Review at Prospect

The Prospect takes a literary look at the novel of the year:

Throughout 2666, clinic literary devices are deployed, violently extended past their limits and discarded. At one point, the number of times different words appear in a conversation is precisely listed; later, an entire page is devoted to the names of human phobias; we also get two solid sides of sexist jokes. All these are just warm-ups, however: Bolaño’s testing-to-destruction of literature’s possibilities reaches its apex in his descriptions of the murdered, violated bodies of over 100 women, one-by-one—an incandescent imaginary inquiry that shadows a similar plague of real killings in the Mexican border-town of Ciudad Juárez. In Bolaño’s telling, the detail is at once coolly forensic yet never generic: to each there is a story, a circumstance, a particular human absence from the world. It is literature as a kind of after-image, alternately numbing and blinding but always insistent on one point—that no one can consider themselves safe from this violence, which crosses borders and categories as easily as it leaps between words and deeds.

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