Book: Roberto Bolaño, 2666Posted: October 25, 2011
As difficult to describe as it is fun to read, 2666 is not so much a book as a mystical experience
2666 is currently making its way round among my friends. I was lent it first, then I passed it on to someone else, who in turn gave it to another friend, and the waiting line is getting longer every day. It’s the sort of book that you want everyone to read so you can discuss it, repeatedly and in awe. There is no exaggeration in the review that follows.
Bolaño intended for 2666 to be published as five separate books, but his literary executors shrewdly put them together into one, extraordinary, posthumous monolith of a book. The logistics of carrying it around were an issue in themselves, but its bulky presence was a comforting weight in my bag, promising me the most exciting Tube journeys home I have ever had. A lazy way to describe it is to say it’s an antidote to the short attention span of the modern world, etc, but such petty concerns as ‘the modern world’ are negligible when applied to something as momentous this book. A much more appropriate response can be found here. It is not so much a book as a mystical experience.
2666 is as difficult to describe as it is fun to read. It starts off with an academic conference about the mysterious reclusive writer Benno von Archimboldi — and then the plot starts to do various unexpected things. The rest of the book includes three hundred murders, several degrees of insanity, the Holocaust, lengthy discussions about literature and publishing, a character called Baroness von Zumpe, graphic sex, the most beautiful sentences you will ever read (Natasha Zimmer’s translation is superb), and some absolutely terrifying imagery. It reads like a Werner Herzog film. Herzog, in fact, is the only filmmaker who could ever hope of making a film out of this eminently unfilmable book. The results would either be grandiose, catastrophic or both.
I can’t shake off the feeling that, if I only read this book enough times, I will discover the meaning of life.