2008 2009 Books in Translation Chunkster Other Prizes Recommended books

2666 – Roberto Bolaño. Part 5: The Part About Archimboldi

Steph and Claire are hosting a read-along for the highly acclaimed book, 2666, by Chilean author Roberto Bolaño. The novel is 900 pages long, and divided into 5 parts. We are reading one part a month.

Here are my thoughts on Part 5: The Part About Archimboldi

After nearly 6 months I have finally finished 2666! It took me a long time to decide if it was worth the effort – this book has confused me, bored me, and amazed me in equal measure.

I have learnt that Bolaño cannot be predicted and so I had no idea what to expect in this final section. What I found was an enjoyable novel, similar to part 3, in that it could be enjoyed independently. It was easy to read and beautifully written, but as an ending to this colossal book I was a bit disappointed. The explanations for some of the initial mysteries were very mundane and the majority of questions were left unanswered. I don’t mind ambiguity at the end of a book, but I had expected a few revelations and some clever twists. I was left feeling very deflated and a feeling of “is that it?” Hopefully Part 6 will be released soon and will have a much more satisfactory climax.

As a standalone novel, Part 5 was very good. I loved learning about Archimboldi and reading the rich descriptions of his family. I was hooked from the first sentence:

His mother was blind in one eye. She had blond hair and was blind in one eye. Her good eye was sky blue and placid, which made her seem slow but sweet natured, truly good. His father was lame. He had lost his leg in the war and spent a month in a military hospital near Düren, thinking he was done for and watching as the patients who could move (he couldn’t!) stole cigarettes from others.

As with the rest of the book there were also a lot of deeper, more philosophical quotes:

That night, as he was working the door at the bar, he amused himself by thinking about a time with two speeds, one very slow, in which the movement of people and objects was almost imperceptible, and the other fast, in which everything, even inert objects, glittered with speed. The first was called Paradise, the second Hell, and Archimboldi’s only wish was never to inhabit either.

I am very intrigued about why Heaven is slow. I always thought Heaven was perfect and can’t understand why he would say this. Can anyone enlighten me?

There is so much to discuss in this book that I am sure you could study it for years and still have more to uncover. The big question is whether I recommend that you read it and that is a very difficult question to answer. A quick glance as my ratings for each section would probably put you off this 900 page chunkster.

Part 1: The Part About the Critics  stars3h

Part 2: The Part About Amalfitano stars3h 

Part 3: The Part About Fate stars41

Part 4: The Part About the Crimes stars21

Part 5: The Part About Archimboldi stars41

I think this book should be approached with caution. I don’t think I would have made it to the end without the support of the other readalong participants:

RichardEmily, Frances,  Gavin, Isabella, Lu, E.L. Fay, and the wonderful hosts Steph and Claire.

It is a confusing, and at times overwhelming book, but I think it is also the sort of book which grows on you. I think that this book will remain with me, with my appreciation for it growing all the time. There are so many layers and little details which bubble to the surface weeks/months after reading it. I don’t think I will ever discover the point of this book, but I don’t think it matters. This book is a masterpiece, which will become a classic. For that reason I have to award it:



I have no idea how that happened when I struggled with so much of it, but I can’t deny the power this book has had on me over the last six months. I highly recommend this book to anyone that loves literary fiction. I promise that is is worth it in the end.

Do you think this book will still be read 100 years from now?

Do you recommend it to others?

If you haven’t read it, do you think you will attempt it?

2009 Books in Translation Chunkster Other Prizes

2666 – Roberto Bolaño. Part 4: The Part About the Crimes

Steph and Claire are hosting a read-along for the highly acclaimed book, 2666, by Chilean author Roberto Bolaño. The novel is 900 pages long, and divided into 5 parts. We are reading one part a month.

Here are my thoughts on Part 4: The Part About the Crimes

I loved Part 3, I felt that all the random, seemingly unconnected events of the first two parts were finally coming together. The end of the third section was such a cliffhanger that for the first time in this read-along I was tempted to dive straight into the fourth part. I had also read many reviews for 2666 which stated that all the action finally occurred in Part 4.

Unfortunately, Part 4 did not live up to my expectations, and I found it to be the weakest section so far.

As suggested by the title, this section focuses on the crimes. Throughout the first three sections we had heard snippets of information about the chain of women murdered in the town of Santa Teresa, but no specific facts. This section corrects that by giving detailed information about every victim. Almost every paragraph introduces us to a new victim, noting the month they were murdered, their physical appearance and the way in which they were killed. Instead of giving a voice to each of these unfortunate woman I felt that the repetition distanced me from each of them. The continual jumping from one person to the next meant that I didn’t connect with any of them, and they became of blur of names, dates and physical attributes.

I had been worried about the violence in this section, as several people had warned me about the graphic detail, but because I felt no emotional connection to the victims the violence did not bother me at all. Some of the descriptions were more brutal than others, but none of them affected me at all. In fact this entire section left me cold. It felt more like police notes than a novel and I gained little enjoyment from reading it at all.

I made a note of several quotes that I thought would be representative of this chapter and was interested to discover that they all sounded more beautiful and profound when taken out of context:

I’m talking about visions that would take away the breath of the bravest of brave men. In dreams I see the crimes and it’s as if a television set has exploded and I keep seeing, in the little shards of screen scattered around my bedroom, horrible scenes, endless tears.

It seemed as though being surrounded by the details of the crimes reduced the beauty of everything.

I am now apprehensive about reading the final section. I am really hoping that everything comes together in a complex and impressive way, as otherwise I think I will be disappointed by the book as a whole.


Were you affected by the graphic violence in this section?

Are you looking forward to reading the final part?

