This isn’t going to be a conventional review because I don’t know what to say about 2666 or really make of it. I know it’s an excellent novel; it felt like Bolaño was writing through me rather than to me. But to summarize it the way I normally do (plot, good points, bad points, summation) won’t do it justice.
So this is going to be a grab bag of thoughts about a stirring, complex, difficult, beautiful, exhausting, breathtaking book.
-The five story lines connected in a way that was unconventional. Rather than have there be a bunch of coincidences, the pull to Santa Theresa felt somewhat organic.
-The 1st, 4th and 5th stories will always stay with me. 2 and 3 were underdeveloped, especially 3, which was disappointing because it was the only one from an American perspective, yet I’m not sure if Bolaño really knew how to write an African-American character’s POV. But all three have moments.
-I remember The Leftovers used this idea of dreamspace that they borrowed from what I believe was an aboriginal tribe (or if not aboriginal, perhaps another indigenous tribe in Australia). The idea of “dreamspace” is that people can inhabit places in the dreams of others but there are no rules about it and to try and understand it is futile. I usually don’t like when writers go on at length about dreams but here, I feel like Bolaño uses them perfectly. There’s an undercurrent of energy to everyone’s dreams that somehow or another leads them to this haunted city.
-There are probably many thousands of words that can (and perhaps have) be(en) written about the use of the Santa Teresa murders, and by extension the atrocities done unto women at the border. I don’t know how I feel about the way Bolaño tries to make connections to them. I’m usually more in tune with how male writers use patriarchal violence in negative ways but again, this book was a bit beyond me. There were issues I had with the 4th story, which is the deepest dive into the murders. The rote listing of the many murders of women and how they were murdered bothered me. But I don’t know. I’m not sure if I can articulate what exactly the issue is. It didn’t feel exploitative. I’d have to read more and I am pointedly not reading any reviews about 2666 before finishing this one so they don’t color mine.
-There’s so much here about how violence impacts us all (war, rape, imperialism, racism) that’s perfectly explored in this novel. And yet, it rarely feels like a novel of violence (outside of the 4th story which, again, see above). I know this inspired Nic Pizzolatto for True Detective but I feel like he took all the wrong lessons from it.
-Bolaño’s basic thing from what I can glean from a first reading is there’s an undercurrent of energy that affects human behavior in some really negative ways. And it connects us, unintentionally so but still. It didn’t feel like a downer of a novel though, more of a deep exploration of the human character through how this energy impacts us. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read. I’m glad I explored it and would do so again.