2666 ハードカバー – 2008/11/11
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A posthumous masterwork by a prize-winning founder of the infrarealist poetry movement finds such characters as an American sportswriter, an elusive German novelist, and a teenage student interacting in an urban community on the U.S.-Mexico border where hundreds of young factory workers have disappeared. Simultaneous.
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The first time that Jean-Claude Pelletier read Benno von Archimboldi was Christmas 1980, in Paris, when he was nineteen years old and studying German literature. The book in question was D'Arsonval. The young Pelletier didn't realize at the time that the novel was part of trilogy (made up of the English-themed The Garden and the Polish-themed The Leather Mask, together with the clearly French-themed D'Arsonval), but this ignorance or lapse or bibliographical lacuna, attributable only to his extreme youth, did nothing to diminish the wonder and admiration that the novel stirred in him.
このフランス人青年が、やがて他の研究者３人とともに謎の作家Benno von Archimboldiを探しにメキシコのサンタテレサという町を訪れるというのがパート１の筋である。マイナーな作家を発掘していくという設定は、私にとってはそれだけでもう十分に面白い。パート１からパート４までは、多少相互に関係しあってもいるが、独立した話として読むことが可能である。その中でも圧巻なのは、メキシコのサンタテレサを中心に次々と起こる女性連続殺人事件が延々と描写されていくパート４である。そして、最後のパート５では謎の作家Archimboldiについて徐々に明らかにされていく。非常に興味深い章構成である。これらがどう絡むのか、また絡まないのか？また、はたして題名の「２６６６」は一体何を意味しているのか？
Do not be put off by the length or apparent strangeness of this book; it is a work of stunning originality. If you read only one book this year make it this one.
2666 is a difficult book to explain, and therefore to review. I'm sure I've not yet understood everything there is to know within its pages.
The novel is really five individual books or novelettes, loosely connected by some similar characters, locations, and interwoven thematic material. They are, however, somewhat stylistically different.
The first, THE PART ABOUT THE CRITICS, follows a disparate group of European literary scholars as they try to track down the mysterious and reclusive German author Benno van Archimboldi. Ultimately, in their quest to find their literary hero, they are led to the northern Mexican border town of Santa Teresa, where they meet a Chilean professor, Amalfitano, who in 1974 translated one of Archimboldi's novels. But was Archimboldi really in Santa Teresa? If so, what on earth would have brought him there?
Part two, THE PART ABOUT AMALFITANO, tells the story of philosophy professor Amalfitano, his wife Lola, and his daughter, Rosa, about how they came to Santa Teresa, and what happened there.
In part three, THE PART ABOUT FATE, we're introduced to a new character, Oscar Fate, an art reporter for a New York newspaper who is sent to cover a boxing match in Santa Teresa, Mexico.
Part four, and longest of the five, THE PART ABOUT THE CRIMES, is brutal and relentless. For nearly 300 pages, Bolaño dispassionately catalogs dozens upon dozens of rapes and murders of women in Santa Teresa through the eyes of local law enforcement who believe they have one or more serial killers in their midst. This was the most difficult of the sections to finish. As the crimes and clinical descriptions pile up, one after another after another, you become numb, and the horror turns to mere tedium. I'm sure it's the exact effect the author had in mind.
Finally, part five, THE PART ABOUT ARCHIMBOLDI, and the novel turns finally to the mysterious German author, the focus of the search from part one, and the reason for being in Santa Teresa in the first place.
While it is easy to summarize the sections, it is not so easy to dig deeper and capture the real spirit of the novel in a review like this. I'm not exactly sure how Bolaño does it, but he writes in a way that mesmerizes the reader. While his prose is beautiful, it treats everything, even the horrific, in a prosaic, deadening manner. It has a strange dulling of the senses effect, but keeps you reading, turning the pages.
Bolaño often goes on extended digressions, sometimes many pages long to the point that you forget the original point. He peppers the novel with strange and sometimes humorous non sequiturs.
It had been very long since Lotte thought about her brother and Klaus's question came as something of a surprise. Around this time Lotte and Werner had gotten involved in real estate, which neither of them knew anything about, and they were afraid of losing money. So Lotte's answer was vague: she told him that his uncle was ten years older than she was, more or less, and that the way he made a living wasn't exactly a model for young people, more or less, and that it had been a long time since the family had news of him, because he had disappeared from the face of the earth, more or less. 
Throughout the novel, Bolaño tosses in seemingly extraneous details, bits of information, which, in the end, really do turn out to be extraneous. Characters come and go, never to be seen again. 2666 is a slice of life – it's messy, many mysteries are left unexplained. There is no tidy bow. And, more than anything, the deaths in Santa Teresa haunt everything in the book. If there is anything that ties the five sections together, it's the mystery of the killings of Santa Teresa, and the constant threat of death.
And I know I say this a lot, but: the book will not be to everyone's liking. Definitely not a summer beach book. And, no, the title is never explained.
Bolaño's writing covers the spectrum of styles: dark and brooding, poetic and lyrical, dry and empty while still stunningly gorgeous. Not every one of the 900 pages inside 2666 is a drop-dead winner, but there is too much excellence here to even notice where it slightly falters. Some have argued that Bolaño's publisher should have released this big book as five separate novels as the author first intended, but I disagree; I like it as is: chopped up, messy, dirty, and scattered as all hell, like a diverse smorgasbord of literary delight.
The largely looming character throughout, Archimboldi, is as memorable as any other character from classic postmodern literature. By the time we get inside Archimboldi's head and experience his world after the long lead up, the reward is intensely satisfying. Like a benevolent version of McCarthy's "The Judge" from BLOOD MERIDIAN, Archimboldi is unforgettable.
Bolaño proves that plot *can* be overrated. Love triangles, mysterious murders in the desert, disappearing peoples, European academia, and the nature of war on the soul: it's all fair game for 2666. It's about everything and it's about nothing, and when done right, that's where some of our best stories can come from.