by Roberto Bolaño
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 898 pages, $30)
The question raised by Roberto Bolaño’s labyrinthine new novel is not whether it will appear atop critics’ best-of-the-year lists, said Richard Melo in the Portland Sunday Oregonian. It’s whether readers will still be awed by it “658 years from now,” when the calendar echoes the numbers in its mysterious title. “In almost every particular,” said Adam Kirsch in Slate.com, 2666 “refuses to conform to our expectations of what a novel should be.” Bolaño, who died while completing this masterpiece, breaks the book into five barely linked sections. It starts “undramatically”—following a handful of scholars whose obsession with a German novelist leads them to a Mexican border city. The focus then jumps to an unstable professor in that town, then to a visiting journalist, then to the book’s bleak heart. The next 300 pages are a “ruthlessly precise” catalog of rape and murder that memorializes the hundreds of victims of a contemporary real-life crime spree, said Lev Grossman in Time. It’s a “devastating” reading experience. To “mirror a broken world,” it turns out, “you need a broken book.” 2666 conveys things unspeakable.