I confess I have read: “2666”
Author: William Castaño-Bedoya
The interview conducted by Cristián Warnken, professor of literature and celebrity of the Chilean intelligentsia society in 1999 with Roberto Bolaño —who died four years later—. It led me to explore this writer, on a search in which I encountered a magical, mysterious number, 2666. Then, I looked for a flying answer by means of a brief cyber-tab with a friend, who like Bolaño, dedicates his life with enthusiasm to literature:
Me: Hi, happy Saturday. Have you ever read 2666?
He: No. It’s a behemoth of about a thousand pages. What I did read was The Wild Detectives and some tales.
Me: But did you try to read it or were you scared of the size?
Him: Well, it requires a lot of time, but I assure you it’s worth it. The man is very good.
Me: Thank you. Have a great rest of your day.
Despite hearing, in bohemia and gatherings, so many good things about Roberto Bolaño, I had never read his work. It wasn’t fair not to have done so. I defend myself with the thought that perhaps life had not allowed me the chance to, or because fate had simply not challenged me to do so. I always have a motive to approach a literary work, and in this case, I was motivated by the image of Bolaño writing this majestic work while still thinking about his family. He was ill and, in his mind, perhaps swarmed the pain inflicted by the uncertainty of the possibility of death or of the inner eviction.
Three days later I received a small cardboard box at my house, and inside it, challenging as himself, was Bolaño’s book. It resembled a caste bull, one of those who bury the sand and throw it back while smoke blows through their noses. One of those bulls known as the alpha, the dominant ones. 2666 was in front of me, an alphabook, marking territory in my own house where I would apply some ‘veronicas’ or some ‘chicuelinas’ while always respecting the copy. That day the square of my illusions was filled with that need to enjoy the brave reading. Book in hand and glasses a foot, I set out to face 2666, 1,123 pages in typography in 10-point font size. A thick work that enjoys the necessary viscosity on each page, as not to sicken. The flavor that Bolaño permeates in his work is that to which referred a great friend that I call up today, a friend with tender eyes and wise look, an octogenarian little man from whom I learned a lot, who left us more than twenty years ago. His name is still Orley Pereira, a plastic artist in life, as Brazilian as samba, a very pleasant person, a spiritual and talented man, he maintained: “The hand of God is present at that moment where, a work made by man, does not need more or less to seem perfect”. The flavor that impregnated Bolaño in 2666, although it is said not to have been finished in carpentry and other things that no longer matter, did not need any more or less words to have become what it is today, a world reference of our literature born in Spanish. I can imagine Bolaño and Orley spreading wisdom wherever they are now.
I let myself be carried away by the pen and its images. Bolaño addresses several themes: femicides in recent times in Mexico where the author lived much of his life; the eastern front in the Second World War; the world of intellectuals and academics; mental illness; journalism; and in general, the setting of the twentieth century as a century in decline. The first part or novel, that is, The Critics’ Side, showed me, to some extent, how the intellectuality can create a great author with its powerful judgment. In this part, Bolaño gives life to four intellectuals, the critics: A Frenchman named Jean-Claude Pelletier, an Italian named Piero Morini, Manuel Espinoza, a Spanish man, and an interesting but no less seductive, English teacher named Liz Norton, of whom, like the characters I named, I also loved. These four characters carefully seek the presence of the German writer Benno von Archimboldi whom they never get to know, because his physical presence is a great mystery despite the omnipresence attributed to him. He was considered worthy of the novel prize for literature. Archimboldi’s search takes them to Mexico, a geography that prevails in the work and that ultimately interlaces the five parts of 2666. I confess that the first part, The part of the critics, together with the fifth, the part of Archimboldy, made me think about the craft of writing, the craft of publishing, in the sense that prevailed for the times in which Bolaños circumscribes it. At the time when Archimboldy began writing, amid the Second World War, success depended exclusively on the best publishers and printers in Germany that should be alienated from Hitler and his dominions. Archimboldy is catapulted by an editor named Bubis, husband of a male woman who gets into affairs with Archimboldy. Bolaño notes with some disdain, very subliminally, how Bubis comes to publish it without even reading his manuscripts or having digested them or having been amazed or close to that. 2666 gets the reader involved in the investigation of the murders of women in Juarez, Mexico in The part of the murders, there, Archimboldy is driven and is related to a possible serial killer carrying his blood, a time of the 90s of the twentieth century. When reading that work, I do not stop thinking about the large number of experiences and learnings that the author had to compile to exemplify not only that abominable drama, but also the theme of the post-war and the war, the concentration camps, and the life of the intellectual world that surrounded him. Reading Arcimboldi’s part, I created certain analogies with The Slave by Isaac Bashevis Singer, based about persecuted Jews and of seventeenth-century Poland.
Do I recommend reading 2666? Yes.