2666.
Copyright © 2004 by the heirs of Roberto Bolaño.
Translation copyright © 2008 by Natasha Wimmer.

 

Like many songs that want to direct you somewhere its lyrics won’t take you, the number 2666 never appears in the novel itself. Maybe the fusion of optimistic and futuristic associations with the occult and dread imply forces controlling some of the inexplicable thoughts and behavior of the characters. Or, maybe the author died before he could find a place for a this particular designation, and he has an incredible ability at demonstrating what people do on a day to day basis with little in regard for motive. Maybe it’s arbitrary and looks cool. If you’re a numerology warrior, perhaps you can take a crack at it; for my part, I don’t play that game no more.

The novel is enumerated in five parts.

1. The Part About the Critics: The first part has a low yield of information in the form of four literary critics from four different countries in Europe. Their lives have all been altered and seem completely shaped by one author of whom they know the closest to nothing. In this part you will find your stamina tested, as you would when you were doing everything to restrain yourself from ruining your friendship with the girl to whom you're unrequitedly enamored.

2. The Part About Amalfitano: The daily life of a professor living in Santa Teresa as he begins to experience a break. You're getting old.

3. The Part About Fate: A reporter for a Harlem magazine travels to Santa Teresa to cover a fight although he isn't a sports reporter. He passes through a night of judgment. Cameo in absentia from Robert Rodriguez.

4. The Part About The Crimes: A list of the murders of women in Santa Teresa with no beginning or end. Sometimes the descriptions of assault, rape, and mutilation are separated by the lives of others either living in, or drawn to, Santa Teresa, people endlessly walking away and disappearing.

5. The Part About Archimboldi: Benno Von Archimboldi.

This separation of the parts adheres to general guidelines of focus. Each part (with the exception of part 4 which arguably focuses on Santa Teresa itself, the murders, or some other concept, I would guess a test in perception) follows one or a group of characters. However, like the title, it's elusive what collects these tales together. Some characters introduced in one will appear in another, but there is no one character in every.

Unless you want themes, and those are easy to list: boredom, horror and a simultaneous belief in and lack of acceptance of fate. I can't really come to love any of these characters, but I believe they're alive. They're all guilty of examining and then blotting out the terrifying coldness of their actions or inactions, and yet these actions can be explained in that they never seem to result in any noticeable effect on the actors.

Three characters (four if you're some kind of romantic) stand out with some heroic qualities, but they aren't heroes, and you know it. Never before has one man been described as having absolutely no clue as to what he's doing; even when he gets it right, he doesn't, and not in an ironic sense. Another is a dumb kid whose probable destiny is to be killed by a drunken coworker who presumes his book-learning as a weakness. The third is an alien giant and, while occasionally acting as if he has bravery or mores or motives, his thoughts reveal he doesn't hold to any of these qualities. Ignoring motive, his acts of bravery result in nothing, and his sense of justice comes from the ocean. Out of all of them, he impresses himself as the only character with a soul, which is odd. I don't believe in souls.


I found this book one night, bored and lonely. I read a review of which I only remember the word "apocalyptic." I recommend it as the best piece of fiction to manifest all the strange geometries and super-creeps of horror writers in a real world setting.

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