2666 / Roberto Bolano

Bolano was born in Chile but lived much of his adult life in Mexico and Spain.  He spent the last years of his life trying to complete this opus.  Unfinished, 2666 was published posthumously, its five separate parts issued in a single volume.  Clocking in at 900 dense pages, this is not a “light” book, figuratively or literally.  Each of its five parts can be considered a separate book, but there is a uniting theme.  All of the major characters in these stories are drawn to the same location: Ciudad Juarez (renamed Santa Teresa by the author), at the edge of the Sonora Desert in northern Mexico.  This town has been the real life scene of  the unsolved murders of hundreds of women since the early 1990s.  Its opening chapter, The Part About The Critics, focuses on four European professors joined by their admiration for the fiction of  Benno von Archimboldi, a reclusive German author.  Their search for a clue to his whereabouts  leads them to Santa Teresa.  Their guide in Mexico is another professor, Amalfitano, a man who has translated Archimboldi’s work into Spanish.  The Part About Amalfitano explains what drew this sad man and his daughter to the Sonora Desert region.  The Part About Fate deals with a black journalist, Quincy Williams, known as Oscar Fate professionally.  He comes to Santa Teresa to cover a boxing match but instead begins to investigate the murders taking place there.  The Parts About The Crimes is by far the longest chapter of the book, and its most chilling.  As its title indicates, the focus is on the women murdered in and around Santa Teresa and the inept police investigations of the cases.  The Part About Benno von Archimboldi brings the book full circle as the mysterious German writer himself is finally introduced.  As his chapter concludes, he too is about to set off for Santa Teresa.  One can’t help but wonder what the sixth part of the story would have revealed if the author had lived to write it.  But this does not detract from the countless delights its parts provide along the way.  Call it what you will: a tour de force, a cosmic whirlwind of a ride, this book’s inventiveness dazzled me.

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