First edition (Spanish)
|Media type||Print (hardback and paperback)|
|ISBN||978-84-339-6867-8 (1st edition in Spanish)|
|LC Class||PQ8098.12.O38 A122 2004|
2666 is the final novel written by Chilean novelist Roberto Bolaño. It was released posthumously in 2004 after Bolaño presented the first draft to his publisher shortly before the author's death from liver disease. Its themes are manifold, and it depicts, among other things, the unsolved and ongoing serial female homicides 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.
Over 1100 pages long in its Spanish edition, and almost 900 in its English translation, it is divided in five parts. An English-language translation by Natasha Wimmer was published in the United States in 2008, by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and in the United Kingdom in 2009, by Picador.
Creation of the novel
In 2000, already famous for his novel The Savage Detectives, and gravely ill, Bolaño was put on the waiting list for a liver transplant. Facing death, he dedicated his last years to this book, which he considered a project of colossal dimensions. He had never visited Ciudad Juarez but received information and support from friends and colleagues such as Sergio González Rodríguez, author of the essay Huesos en el desierto, concerning the place and its femicides. While discussing the novel with his friend Jorge Herralde, director of Barcelona-based publisher Editorial Anagrama, he never showed the actual manuscript to anyone until he died. The manuscript is a first copy.
Originally planned as a single 1,000 page book, Bolaño then considered publishing it as two volumes. On 20 June 2003, and the day before he was hospitalized for the liver failure which would kill him on 15 July, Bolaño had an extensive conversation with Herralde where they agreed to publish the work as five separate books, each one corresponding to one of the five parts of the book in order to generate a greater income for his partner and two children. He felt that the first four parts were finished and only the final part was unfinished. However after his death Herralde and Bolaño's partner between them decided to publish the book as a single volume, as the author had originally intended.
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 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."
The novel's five parts are 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) though it is the fourth part which focuses specifically on the femicides.
The Part about the Critics
This part describes a group of four European literary critics, the French Jean-Claude Pelletier, the Italian Piero Morini, the Spaniard Manuel Espinoza and the English woman Liz Norton, who have forged their careers around the reclusive German novelist Benno von Archimboldi. Their search for Archimboldi himself and details of his life takes them to get to know his aging publisher Mrs. Bubis. Then in a seminary in Toulouse the four academics meet up with Rodolfo Alatorre, a Mexican who says a friend knew him in Mexico City a short while back and that from there the elusive German was said to be going to the Mexican border town of Santa Teresa in Sonora. Three of the academics go there in search of him but fail to find him.
The Part about Amalfitano
This part concentrates on Oscar Amalfitano, a Chilean professor of philosophy who arrives at the University of Santa Teresa from Barcelona with his young adult daughter Rosa. As a single parent (since her mother Lola abandoned them both when Rosa was two) Amalfitano fears Rosa will become another victim of the femicides plaguing the city.
The Part about Fate
This part follows Oscar Fate, an American journalist from New York who works for an African-American interest magazine in Harlem. He is sent to Santa Teresa to cover a boxing match despite not being a sports correspondent and knowing very little about boxing. A Mexican journalist, Chucho Flores, who is also covering the fight, tells him about the murders. He asks his newspaper if he can write an article about the murders but his proposal is rejected. He meets up with a female journalist, Guadalupe, who is covering the murders and who promises to get him an interview with one of the main suspects, Klaus Haas, a German who had become a citizen of the United States before moving to Santa Teresa. The day of the fight Chucho presents Oscar to Rosa Amalfitano. After a violent incident they end up at Oscar Amalfitano's house where the father pays Fate to take Rosa with him back to the USA by car. Yet before leaving Rosa and Fate go to the prison with Guadalupe to interview the femicide suspect, Klaus Haas.
The Part about the Crimes
This part chronicles the murders of hundreds of women in Santa Teresa from 1993 to 1997 and the lives they lived. It also depicts the police force in their mostly fruitless attempts to solve the crimes, as well as giving clinical descriptions of the circumstances and probable causes of the various homicides. One of the policemen focused on is Juan de Dios Martínez, who is having a relationship with the older Elvira Campo (the head of an insane asylum) and who also has to investigate the case of a man who keeps urinating in churches. Klaus Haas (the German femicide suspect Fate was to interview in "the part about Fate") is another of the characters this part focuses on. Haas calls a press conference where he claims that Daniel Uribe, son of a rich local family, is responsible for the murders.
