1st edition (Spanish)
|Publisher||Editorial Anagrama, Barcelona|
|Published in English||November 11, 2008 (US)
January 9, 2009 (UK)
|Media type||Print (hardback and paperback)|
|ISBN||978-84-339-6867-8 (1st edition in Spanish)|
|Dewey Decimal||863/.64 22|
|LC Classification||PQ8098.12.O38 A122 2004|
2666 is the last novel written by Chilean novelist Roberto Bolaño. Released in 2004, it depicts the unsolved and ongoing serial murders of Ciudad Juárez (called Santa Teresa in the novel), the Eastern Front in World War II, and the breakdown of relationships and careers. The apocalyptic 2666 explores 20th-century degeneration through a wide array of characters, locations, time periods, and stories within stories.
In 2007 the novel was adapted as a stage play by Spanish director Àlex Rigola, and it premiered in Bolaño's adopted hometown of Blanes. It was the main attraction of Barcelona's Festival Grec that year.
After many years of illness while writing the novel, Bolaño died of hepatic failure shortly after presenting the first draft to his publisher. It was published in Spain about a year later, in 2004. Over 1100 pages long in its Spanish edition and almost 900 in its English translation, it is divided in five parts.
Plot summary 
The title of 2666 is typical of the book's mysterious qualities. This was the title of the manuscript rescued from Bolaño's desk after his death, the book having been the primary effort of the last five years of his life. There is no reference in the novel to this number, although it makes appearances in more than one of the author's other works. Henry Hitchings has noted, "The novel's cryptic title is one of its many grim jokes; there is no reference to this figure in its 900 pages. However, in another of his novels, Amulet, a road in Mexico City is identified as looking like 'a cemetery in the year 2666'. Furthermore, in the novel, The Savage Detectives, there exists the line: 'And Cesárea said something about days to come... and the teacher, to change the subject, asked her what times she meant and when they would be. And Cesárea named a date, sometime around the year 2600. Two thousand six hundred and something.' Why this particular date? Perhaps it's because the biblical exodus from Egypt, a vital moment of spiritual redemption, was supposed to have taken place 2,666 years after the Creation."
The novel's five "parts" are as follows: The Part about the Critics, The Part About Amalfitano, The Part About Fate, The Part About the Crimes, and The Part About Archimboldi - all linked by varying degrees of concern with unsolved murders of upwards of 300 young, poor, mostly uneducated Mexican women in Ciudad Juárez (Santa Teresa in the novel).
"The Part about the Critics" describes a group of four European literary critics who have forged their careers around the elusive German novelist Benno von Archimboldi. Their search for Archimboldi ultimately leads them to the Mexican border town of Santa Teresa in Sonora.
"The Part about Amalfitano" concentrates on Oscar Amalfitano, a mentally unstable professor of philosophy at the University of Santa Teresa, who fears his daughter will be caught up in the violence of the city.
"The Part about Fate" follows Oscar Fate, an American journalist for an African-American interest magazine, who is sent to Santa Teresa to cover a boxing match (despite knowing very little about boxing) but becomes interested in the murders.
"The Part about the Crimes" chronicles the murders of dozens of women in Santa Teresa from 1993 to 1997. It also depicts the police force in their fruitless attempts to solve the crimes.
"The Part about Archimboldi" reveals that the mysterious writer is Hans Reiter, born in 1920 in Prussia. This section explains how a provincial German soldier on the Eastern Front became an author in contention for the Nobel Prize.
The novel is substantially concerned with violence and death. According to Levi Stahl, it "is another iteration of Bolaño's increasingly baroque, cryptic, and mystical personal vision of the world, revealed obliquely by his recurrent symbols, images, and tropes". Within the novel, "There is something secret, horrible, and cosmic afoot, centered around Santa Teresa (and possibly culminating in the mystical year of the book's title, a date that is referred to in passing in Amulet as well). We can at most glimpse it, in those uncanny moments when the world seems wrong."
Critical reception 
- "2666 is as consummate a performance as any 900-page novel dare hope to be: Bolaño won the race to the finish line in writing what he plainly intended as a master statement. Indeed, he produced not only a supreme capstone to his own vaulting ambition, but a landmark in what's possible for the novel as a form in our increasingly, and terrifyingly, post-national world. The Savage Detectives looks positively hermetic beside it. (...) As in Arcimboldo's paintings, the individual elements of 2666 are easily catalogued, while the composite result, though unmistakable, remains ominously implicit, conveying a power unattainable by more direct strategies. (...) "
- It would later that year make the New York Times Book Review list of "10 Best Books of 2008" as chosen by the paper's editors.
