Roberto Bolaño’s 2666, the posthumously published 900-page tome centered on an elusive German author and the spate of yet-to-be solved female sexual homicides committed in Juárez, Mexico (which Bolaño fictionalizes as Santa Theresa) in the past 20 years, my initial reaction was: what the fuck?
Absent was my usual conception of a novel’s end: a resolution, some semblance of a wrap-up. Here we have five seemingly disparate books placed one after the other, and the threads of varying thickness tying each to one another were revealed slowly, and at times enigmatically, but where was the dénouement? I sat stunned, and a little betrayed, for a few moments, until I began to process what had just taken me the better part of two months to finish. A revelation: 2666 had, for me, pulverized the boundaries within which a novel must remain and revolutionized the rules to which a novel ought to adhere. Could this be due to my sophomoric understanding of the current literary landscape? Perhaps. But if so, I implore those in the know to point me toward works on par with 2666 (Maybe Infinite Jest? It's on my list, okay?).
There is something bigger at play betwixt the first and final pages: between the subtle call to action; the intersection of postnationalism and cultural identity; the commentary on futility and obsession; the plight of wars both intra- and international; the silencing of a multiplicity of voices. Yes, these tropes can be found across the spectrum of literature, but Bolaño creates a new stage from which to air them; his novel both dazzles and provokes without adhering to conventional parameters. In full cognizance of the vagueness in which I’m communicating (due to my apprehension at spoiling the beauty of this novel for anyone), let me say that in this, his final work, Bolaño explodes the very term, novel, yet adheres to the secondary definition, creating something unusual, crafty, and inimitable.