I have conquered the beast, finished 2666. Long, self-indulgent exhale. The beautiful thing about being in the middle of a Bolaño book is that you know it’s always nearby, where exquisite writing can soothe your eyes as you plow through other books on the side. And now I finish this work of art, his posthumously published five-books-in-one 2666. A note from the editor explains the title as the date 2666, mentioned in Amulet (1999) that a street looked like a cemetery, “not a cemetery in 1974 or 1968, or 1975, but a cemetery in the year 2666.”
The five books making up the novel are:
* The Part About the Critics
* The Part About Amalfitano
* The Part About Fate
* The Part About The Crimes
* The Part About Archimboldi
There are connections between all parts: the critics study the works of Archimboldi and end up in Santa Teresa, Mexico, looking for the mythical author. Amalfitano is a professor who goes slightly mad while the critics are there (geometry book hanging on the clothesline taking a beating from the wind). There is a constant drumbeat on the theme of the mysterious killings of girls in Santa Teresa. The part about Fate is Quincy Williams, dealing with his mother’s death and being sent as a journalist to cover a boxing match in Santa Teresa yet wanting to stay and cover the story of the killings instead but his boss nixes the idea since it wouldn’t appeal to their black audience. The part about the crimes is the most disturbing, pages upon pages of strangled, raped young girls, mutilated. Sprinkled into the mass murders are general domestic violence murders where the girl is killed by her boyfriend/husband/jealous lover. Hans Klaus is arrested for the mass murders and yet they continue while he is behind bars. In the part about Archimboldi, we discover that Klaus is Archimboldi’s nephew.
A couple of bits I thought to mark whilst reading:

Usually they ended up at a bar frequented by whores in Colonia Guerrero, a huge lounge presided over by a seven-foot-tall plaster statue of Aphrodite, probably, he thought, a place that had enjoyed a certain louche glory back in Tin-Tan’s day, and since then had been in perpetual decline, one of those interminable Mexican declines, meaning a decline stitched together here and there with a muted laugh, a muted shot, a muted whimper. A Mexican decline? More like a Latin American decline.

When the Aztecs came out of the pyramids, the sunlight didn’t hurt them. They behaved as if there were an eclipse of the sun. And they returned to their daily rounds, which basically consisted of strolling and bathing and then strolling again and spending a long time standing still in contemplation of imperceptible things or studying the patterns insects made in the dirt and eating with friends, but always in silence, which is the same as eating alone, and every so often they made war.

Translated by the inimitable Natasha Wimmer