in this edition) 900 pages long, shifting from Madrid to New York to northern Mexico to Germany and from the First World War to the beginning of the 21st century. It is divided into five sections, which could have been published as five separate novels but have been presented as one work by the editor, linked by recurring themes and characters. Emotionally, this is a tough read: at the heart of the novel is Bolano's outrage at the hundreds of unsolved sexual murders of women in the Mexican city of Santa Teresa, a thinly fictionalised version of the real-life events which took place in Cuidad Juarez. The novel takes seriously its task of witnessing the horror; each body discovered is recorded, along with details the physical and sexual violence inflicted, and what is known of the girl or woman's life is noted. Reading report after report of women brutally and casually dispatched became a challenge, something I felt I owed the real cases drawn upon, and owed Bolano himself for his refusal to shy away from horror. Other sections - particularly "the part about the critics" and "the part about Archimboldi" - are much plot-driven and absorbing, but it is "the part about crimes" that I cannot get out of my mind. By the way, for Murukami fans, I have seen a number of comparisons between Bolano and Murukami. I see what people mean by this, but don't expect any of the magical or whimsical elements you'd find in Murukami ... this is dark in another, all too realistic, way.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epic, 4 May 2009
By 
MisterHobgoblin (Melbourne) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 2666 (Hardcover)
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Well, 2666 is certainly an epic. Nearly 900 pages of very full text, I reckon it took me in the region of 50 hours of reading time. That's a pretty major investment of time.

In return for the time, you will find a loose story that keeps returning to a spate of murdered women in Santa Teresa, Mexico. Alternatively, you'll find five separate stories, depending on how you look at it. There was some idea that the novel might be sold as five separate novels, but in truth, it wouldn't have stood up in that way. The first three parts serve mostly as back-story to the final two parts. In particular, the Part about The Critics (the first 160 pages) is weak, offering little character development of the four literary academics who do little more than enter into various permutations of coupling. Instead, it serves to pique interest in Benno von Archimboldi, a reclusive German writer, and introduces the idea that Archimboldi might be connected with the brutal killings in Mexico. Similarly, the next two, relatively short Parts serve little more purpose than to prime the reader for the catalogue of killings.

And what a catalogue!

The Part about The Crimes is a long list of all the women in Santa Teresa who have met untimely deaths in a period of several years. Some of these are murders committed by the serial killer, and others are simply lovers quarrels gone wrong. Some of the crimes and victims are described in detail - others are recorded simply as unidentified bodies. This feels more like a reference book than a novel. It can be repetitive - perhaps hypnotic, if one were being charitable.

And finally, there is the Part about Archimboldi. Listed on the index page at the front of the book, the reader is left wondering whether this Part will be the key that unlocks the significance of the four previous Parts. Unlike the previous 630 pages, this Part has good, full character development and a strong story line, albeit time can sometimes pass unnoticed. This is a relief; the first third of the novel is not strong and the middle third drags a little. The final third had to be something special, and it was.

In the end notes, it appears that Bolaño intended to spend another few months polishing the novel. We are told that most of the novel was already polished, but some sections had obviously not been. It is interesting to speculate on which sections these might be - perhaps more would have been done to add a little more depth near the beginning.

So, what did Roberto Bolaño do with the space he created? Mostly, he built intrigue and suspense. Using 160 pages simply to create an impression that Archimboldi is a significant and mysterious writer is a huge luxury. To use the Part about Fate to offer some sense of public feeling (or lack of feeling) towards the murders is similarly luxurious. The Part about Amalfitano didn't seem to have a purpose at all. So much of the joy with 2666 lies in the satisfaction of having read it; stuck with it. Some of the actual reading was hard going.

