2666 as One/Many Novels

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David Hering

May 2, 2009, 2:09:25 PM5/2/09
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Hi everyone, I'm a new member of the list, found out about it from the Wallace-I list. I thought I'd dive right in with a general question - if this has been talked about before extensively then forgive me. I will also mention events from the whole narrative, in case you haven't finished it yet.

I'm interested to read in the editor's notes at the end of the book that Bolano wanted each part published separately and it got me thinking about how a reader's experience of 2666 would change if the books were read as separate entities, perhaps out of order. The experience of reading it as one volume (and quite quickly at that) made me think of how the central mysteries of the novel would reveal themselves in a different order. When I was about halfway through the final part, I must admit that I was a little impatient with Ingeborg and her TB, but only because of the nerve-shredding ending of the previous part, which left me virtually gasping for more Mexico.

I started to think about how potentially the final part in particular may have lost some of its nuances because of how the book was contained in one volume, with the weight of the previous plot and the building of events in Santa Teresa, that is from a reader's perspective I had my beady eyes out for clues and images that would connect to the previous events. Not that I was expecting a closed narrative - if there had been some final persuasive solution I would actually have been extremely disappointed. The extraordinary 'openness' of the narrative in 2666 blew me away - I've not really encountered anything like it that I can remember. The little kid part of me that wanted to know the answers to the mysteries - what was in the crypt? what happened when Archimboldi arrived? - was thoroughly overruled by my amazement at the sideways narrative connections Bolano had crafted. I still wonder if it is necessarily the best idea to have it out there as one gigantic behemoth.

Has anyone read the parts in a different order, or several weeks/months apart? I'd be interested to know how differently events come across to people who have read in a different order. It strikes me that the part about the critics is the natural start point, but maybe that's just because I started with it! I'm interested to see if any other patterns emerged. Certainly for me the moment when the congresswoman (I forget her name) mentions that she was in a room with two mirrors (at the end of part 4) was absolutely spine-tingling, to begin to see the skeletal traces that were going to connect these threads.

Any thoughts would be most welcome!


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