March 6, 2013

Book Club: Quick Thoughts on 2666

I finally finished Roberto Bolano's huge novel 2666 last night. It took me a while to read and I sidetracked myself by taking a break and reading another book but I finally finished. The book is too large to give it a proper review, so this will be a scattered thoughts review.

Before the review though you need to know a little bit about Bolano. Roberto Bolano was a Chilean novelist who didn't start writing novels until the latter parts of his life. He was a poet who was exiled from Chile, lived in Mexico for a good portion of his life, and then moved to Spain where he started a family and eventually died. Bolano is like the Tupac of dead writers, he's produced more work from beyond the grave than he did while he was alive. One of the works that was published after his death was his magnum opus 2666, which originally was suppose to come out in five parts but that decision was reversed by his publisher and the book came out as one massive novel (a shade under 900 pages) and was finished on his death bed. Here are my thoughts on the book.

1. The book is divided into 5 parts that are connected in one way or another to the Santa Teresa (stand in name for Ciudad Juarez) murders that occurred during the mid-90's.

2. The first section deals with four European critics who specialize in obscure German author Benno von Archimboldi a Thomas Pynchon recluse type who no one has seen. The critics travel to Mexico in pursuit of Archimboldi because of a tip they received. This is where we first start to learn about the female murders in Santa Teresa.

3. This section is both heart breaking and frustrating at the same time. You want them to find Archimboldi but they can't find him. They just want to see him once, tell him how much they love his work, but it was never in the cards.

4. The second part is about professor Oscar Amalfitano who makes his first appearance in the first section of the book with the critics. Amalfitano is worried about his daughter getting wrapped up in the murders happening in the town. This section we learn more about the murders of women in Santa Teresa.

5. This part of the book is extremely dark as we're lead through the life of Amalfitano. Dark in a way that is satisfying. Not dark in a way that makes you want to burn the book.

6. I should remind you here that each section of the book doesn't have chapters. The sections are broken up into episodes kinda like Gravity's Rainbow. Depending on the section they can be really short or really long with huge paragraphs and never ending sentences.

7. I should also say despite it's length, it's one of the easier books to read and doesn't feel as long once you start.

8. The third part of the book follows a man named Oscar Fate. Mr. Fate is a former Black Panther who is now a journalist covering a boxing match in Santa Teresa just a few days after his mother's death. In this section the murders of women in the town comes more into light.

9. Probably the saddest part of the book because of what happens to Fate. I won't spoil the rest for you.

10. I should mention now that I've gotten really wrapped up in South American literature lately. I should have a couple of more reviews coming on some of the books I've read.

11. The fourth and longest section of the book is the part about the murders. The gruesome murders of women in Santa Teresa is described in painful detail as well as the Santa Teresa's police departments fruitless effort at solving the crimes.

12. The grief, sadness, and gruesome detail of the murders in this section can be at times a little too much to bear.

13. I should mention the number "2666" shows up nowhere in the novel. It's been mentioned in other Bolano works but it doesn't show up at all in the novel 2666. It's been implied that "2666" is the quest for knowledge that we won't find until that year. It's also been implied that "2666" is just a grim joke by Bolano.

14. The final section finds us back at Benno von Archimboldi the reclusive German author who's real name is Hans Reiter. In this section we learn about the life of Reiter, why he chose the name Benno von Archimboldi, and why he's in Mexico.

15. Probably the most satisfying and interesting section of the book that also ties in the 3rd and 4th sections.

16. Let's just say the ending might be a little unsatisfying depending on who you are and how you're wrapped up in the book. If you're a reader looking for answers that are clear and concise, then maybe this isn't the book for you. If you're a reader that doesn't mind answers that aren't straight forward, then read this book.

17. I found this book to be completely satisfying, rich with stories that kept me turning the pages.

18. That being said it isn't for everyone. Between the gruesome depictions of women being murdered and the open ended ending, a lot of people would be turned off by this book.

19. Bolano is very cinematic in his writing. "I'll show you something but won't tell".

20. I have to say I kind of like reviewing books this way. My thoughts are a little more clearer on the subject writing this way and I can summarize the book easier.

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