2666: “Dream-Like, Epic, Worldly” Says a Reader on Amazon

p. 11 of 2666 by Roberto Bolaño:  “The three met again at a German-language literature colloquium . . . ”

Self is feeling restless. At first she wasn’t sure if she’d wandered into the right novel. Why oh why are we following a bunch of academics as they attend one conference after another and expound on their love of the artist Archimboldi?

Hurry up! She doesn’t have all day!

At first she was rather intrigued by the fact that post-humously famous Bolaño chose to open a 900-page novel with a minute dissection of academics who keep bumping into each other at conferences. Way to go, Bolaño! Self found the tone sly, rather dryly humorous.

But after 11 pages, the novel’s action hasn’t moved forward an inch. We are still in the same milieu: the academic conference (handled very well, but still. There is a reason people refer to universities as ivory towers) And there are 890 more pages to go.

The next book on her reading list is Denis Johnson’s

Tree of Smoke, which promises to be a lot more fun.

She’s sorely tempted to skip Bolaño.

Rest in peace, Bolaño. You are a really really really good writer. But, on the evidence of these first few pages, circumlocutious — dull, even.

You remind self a little bit of Murakami: that adherence to surface (which always implies a great depth of undercurrent), the lack of cultural (Mexican?) markers, the even-ness of tone. But if that’s all self wants (or needs from a novel), she can just read another Murakami.

Bear in mind, self is coming to Bolaño after just having finished Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn. There is nothing clever in Toibin’s novel. He does not go rambling on and on about people who attend conferences. Bolaño does not have to convince self that these conferences are boring. She’s been to a number of them, and they are! Truthfully, self would much rather read about another sub-set of the human race.

Self really doesn’t blame Bolaño for writing 900 pages. Rebecca West did that in Black Lamb, Grey Falcon. If you can manage to get a publisher — any publisher — to publish 900 pages of anything, you are genius!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


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