Scoring is tricky. For most of the novel, it felt like a three star affair. But the effect by the end is quite stunning - a clear five stars. It would be easy to split the difference, but that would be the coward's option.
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47 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The biggest murder mystery novel in the world, 23 Jan 2009
By 
Andrew Sutherland "Sutho" (Surrey outposts) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 2666 (Hardcover)
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First, this novel is immense...literally and conceptually (900 pages divided into 5 parts! all linked by varying degrees of concern with unsolved serial murders), so I really wouldn't even bother if you're not into or haven't got the time for long reads. Second, although ridiculously well-written, you need to bear in mind that Bolaño (now dead) was basically a bohemian poet/literary enfant terrible/heriod addict-type famed for having a pretty baroque and cryptic world vision. One of this novel's 5 parts is even about literary critics who have forged their careers around an elusive German novelist! So best avoid if you only like a 'straight-ahead' style. I don't, but I still appraoched with caution. And yet.... this is basically a compellingly readable murder mystery novel! It's not inpenetrablly poetic. It's very very dark (substantially concerned with violence and death) and extremely well conceived and, on balance, feels a lot like the masterpiece all the newspapers are calling it.
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I just don't get it, 12 Mar 2009
By 
Richard Kelly (Manchester, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 2666 (Hardcover)
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So 2666 is the last work by celebrated Spanish author Roberto Bolano and after reading it I just don't get what he set out to achieve. Given the other reviews on here I am prepared to admit that this may well be a problem with me, but as I got it on the vine program here's my review.
The novel is really 5 interlinking stories, each of which can be read as a standalone work or as a continuous narrative. The first section shadows a series of academics across Europe who study the works of an obscure German author who nobody has seen for decades. They get a lead which takes them to Mexico , specifically the city of Santa Teresa, a city suffering from a wave of murder. The major characters form an intellectual clique who's sheer arrogance is overwhelming and pretty much spoilt the effect for me.

The second part comprises the back story of one of the minor characters from the previous section, a professor Amalfitano. We find out how he ended up in Santa Teresa and that he is a philosophy professor - cue geometrical shapes with famous Philosophers at the points. I'm sure the pictures have a meaning, but I don't know enough about philosophy to know what and I also didn't care enough about the character to investigate.

The third part brings an African American reporter to Santa Teresa to cover a boxing match for the paper he works for, even though he is not a sports reporter and really wants to cover the murders. He gets mixed up with a bad crowd of Mexican reporters and Amalfitano's daughter. Taken by itself this was the section that I most enjoyed, maybe because it doesn't try to wallow in its own intellectualism.

Forth part was dull. Page after interminable page of death. A list of the murders in Santa Teresa. Tedious in the extreme.

The final part concerns the German author who was the focus of the first part and kind of brings the narrative whole circle. Archimboldi, the author's name, is German and we simply follow his story until he gets to Santa Teresa. I have to be brutally honest at this point and say that by the time I had slogged through the book to get this point I didn't really take much interest in this section and just get through it as quickly as I could.

I found the whole thing far too long, far to unengaging as I had no feeling of sympathy for any of the characters and the style of writing left me cold - it's not that it's badly written, some of the turns of phrase are exquisite but overall it didn't engage me as a reader. There is a good chance that it's just me, but I won't be reading it again.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting but over-hyped, 26 Nov 2010
This review is from: 2666 (Hardcover)
It is a shame that Bolano's book has been weighted down with the most absurdly overblown praise from a few influential reviewers. One cannot help feeling a huge sense of disappointment when one is expecting a masterpiece and one finds instead a quirky and patchy work that has a lot of energy and dry wit but is also way too long and often indulgent and dull (and, yes, I did make it to the end and, no, it wasn't worth it). Bolano's early death and the wishful longing of some US reviewers to find a new Marquez have not served us, or Bolano, well. Perhaps one day we will be able to approach this work with less baggage. When we do we will find, I think, an inventive but nihilistic novel and an author of real power who was a little too in love in with his own dead-pan cynicism.
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2666 by Roberto Bolano (Paperback - 4 Sep 2009)
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