- "(A)n exceptionally exciting literary labyrinth.... What strikes one first about it is the stylistic richness: rich, elegant yet slangy language that is immediately recognizable as Bolaño's own mixture of Chilean, Mexican and European Spanish. Then there is 2666's resistance to categorization. At times it is reminiscent of James Ellroy: gritty and scurrilous. At other moments it seems as though the Alexandria Quartet had been transposed to Mexico and populated by ragged versions of Durrell's characters. There's also a similarity with W. G. Sebald's work.... There are no defining moments in 2666. Mysteries are never resolved. Anecdotes are all there is. Freak or banal events happen simultaneously, inform each other and poignantly keep the wheel turning. There is no logical end to a Bolano book."
- "This is no ordinary whodunit, but it is a murder mystery. Santa Teresa is not just a hell. It's a mirror also -- "the sad American mirror of wealth and poverty and constant, useless metamorphosis."... He wrote 2666 in a race against death. His ambitions were appropriately outsized: to make some final reckoning, to take life's measure, to wrestle to the limits of the void. So his reach extends beyond northern Mexico in the 1990s to Weimar Berlin and Stalin's Moscow, to Dracula's castle and the bottom of the sea."
- "2666 is an epic of whispers and details, full of buried structures and intuitions that seem too evanescent, or too terrible, to put into words. It demands from the reader a kind of abject submission—to its willful strangeness, its insistent grimness, even its occasional tedium—that only the greatest books dare to ask for or deserve."
- "The multiple story lines of 2666 are borne along by narrators who seem also to represent various of its literary influences, from European avant-garde to critical theory to pulp fiction, and who converge on the [fictional] city of Santa Teresa as if propelled toward some final unifying epiphany. It seems appropriate that 2666's abrupt end leaves us just short of whatever that epiphany might have been.."
Online book review site The Complete Review gave it an "A+", normally reserved for a small handful of books, saying:
- "Forty years after García Márquez shifted the foundations with One Hundred Years of Solitude, Bolaño has moved them again. 2666 is, simply put, epochal. No question, the first great book of the twenty-first century."
- "2666 ... is a summative work – a grand recapitulation of the author's main concerns and motifs. As before, Bolaño is preoccupied with parallel lives and secret histories. Largely written after 9/11, the novel manifests a new emphasis on the dangerousness of the modern world...2666 is an excruciatingly challenging novel, in which Bolaño redraws the boundaries of fiction. It is not unique in blurring the margins between realism and fantasy, between documentary and invention. But it is bold in a way that few works really are – it kicks away the divide between playfulness and seriousness. And it reminds us that literature at its best inhabits what Bolaño, with a customary wink at his own pomposity, called "the territory of risk" – it takes us to places we might not wish to go."
- This surreal novel can't be described; it has to be experienced in all its crazed glory. Suffice it to say it concerns what may be the most horrifying real-life mass-murder spree of all time: as many as 400 women killed in the vicinity of Juarez, Mexico. Given this as a backdrop, the late Bolaño paints a mural of a poverty-stricken society that appears to be eating itself alive. And who cares? Nobody, it seems.
Awards and honors 
The 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction was posthumously awarded to Roberto Bolaño for 2666. It was short-listed for the Best Translated Book Award. Time also awarded it the honour of Best Fiction Book of 2008.
- "Bolano and Filkins win awards from National Book Critics Circle", Artsbeat blog
- Henry Hitchings, "The mystery man", Financial Times, 8 December 2008
- "The Departed", by Jonathan Lethem in the New York Times Book Review, November 9, 2008
- "The 10 Best Books of 2008". New York Times. 3 December 2008.
- Amaia Gabantxo in the Times Literary Supplement
- '2666' by Roberto Bolaño, translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer, by Ben Ehrenreich in The Los Angeles Times, November 9, 2008
- "Slouching Towards Santa Teresa", by Adam Kirsch in Slate, November 3, 2008.
- Francisco Goldman, "The Great Bolaño", New York Review of Books, Volume 54, Number 12 · July 19, 2007
- 2666 at the Complete Review.
- Hitchings, , Financial Times, December 8, 2008
- King, My Top 10 Books of 2009, Entertainment Weekly, December 18, 2009
- Grossman, "Top 10 Fiction Books", Time.
- Roberto Bolaño's "2666", by Juan Asensio
- 2666, at complete review. Aggregates links to most of the professional reviews.
- Roberto Bolaño's "2666", by Francisco Goldman
- Natasha Wimmer on Roberto Bolaño's 2666, by Natasha Wimmer (the novel's English translator)
- "On Bolaño’s 2666" by Eric Fershtman, Construction Magazine (February 24, 2012)
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