2666 Nov 07 2008
2666 is a novel written by Roberto Bolaño and published posthumously in Spanish in 2004. The English translation hits stores next Tuesday and the reviews couldn't be better, especially considering the book's 912 pages. From Jonathan Lethem's review in the NY Times Book Review, reprinted in the IHT:
"2666" is the permanently mysterious title of a Bolaño manuscript rescued from his desk after his passing, the primary effort of the last five years of his life. The book was published in Spanish in 2004 to tremendous acclaim, after what appears to have been a bit of dithering over Bolaño final intentions -- a small result of which is that its English translation has been bracketed by two faintly defensive statements justifying the book's present form. They needn't have bothered. "2666" is as consummate a performance as any 900-page novel dare hope to be: Bolaño won the race to the finish line in writing what he plainly intended as a master statement. Indeed, he produced not only a supreme capstone to his own vaulting ambition, but a landmark in what's possible for the novel as a form in our increasingly, and terrifyingly, post-national world. "The Savage Detectives" looks positively hermetic beside it.
Lethem also compares a part of 2666 to Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which means, like, hey sign me up. (thx, matt)
Update: The Times has posted the original review by Lethem...looks like the IHT version was slightly abridged. Here's a missing comparison to Wallace's Infinite Jest:
By bringing scents of a Latin American culture more fitful, pop-savvy and suspicious of earthy machismo than that which it succeeds, Bolaño has been taken as a kind of reset button on our deplorably sporadic appetite for international writing, standing in relation to the generation of Garcia Márquez, Vargas Llosa and Fuentes as, say, David Foster Wallace does to Mailer, Updike and Roth. As with Wallace's "Infinite Jest," in "The Savage Detectives" Bolaño delivered a genuine epic inoculated against grandiosity by humane irony, vernacular wit and a hint of punk-rock self-effacement. Any suspicion that literary culture had rushed to sentimentalize an exotic figure of quasi martyrdom was overwhelmed by the intimacy and humor of a voice that earned its breadth line by line, defying traditional fictional form with a torrential insouciance.