The Pequod Review:
Roberto Bolano’s final book, published one year after his death, is by far his best, a sprawling 900-page masterpiece with an intricate set of storylines that converge into a work of astonishing power.
The novel is divided into five parts, and loosely centers on the fictional Mexican border town of Santa Teresa, an impoverished city where approximately 200 women have been murdered over the past decade. Part 1 is a bit of an academic satire, involving a search by four European scholars for an obscure and secretive German novelist (Benno von Archimboldi), one that ultimately takes them to Santa Teresa where Archimboldi was rumored to have visited. Parts 2, 3, and 4 take place in Santa Teresa, and involve (respectively) a local professor and his family, a boxing journalist who comes to Santa Teresa to cover a fight but senses a bigger story in the local murders, and finally a brutal and clinical recounting of the murders themselves. Part 5 circles back to Archimboldi and tells the biographical history of his life from the 1920s to present day.
This brief description doesn’t even begin to convey the strangeness and complexity of Bolano's novel. It is just so fully *alive* as the story twists and turns in unexpected directions, with hundreds of characters who float in and out of the narrative. It builds to an enthralling and brutal story that considers nothing less than life and death, wealth and poverty, love and hatred, and social disorder and global injustice. And through it all is Bolano’s thrilling prose, full of humor and absurdity, and even moments of playfulness — as when Bolano references other writers and artists (Cortazar, Duchamp, etc.) or his own prior work (The Savage Detectives and Woes of the True Policeman).
Like other maximalist novels of its kind (Infinite Jest comes to mind), 2666 is at times uneven, especially Parts 3 and 5 — the latter of which may have been incomplete at the time of Bolano’s death. But Bolano has created a beautiful novel with extraordinary depth. In many ways, 2666 is a culmination of the themes Bolano has been writing about his entire career, and the results are nothing less than stunning.