2666 by Roberto Bolano

Book reviewers and the press generally have been raving over 2666 for some time, it seems, although the book itself has not been available in the UK (in English) for very long.  “Is all the hype justified?” blares one reviewer, and answers its own question: “absolutely”.
   Well, is all the hype justified?
   2666 is an amazing novel.  It breaks so many ‘good writing’ rules that if pressed to make a list of them, it would be hard to know where to begin.  It is a long book, over 800 pages, and probably more than 500 pages have nothing whatever to do with the main character of the story and not much to do with the minor characters.  Some sentences carry on for more than one page.  Paragraphs frequently extend for several pages, and include in their murky depths speech from more than one character, and several point of view switches.  The central mystery of the novel (the deaths of hundreds of women and girls in the imaginary city of Santa Teresa) remains unresolved.  Half a dozen or more important characters enter stage, do their thing, and disappear without any clue as to what happened to them.  On the other hand, what happened to several minor characters is described in detail.
   After reading that, you might be excused for thinking that 2666 is a great, sprawling mess.  But it isn’t.  The style works.  The “worldview” or “tangential” style works.  In only a couple of places did I find myself getting a mite tetchy, thinking “come on, come on, get on with it.”  Otherwise, I thought this was a brilliant book and, for the first time in a very long time, I think I have to propel it directly into my top 10 of all time.
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