Thursday, January 22, 2009

2666, by Roberto Bolano

"For an 800-page, translated novel in five sections, 2666 is an unbelievable pleasure to read. Tightly written, filled with insight and wonder, and with liquid prose as beautiful and terrifying as a dream, 2666 kept me occupied for many a sleepless night. BolaƱo fictionalizes the real-life disappearances of hundreds of young women in a Mexican border town, populating his novel with a range of finely nuanced, deeply imagined characters, and capturing the totality of human experience in all its hideousness and beauty, intricacies and truth. In style, range of thought, and execution, 2666 is utterly visionary, and completely unforgettable."

I was given 100 words for that review, which didn't allow me to add that 2666 is one of those rare novels, like War and Peace, like Zorba the Greek, that works because it is so huge, so sprawling, so ambitious, and so risky that it captures the reader's imagination and enthralls with singularity of vision. If artists didn't attempt novels like this - and it has its flaws - all of literature would suffer, and readers would be left with poor imitations, or else nothing at all. Bolano has received more than his fair share of praise - he's currently literature's darling - but he deserves to be read precisely because his work is as messy as life, and when you read 2666, the two become interchangeable. Simply brilliant.

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