Friday, November 07, 2008

The shock of new beauty

And positions it as a major work, kicking off with a corollary to Proust. I've been looking forward to sinking my teeth into this sucker and this kind of review makes the wait even more difficult.
Time and again, Bolaño hints, without ever quite saying, that what is happening in Santa Teresa is a symptom of a universal derangement in which hidden dimensions of reality are coming horribly to light. That is why so much of the activity of 2666 takes place not along the ordinary novelistic axes of plot and character but on the poetic, even mystical planes of symbol and metaphor. It is in Bolaño's allusions and unexplained coincidences, in his character's frequent, vividly disturbing dreams, in the mad recitations of criminals and preachers and witches—above all, in the dark insights of Benno von Archimboldi, who finally takes center stage in the book's fifth section—that the real story of 2666 gets told. That is one reason why the book is so hard to summarize—and why Natasha Wimmer's lucid, versatile translation is so triumphant. 2666 is an epic of whispers and details, full of buried structures and intuitions that seem too evanescent, or too terrible, to put into words. It demands from the reader a kind of abject submission—to its willful strangeness, its insistent grimness, even its occasional tedium—that only the greatest books dare to ask for or deserve.
Conversational Reading has been beating the Bolaño drum for a while now, and I've been interested in him since sampling By Night in Chile. Come on -- a 900+-page final work by a largely unsung, but major writing talent? Bring it on.

No comments: