Wimmer: 2666 is interesting, character-wise. Its characters tend to be more mask-like and less human than the characters of The Savage Detectives. But the major exception is Amalfitano, who also happens to be my favorite. I have a special fondness for the whole Part About Amalfitano, in which Bolaño is at his most tender. And Lola, Amalfitano’s deluded wife, is a great creation.
This post in the Fort Worth Weekly compares the experience of reading 2666 with Against the Day.
The Washington Post today publishes Steven Moore’s review of 2666. Moore is one of the preeminent scholars of “big books”, namely Gaddis, Pynchon, Joyce, and Wallace. It’s a short review with the headline “The Killing Fields”:
This is a delightfully bookish novel, filled with writers, critics, publishers, copy editors, reporters — all illustrating how reading and writing help make sense of the world. Archimboldi is a grim, humorless character, but we’re told “he derived pleasure from writing, a pleasure similar to that of the detective on the heels of the killer”; Bolaño likewise exults in his indefatigable storytelling skills and his mastery of an arsenal of styles, from factual to frivolous, from plain to purple. In this he is expertly partnered by Natasha Wimmer, whose translation is fluid and faithful. The novel is probably longer than it needs to be, but there isn’t a boring page in it, and I suspect further study would justify everything here.
He ends up concluding that “Bolaño has joined the immortals.”
As a bonus, check out this interview with Moore in Splice Today.
Lots of summarizing, but still, a great review by Marcela Valdes: Alone Among the Ghosts.
Shortly before he died of liver failure in July 2003, Roberto Bolaño remarked that he would have preferred to be a detective rather than a writer. Bolaño was 50 years old at the time, and by then he was widely considered to be the most important Latin American novelist since Gabriel García Márquez. But when Mexican Playboy interviewed him, Bolaño was unequivocal. “I would have liked to be a homicide detective, much more than a writer,” he told the magazine. “Of that I’m absolutely sure. A string of homicides. Someone who could go back alone, at night, to the scene of the crime, and not be afraid of ghosts.”
Detective stories, and provocative remarks, were always passions of Bolaño’s–he once declared James Ellroy among the best living writers in English–but his interest in gumshoe tales went beyond matters of plot and style. In their essence, detective stories are investigations into the motives and mechanics of violence, and Bolaño–who moved to Mexico the year of the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre and was imprisoned during the 1973 military coup in his native Chile–was also obsessed with such matters. The great subject of his oeuvre is the relationship between art and infamy, craft and crime, the writer and the totalitarian state.
In fact, all of Bolaño’s mature novels scrutinize how writers react to repressive regimes. Distant Star (1996) grapples with Chile’s history of death squads and desaparecidos by conjuring up a poet turned serial killer. The Savage Detectives (1998) exalts a gang of young poets who joust against state-funded writers during the years of Mexico’s dirty wars. Amulet (1999) revolves around a middle-aged poet who survives the government’s 1968 invasion of the Autonomous University of Mexico by hiding in a bathroom. By Night in Chile (2000) depicts a literary salon where writers party in the same house in which dissidents are tortured. And Bolaño’s final, posthumous novel, 2666, is also spun from ghastly news: the murder, since 1993, of more than 430 women and girls in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, particularly in Ciudad Juárez.
That’s sort of the question Emily Bobrow asks in this New York Observer review of 2666.
Readers would do well to come to 2666 with grand expectations and a good deal of patience. A dreamy, difficult book, it demands time and gives back frustration. (“Behind every answer lies a question,” observes one character.) You don’t just read this book, you wrestle with it.
The Economist publishes an item about the Bolaño hype and can’t help but frame the story around the already legendary and chaotic 2666 release party.
If you are also clueless, the “Gin Mingle” is just a party at Housing Works Bookstore. I was hoping for a co-branded cocktail and dance move
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From The Nation back in March:
Never one to proceed by half-measures, Roberto Bolaño dropped out of high school shortly after he decided to become a poet at age 15. The year was 1968, a time as wild in Mexico City, where Bolaño and his parents were living, as it was in the United States–but much more dangerous. There, student protests, rock ‘n’ roll and sexual liberation were the pursuits not only of poets but also of activists and leftist guerrillas, and the Mexican government greeted them with a dirty war. Four unlucky students died at Kent State in 1970; some 300 were killed in the Tlatelolco massacre of 1968. Yet for Bolaño, who’d just arrived from a small country town in Chile, the atmosphere of the big city was intoxicating. Years later he recalled that the capital had seemed to him “like the Frontier, that vast, nonexistent territory where freedom and metamorphosis are the spectacles of every day.”
In 1999, Bolaño won the Gallegos prize for his novel The Savage Detectives.
“The Caracas Speech” is his acceptance of that prize.
What’s true is that I am Chilean, and I am also a lot of other things. And having arrived at this point, I must abandon Jarry and Bolivar and try to remember the writer who said that the homeland of a writer is his tongue. I don’t remember his name. Perhaps it was a writer who wrote in Spanish. Perhaps it was a writer who wrote in English or French. A writer’s homeland, he said, is his tongue. It sounds a little demagogic, but I agree with him completely, and I know that sometimes there is no recourse left us but to get a little demagogic, just like sometimes there is no recourse left us but to dance a bolero under the light of streetlamps or a red moon. Although it’s also true that a writer’s homeland is not his tongue, or not only his tongue, but also the people he loves. And sometimes a writer’s homeland is not the people he loves but his memory. And other times a writer’s only homeland is his loyalty, and his courage. In truth, a writer’s homelands can be many, and sometimes the identity of that homeland depends a great deal on whatever he is writing at the moment.