Inconclusive and sprawling, 2666 embarks upon a search for the unsearchable – delighted to confront and accept the void. Along the way, Bolano leads you along a path that is as inconclusive as it is real and real to the point where it seems fantastic. During part one, I couldn’t stop thinking of Bouvard and Pecuchet (Flaubert’s unfinished novel which is mentioned in passing on page 227) as three well to do Europeans search, sometimes comically, for an obscure German author and engage in a Jules et Jim-esque love triangle.

Part 4, about the killings of dozens of young women, offers a stark contrast to the flighty world of word. In the section about the killings in Santa Teresa, Bolano’s repetitively relentless  prose (etched with penknife) carves a bloody tunnel with no end in sight. His documentary-esque account of the rapes and murders is certainly not spineless, although, in another sense, it has no stable anatomy. It lives and breaths the carnage it documents, refusing to look past the barest of details (delivered in sparce and simplistic language). When it ends (or dies), you feel as if the narrator is as beguiled and leery of the bleak repetition as you are.

The part about Archimboldi, while certainly not bringing things anywhere close to safe ensemble, offers a minor reconciliation between the reader and the narrator. Some bridges are drawn over the converging rivers of plot the novel offers and, instead of attaining comfortable satisfaction, the reader is left thirsty in the midst of an abyss. This is a good thing. 2666 is a two way train between one’s brain and a dark defiant place.

A passage I liked (and dutifully transcribed) after the…

“One night, three days after he had come to Kostekino, he dreamed that the Russians had taken the village and to escape them he had plunged into the stream, Sweet Spring, and swum until he came to Dnieper and the Dnieper, the banks of the Dnieper, were swarming with Russians, to the left as well as the right, and they all laughed to see him appear int he middle of the river and fired at him, and he dreamed that to escape the bullets he ducked underwater and let himself be carried along by the current, coming up only to breathe, and going under again, and in this way he traveled miles and miles of river, sometimes holding his breath for three minutes or four or five, the world record, until the current carried him away from the Russians, but even then Reiter kept going under, coming up, taking a breath, and going under again, and the bottom of the river was like a gravel road, every so often he saw schools of little white fish and every so often he bumped into a corpse already picked clean, just the bare bones, and those skeletons that dottoed the river could be German or Soviet, it was impossible to say, because their clothes had rotted and the current had swept them downriver, and in Reiter’s dream the current swept him downriver, too, and sometimes, especially at night, he came up to the surface and did the dead man’s float, to rest or perhaps to sleep for five minutes as the river carried him incessantly southward in its embrace, and when the sun came up Reiter went under again and dove down, returned to the gelatinous bottom of the Dnieper, and so the days went by, sometimes he passed a city and saw its lights, or if there were no lights he heard a vague noise, like the clatter of furniture, as if sick people were moving furniture around, and sometimes he passed under military pontoons and the choppy surface of the water, and one morning, at last, the Dnieper flowed into the Black Sea, where it ceased to exist or was transformed, and Reiter approached the shore of the river or the sea with shaky steps, as if he were a student, the student he had never been, who flops down on the sand after swimming to the point of exhaustion, dazed, at the zenith of the holidays, only to discover with horror, as he sat on the beach contemplating the immensity of the Black Sea, that Ansky’s notebook, which he was carrying under his jacket, had been reduced to a kind of pulp, the ink blurred forever, half of the notebook stuck to his clothes or his skin and the other half reduced to particles washed away by the gentle waves.”


4 Responses to “2666”

  1. You make it seem appealing, but with the page count well above Savage Detective’s, I gotta ask how much meandering is there? The thing about SD was that the first and third sections were snappy, full of life, and really enjoyable, but that Rashomon stuff in the middle got pretty tiring, a few parts not withstanding.

    So what did everyone think of Savage Detectives and how was 2666 different? How is the middle section? Discuss.

  2. I am about to head out the door, but i’ll drop a few quick thoughts on the subject.

    As for the “faults” of Savage Detectives and Bolano’s writing in general, yes they do make appearances in 2666. The part you would find more tiring, i suppose, is the 4th part about the killings. As a whole though, I think 2666 far outshone the Savage Detectives (especially in a novelistic sense). It is chaotic and, yes, a bit bloated, but on the whole you feel much more immersed in the book. Again, these were quick thoughts. more later.

  3. kevin, its a true delight to hear your critical voice in regards to literature. critical might not even be the right word. it’s to harsh. while your words are very exact, they open up the reader (me) to the parts of the mind that are always too twisted up to view clearly, they seem to effortlessly unfold something.

    … the passage was pretty good too. it reminded me of the end of Europa.

  4. UvHZPb Excellent article, I will take note. Many thanks for the story!

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