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April 8, 2010

Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 might be the densest, most complex novel I’ve ever tried to tackle. Those more well-read than myself compare it to David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. Gravity’s Rainbow and The Satanic Verses also come to mind (to me, it feels like some of the French New Wave movies I remember from back in my college film classes as well). But what I found in 2666 was that although it was challenging, it was also riveting and enjoyable throughout most of its 898 pages. In the end, when I finished the book last night, I felt overwhelmed and sapped and exhilarated all at once (and who was it that said the true measure of a novel is how it leaves a reader feeling?). But most of all, after all that, I wanted this world that Bolaño paints to continue on. This, of course, will not be the case as 2666 was published post-humously.

Much has been written already on how “finished” this novel is—in the notes to the first edition, we are assured that, despite the open-ended nature of the book, “the novel as it was left at Bolaño’s death is very near what he intended it to be.” Skeptics argue that there are too many loose ends. Others, however, based on the “loose” narrative structures that Bolaño favors across the rest of his oeuvre, argue that this is vintage Roberto Bolaño, can in fact be seen as his seminal work. Having read no other Bolaño (yet), I have nothing to add to this debate other than my subjective opinion that the loose structure of this narrative is one of its strongest aspects.

Over the next couple weeks, I’d like to further explore a few of the threads of this dense, labyrinthine novel (at least, the aspects I find most fascinating—much has been written about much of the book, and there’s enough tangled up in it to write another 898 pages). I’ll start with Santa Teresa, Bolaño’s stand-in for Juarez, Mexico. Because in 2666, all roads lead to Santa Teresa.

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