National Book Critics Circle, Fiction, 2009
Composed in the last years of Roberto Bolaño’s life, 2666 was greeted across Europe and Latin America as his highest achievement, surpassing even his previous work in its strangeness, beauty, and scope. Its throng of unforgettable characters includes academics and convicts, an American sportswriter, an elusive German novelist, and a teenage student and her widowed, mentally unstable father. Their lives intersect in the urban sprawl of Santa Teresa—a fictional Juárez—on the U.S.-Mexico border, where hundreds of young factory workers, in the novel as in life, have disappeared.
©2004 the heirs of Roberto Bolaño; (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
This winner of the 2008 National Book Critics' Circle Award for Fiction is the master work from "one of the greatest and most influential modern writers" (James Wood, New York Times Book Review)
"...think of David Lynch, Marcel Duchamp (both explicitly invoked here) and the Bob Dylan of Highway 61 Revisited, all at the peak of their lucid yet hallucinatory powers." (Janet Maslin, New York Times)
"It is safe to predict that no novel this year will have as powerful an effect on the reader as this one." (Publishers Weekly, starred review)
This is a great book. Too bad so many reviewers decided what it was about after listening to less than 10% of it. My reservation (indeed dismay) is that I have to concur with Nancy that the reader of the "Part About Fate" (whom I believe is G. Valmont Thomas) is not very good. In fact, his performance is without question the worst I have ever encountered in any audio book. He performs characters inconsistently, gives ridiculous and incongruous accents to characters, sometimes eschews accents altogether, overacts scenes like a 3rd rate high school theatre arts teacher, etc. His performance suggests he only read his part of the book, and had no idea what the book as a whole was about. It becomes quite comical at times. Fortunately, it's the shortest section, and eventually one is relieved at the advent of his replacement. G. Valmont Thomas: now that's quite a name, but an easy one to remember and try to avoid.
Say something about yourself!
39 hours long and I didn't want it to end.
For one thing, I had no idea where Bolano was going with this one--andl that is a treat. For another, even though this touches on some grim facts of life as humans in the world there are in this book a myriad of interesting tales and people. Very entertaining and often funny Sometimes I found myself in the midst of a conversation and said to myself--wait a minute, who are these people and how are they related to the character I was following? Going back just a few minutes always cleared that up.
On the performances--I enjoyed them all. But the first reader gets extra stars for making a very difficult text enjoyable, funny, easy to follow. There were four professors of German Literature, one from France, one from Italy, one from Spain, and one from England who just kept going to meetings and he made that fascinating. He is the reason I could get into this book--which was utterly rewarding.
I listened to this book twice, then bought the hard copy. I'm so glad to see that many other listeners reacted to it the same way I did. After a long lifetime of reading, it's not that often a "new" book enters my consciousness permanently the way this book has done. It seems timeless, yet absolutely focused on life as it is in our time. The readers are superb.
My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
There is a phenomenon going on in Juarez that is so enduring and so horrific that it just begs to be written about. But how can you write about something that is mysteriously ongoing and refuses to resolve itself? How can you not write about something so desperately in need of resolution? Bolano cannot give us closure on this but he can attempt to put into words how it feels to live in such a world. He does so in the broad leisurely way that it deserves. This is necessarily a painful book, but ultimately rewarding. How it is rewarding is difficult to put into words. Perhaps the book itself is the only way to verbalize that.
Bolano's writing is quite hypnotic, his ability to keep the reader / listener engaged and waiting in anticipation of the next word is truly magical. His goal of writing a "work" of substance and girth was certainly achieved, however it was disrupted by untimely circumstance. The book is incomplete, thus the 3 star rating.
The problem for me and why I'm not so motivated to finish it is, it doesn't sound like a Bolano book ought to sound, the accent doesn't remind you of Bolano, it reminds you of a stuffy British translator, totally ruins the experience for me.
At the beginning and then at the end it was clearly stated that the Author demanded that the five books that comprise 2666 be publshed separately. The author knew best. Each story is a stand alone that happens, vaguely, to touch upon the others. In each of the 2666 "books" Bolano delves deeply .. possibly too deeply .. into the lives of selected characters. It is possible that, taken alone, at least 2 or 3 of the tales would have been captivating, but taken altogether it is wearisome. I wouldn't ever recommend it to anyone else because I woudn't know what to tell them made it worth reading. The "narrators" for the most part were excellent except for Scott Brick who imparted his normal sardonic tone thus rending the narration a joke .. and since the subject was the murder of many women it was a bit too irreverent for my taste. I listened to the whole thing, and I'm not sure this is a feat to be proud of, or ashamed because I wasted so much time.
I am baffled by the positive reviews of this book.
I have listened to about four hours of it, and will go no farther. It has wasted enough of my time. So far, it has been four hours of some completely implausible academics wandering around Europe and Mexico vaguely looking for a mysterious German writer who may or may not exist, and participating in a limp love triangle that might be believable were they 12-year-olds. We get every tedious detail of their observations, including--I have just been hearing this part--all about whether a guy should take ice cream or a ham sandwich as a present to a pretty girl's brother, and then the exact ingredients of the chosen ham sandwich. Deep.
In sum, it was either calculated for maximum tedium as a caustic joke by the writer, or it is the work of someone with nothing to say and no story ideas who is just typing any dull thing that next comes into his mind. Ghastly.
Business Physicist and Astronomer
I made it through 2666 and it changed my life. After dragging my way through this pretentious, poorly written, poorly crafted and poorly conceived waste of pulp, I learned that a book either shows promise by the mid point or it does not. I learned that critics are easily fooled.
The life changer for me is the freedom to never again have to finish a lousy book because some critic thinks it good because it has to be good, right? I stick with books unless they are obvious pap. I'll invest the time and make the effort. This book is an absolute mess. I am forever free to walk away from a book that is an obvious dud which the critics fear---is it just me? This is 900 pages of crap. I'd better play it safe and talk about the "reach" or the "expanse" so no one really knows that I think it's worthless.
Look at the reviews. When the best a critic can do is recap the book (need those 1,000 words!) and then call it massive or expansive which just means long, skip it. I now understand a code that can steer me clear of future time wastes like 2666.
Save your time. If you want to read Latin literature, turn to Marquez.
Normally I hate it when friends of mine read a book and complain that "nothing happens." Usually, it's just a slow build, or necessary exposition, or things happening by not happening--all of which can be done beautifully and in captivating ways. And while there's no doubt that Bolano's "2666" is a masterpiece is beautiful prose, it is a confusing, frustrating, and (dare I say it) somewhat boring story. The characters go in circles, nothing really ever happens, and after a while I just couldn't be bothered to try and follow or care anymore. It reminded me a lot of Faulkner's " Absalom, Absalom!", so if you are a fan of that novel or of Faulkner, then this may be up your alley. This may also be a great novel for those who are fans of Bolano--I can't really say, this being my first Bolano. Unfortunately, it just wasn't a novel for me. The narration, however, is quite good. All of the narrators capture different voices well and play the rhythm of Bolano's writing.
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