2666, by Roberto Bolano (translated by Natasha Wimmer) (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008)
"The title of 2666 is typical of the book's mysterious qualities. This was the title of the manuscript rescued from Bolano'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." 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 Juarez (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 becomes an author in contention for the Nobel Prize." (-Wikipedia)
"The first time that Jean-Claude Pelletier read Benno von Archimboldi was Christmas 1980, in Paris, when he was nineteen years old and studying German literature."
I don't think the above is one of the world's great opening lines (perhaps it works a bit better in Spanish, but I doubt it). but the small section I read last night did show some improvement. I'll give it a section or so to see if it's worth reading.
(4/29 update) I should have gone with my gut after the opening line. The older I get, the less willing I am to spend time on books that just plain don't interest me, no matter how well-reviewed or literary they may be. Usually I try to give books 50 pages or so to see if they reel me in; here, I gave up on around page 20, halfway through a 4-page sentence.
- Ithaca, New York
- MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.