The Part about Archimboldi
This part reveals that the mysterious writer is Hans Reiter, born in 1920 in Prussia. This section describes how a provincial German soldier on the Eastern Front became an author in contention for the Nobel Prize. Mrs. Bubis turns out to have been Baroness von Zumpe whose family were a major part of Archimboldi's childhood, whom he meets again during the war while in Romania, and has an affair with after the war. At the end of this part Bolaño describes the life of Lotte, Archimboldi's sister, and it is revealed that the femicide suspect Klaus Haas is her son and thus Archimboldi's nephew.
The critical reception has been almost unanimously positive. 2666 was considered the best novel of 2005 within the literary world of both Spain and Latin America. Before the English-language edition was published in 2008, 2666 was praised by Oprah Winfrey in her O, The Oprah Magazine after she was given a copy of the translation before it was officially published.
- "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. (...) "
Amaia Gabantxo in the Times Literary Supplement wrote:
- "(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+", a rating 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
It won the Chilean Altazor Award in 2005. 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.
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. The play was the main attraction of Barcelona's Festival Grec that year.
- I. Briceño, F. J. Murillo (26 January 2011). "2666 (2004)" (in Spanish). Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.
- Ignacio Echevarría (September 2004). Note in the first edition of 2666.
- Duna Gras, Leonie Meyer-Krentler, Siqui Sánchez (2010). "Introducción". El viaje imposible: En México con Roberto Bolaño. pp. 7–11.
- Jorge Herralde (2005). Para Roberto Bolaño (I ed.). Barcelona, España: Editorial Acantilado. pp. 11–15. ISBN 84-96489-20-5.
- Herralde (2005). pp. 49-51.
- Andrés Pau (n.d.). "La novela póstuma de Roberto Bolaño - Un oficio peligroso y para valientes" [The posthumous novel by Roberto Bolaño - A dangerous and brave job]. SoloLiteratura.com. Archived from the original on 2005-03-27.
- Henry Hitchings (8 December 2008). "The mystery man". Financial Times.
- Levi Stahl (10 November 2008). "2666". The Front Table. Seminary Coop Bookstores.
- "La obra de Bolaño '2666' llega a Estados Unidos con el apoyo de Oprah Winfrey" [Bolaño's work '2666 'comes to America with the support of Oprah Winfrey]. El Mundo (in Spanish). 18 November 2008.
- "The 10 Best Books of 2008". New York Times. 3 December 2008.
- Jonathan Lethem (9 November 2008). "The Departed". New York Times Book Review.
- Amaia Gabantxo (9 September 2005). Times Literary Supplement.
- Ben Ehrenreich (9 November 2008). "'2666' by Roberto Bolaño, translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer". The Los Angeles Times.
- Adam Kirsch (3 November 2008). "Slouching Towards Santa Teresa". Slate
- Francisco Goldman (19 July 2007). "The Great Bolaño", New York Review of Books. Volume 54, Number 12.
- "2666 by Roberto Bolaño". The Complete Review. 2008. Retrieved 13 December 2013.
- Stephen King (18 December 2009). "My Top 10 Books of 2009". Entertainment Weekly.
- Motoko Rich (12 March 2009). "Bolano and Filkins win awards from National Book Critics Circle". New York Times ArtsBeat blog.
- Lev Grossman (3 November 2008). "Top 10 Fiction Books - 1. 2666, by Roberto Bolaño". Time.
- 2666, at complete review. Aggregates links to most of the professional reviews.
- Roberto Bolaño's "2666", by Francisco Goldman
- Natasha Wimmer (translator) on 2666
- "On Bolaño’s 2666" by Eric Fershtman, Construction Magazine (24 February 2012)
- "Por una ética del desorden en América Latina (2666)" in Revista Nómadas
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