Sunday, October 18, 2009

Roberto Bolano: 2666

I would like to blame part of my non-blogging of late on this book, which has been eating away at my time, and my brain. To get a grip on the size of "2666," you can think of it this way: Bolano, who died right before the book was published, left instructions that the book be published as 5 separate, serialized novels. His wishes were disobeyed by his children, who strung them together in this one, very long book. To give you another picture of the length, heft and perhaps even density of this book, I recently saw "2666" for sale at Green Apple in two formats: the weighty version I have, and another, boxed version, of 3, smaller books. This is a book that was not meant to be read all at once.

And yet I read it all at once (and now I'm starting to speak like Bolano writes. Forgive themacinator, please, as Bolano's writing, while not necessarily appealing or endearing, is insidious, if not by its virtuoisity or its charm, but its very presence, through 1000 pages). I read it and read it and read it some more. Bolano writes in long, complicated, never ending paragraphs and pages and thoughts and I think I lost track of how many characters there were at about 100- when thinking last night, I think there were probably between 300 and 500 people introduced in this book. So you can't just casually read the book and set it down and pick it up later. You could, but you would miss the point, or worry about missing the point, since the point is buried in those long meandering paragraphs. And have I mentioned that this book is translated from the Spanish?

Why did I pick this book up? Well, I picked it up because of the part on the back that talked about the disappearing women on the Mexico/US border. I read everything I can get my hands on about the border, so I bought this book. Otherwise, this book is about as far as I can get from what I normally read: magical, wordy, translated, and long long and longer. I struggled, because it turns out the part about the disappearances/murders was the 4th of 5th parts, and this isn't a book you can jump around in, even though Bolano thought the parts would stand alone. So by the time I was mid-way through part 2, I was hooked. There is a bit of a mystery that happens in this book, or maybe mysteries is more accurate, and really, it's intriguing. And so, SO frustrating. The part about Mexico was the most wonderful, maybe because Bolano was writing more in his element- his discussions of Latin America and Mexico were as humerous as they were heartbreaking- and maybe because that was the part I really cared about. But as I told myself this week that I would finish this book and finally move on to the next, the end wasn't so bad either. In fact, for all the 8103637 characters, Bolano knew what he was doing.

This was a new journey for me- I couldn't read "100 Years of Solitude"- magical realism (?) has never been my thing. Translation frustrates me. The long sentence/paragraphs remind me of Faulkner, who I've also never been able to read. But this book forced my concentration, and it worked my imagination. It was crude and beautiful, magical and very very real.