...2666 is at heart a fascinating meditation on violence and literature, on how writers 'turned pain, which is natural, enduring, and eternally triumphant, into personal memory, which is human, brief, and eternally elusive.' At its simplest level, 2666 leisurely follows a handful of characters who are drawn, like vultures to a rotting carcass, to the northern Mexican city of Santa Teresa in the 1990s ... Archimboldi never meets his critics, the reporters never solve the crimes, and nothing is resolved at the novel's end ... is a delightfully bookish novel, filled with writers, critics, publishers, copy editors, reporters — all illustrating how reading and writing help make sense of the world.
All but one of 2666's five sections focus on scribblers of one sort or another: the first on a comically repugnant group of European academics who specialize in the work of a reclusive German novelist named Benno von Archimboldi; the second on a sad, Bolaño-like, Chilean exile professor of philosophy; the third on a black American journalist weightily named Oscar Fate; the last on the mysterious Archimboldi himself ... This is no ordinary whodunit, but it is a murder mystery. Santa Teresa is not just a hell. It's a mirror also — 'the sad American mirror of wealth and poverty and constant, useless metamorphosis' ... Stories sprout from other stories. Digression rules. Nothing is ever finished, nothing answered, nothing solved. Bolaño is too smart, or too sad, to attempt to piece it all together.
Reading 2666 demands a degree of sustained artistic communion that strikes me as deeply old-fashioned, practically Victorian ...a novel built out of five linked novellas, each of which is itself a collage of endless stand-alone parts: riffs, nightmares, set pieces, monologues, dead ends, stories within stories, descriptive flourishes ... Bolaño takes the crimes on directly, one by one, compiling a brutal, almost journalistic catalogue of the murdered women...clearly outraged by the culture of misogyny, exploitation, and indifference that enables the killing, he refuses to load the fictional dice...the final indeterminate Bolañesco touch: mystery, openness, imperfection—a simultaneous promise of everything and of nothing.