Immersed in Roberto Bolaño’s strange, haunted, terrifying world.

This big, heavy book was sitting quietly and unread on the self for several years. It was always in my mind but each time I approached the self, my gaze was drawn away from it. 2666 is an  enormous novel, 900 pages long; it is heavy, difficult to hold it for long. Somehow, I was intimidated by its size. Suddenly, during the Christmas holidays, while I was looking at it, I took it from the self, I opened it and started to read.

And then, for  a whole week I was immersed in Bolaño’s strange, haunted, terrifying world.  The book, is divided into five connected sections, each could be a novel in its own right (actually, when I finished it, I read that Bolaño had expressed the wish to be published separately, but it was ignored by its executors).

It starts with five literary promiscuous academics from different European countries. They are united by their obsession with a German obscure and reclusive novelist called Benno von Archimboldi. Little are known about him. He is old and very tall.  He disappeared in his early thirties and only a few people, most of them now dead, have met him.  He moves a lot, he have lived in various places and countries. One day the five academics learn that Archimboldi has been spotted in northern Mexico and following the  evidence they arrive in Santa Teresa, a provincial, ugly  city in the borders with the United States.

Santa Teresa becomes the focal point of the novel.The story, becomes darker, violent, more mysterious. There is a real-life epidemic of murders of women, hundreds of them, young, with dark hair, who work in low-income jobs at the numerous maquiladoras across the city.

Often these victims disappear while on their way to school or returning home from work or while they’re out with friends. Their bodies are found weeks or months later in the middle of the desert, or in ditches. Most are strangled; some are shot, others are knifed. Many  show signs of rape. Bolaño’s description of crimes is explicit, technical, like clinical reports. In a way, he puts a distance between himself and the very thing he describes, the darkest and the most frightening aspects of human nature.

A week after the discovery of the corpse of the thirteen-year-old girl on the outskirts of El Obelisco, the body of a girl about sixteen was found in the Cananea highway. The dead girl was a little under five foot four and slightly built, and she had long black hair. She had been stabbed only once, in the abdomen, a stab so deep that the blade had literally pierced her through. But her death, according to the medical examiner, was caused by strangulation and a fracture of the hyoid bone. The victim, according to the police, was probably a hitchhiker who had been raped on her way to Santa Teresa. All attempts to identify her were in vain and the case was closed.

The part about the crimes (Part 4) had – and I suspect it will continue to have –  a profound effect on me. It is based in the  phenomenon of the female homicides in Ciudad Juárez, which involved the violent deaths of hundreds of women and girls between 1993 and 2003, in the northern Mexican region. Bolaño’s representation  is dark, shocking, unsettling, harrowing and brutal.  It is extremely upsetting, but you can’t stop reading.  These things cannot happen, you think, but they are.

There is corruption, violence and decadence. People come and gone. Interconnected, complicated, multi-dimentional characters, from various places. They are haunted, villainous, drifted, aimless. They live in ethically and politically oriented worlds.

The title 2666 is nowhere in the novel. It is only mentioned once in Bolaño’ s novel Amulet. It is a year so far in the future that you can’t even think of it .

Guerrero, at that time of night, is more like a cemetery than an avenue, not a cemetery in 1974 or in 1968 or 1975, but a cemetery in the year 2666, a forgotten cemetery under the eyelid of a corpse or an unborn child, bathed in the dispassionate fluids of an eye that tried so hard to forget one particular thing that it ended up forgetting everything else.