2008 2009 Books in Translation Chunkster

2666 – Roberto Bolaño. Part 3: The Part About Fate

Steph and Claire are hosting a read-along for the highly acclaimed book, 2666, by Chilean author Roberto Bolaño. The novel is 900 pages long, and divided into 5 parts. We are reading one part a month, for the next five months.

Here are my thoughts on Part 3: The Part About Fate

I loved this part – I found it so much easier to read than the first two. This section reads much more like a normal novel and I now have a fuller understanding of what is happening –  although I guess you can never really tell what Bolaño is up to!

This section focuses on Fate, a reporter sent from New York to cover a boxing match in Saint Terasa, the Mexican city plagued by a serial killer. Fate quickly realises that the killings make a more interesting news story than a boxing match and so starts to investigate them.

This section finally brings things together, connecting the characters so I can finally begin to see their purpose in the book. It was so satisfying to finally discover links between some of the seemingly random events of the first two chapters.

As usual the writing was beautiful. I could have picked quotes from just about every page, but I was struck by the repetitive mention of the sun. It seemed to have great significance within this chapter.

But the sun has its uses, as any fool knows, said Seaman. From up close it’s hell, but from far away you’d have to be a vampire not to see how useful it is, how beautiful.

They crossed the yard and the street and their bodies cast extremely fine shadows that every five seconds were shaken by a tremor, as if the sun were spinning backward.

When the sun comes up everything will be over.

This section was also had a faster pace than the earlier two and had a cliff-hanger ending, making this the first section where I have actually been tempted to dive straight into the next chapter. I’m resisting though, in the hope that the suspense will add to the enjoyment of the book.

It appears this book is improving all the time. I am really looking forward to getting into The Part About The Crimes. I have very high expectations for it. Let’s hope it can live up to them.


Are you enjoying 2666 more now?

Can you wait a full month before beginning Part 4?

2008 2009 Books in Translation

2666 – Roberto Bolaño. Part 2: The Part About Amalfitano

Steph and Claire are hosting a read-along for the highly acclaimed book, 2666, by Chilean author Roberto Bolaño. The novel is 900 pages long, and divided into 5 parts. We are reading one part a month, for the next five months.

Here are my thoughts on Part 2: The Part About Amalfitano


As the title suggests this section is all about Amalfitano, and other than the fact it is set in the town the critics visited searching for the German writer, it has little relation to Part 1.

Amalfitano is raising his daughter, Rosa, after Rosa’s mother, Lola has walked out on them. Amalfitano receives letters from Lola occasionally in which she tells him of her travels round Europe and her obsession with a Spanish poet. Lola eventually returns and confesses that she is dying of AIDS.

This part was much easier to read than Part 1, but it made me feel incredibly stupid. There were so many references to poets/philosophers/other people I’d never heard of that much of it went over my head. About half way through this section Amalfitano discovers a geometry book in his house that he has never seen before. He studies it for a while and then decides to hang it on the washing line:

…to see how it survives the assault of nature, to see how it survives this desert climate,

Why? I really didn’t understand. He then goes on to draw geometric shapes, with various people listed at the apexes. I have no idea why! Amalfitano’s attempts to explain it just confused me even more:

The B that appeared at the apex of the triangle superimposed on the rectangle could be God or the existence of God as derived from his essence.

By the time he lists the three columns of names I have decided that it is all beyond me, and so I’ll just ignore that until someone more knowledgeable than me explains it all.

As with part 1, this section contains numerous sexual and homophobic references and at one point Lola has sex in a cemetery. Again I found this all a bit weird. I find myself just shaking my head at this book. I just don’t seem to understand where it is coming from.

I really hope that it comes together soon, as it is all a bit weird for me.


Do you think you understand what the author is trying to achieve with this book?

Is it mystifying you, or are you really enjoying it?

Books in Translation

2666 – Roberto Bolaño. Part 1: The Part About the Critics

Steph and Claire are hosting a read-along for the highly acclaimed book, 2666, by Chilean author Roberto Bolaño. The novel is 900 pages long, and divided into 5 parts. We are reading one part a month, for the next five months.

Here are my thoughts on Part 1: The Part About the Critics, pp. 1-160

Part 1 introduces us to four academics who specialise in the German author Archimboldi. Archimboldi has disappeared, and the academics are keen to discover his whereabouts. They travel to various literary conferences to discuss his work, and hope to find potential clues to his location. There is also a strange love triangle which develops between three of the academics. Not much happens in this section, but each of the characters is introduced vividly. Part 1 doesn’t really work as a book in its own right, but is a good beginning to what will hopefully be a well developed plot.

I found the formality of the book strange to begin with. Perhaps it is just the British culture, but it was really weird for me to read all the characters being referred to by their last names. I got used to it after a while, but then some characters started to be introduced by their first names. Does anyone know why this is?

Sometimes the book went into too much detail:

All four were put up at the same hotel. Morini and Norton were on the third floor, in rooms 305 and 311, respectively. Espinoza was on the fifth floor, in room 509. And Pelletier was on the sixth floor, in room 602.

I felt like it was waffling a bit, and adding too much unnecessary information. I’m sure the book could be reduced down to half its size without losing any crucial points. Does anyone else feel it would benefit from some word pruning?

The plot was a bit unbelievable in places. The scene with the taxi driver was a bit far fetched for me. It is quite normal for someone to say that:

….London was such a labyrinth, he really had lost his bearings.

The cabbie isn’t quoting Borges in saying this, it is a phrase in common usage. I certainly didn’t know that this phrase originated from Borges, and even if the taxi driver was aware of this fact I’m not sure why it resulted in him being severly beaten. It was all a bit odd to me. Did anyone else understand why this section was in the book?

The writing was reminiscent of Robertson Davies’ The Rebel Angels, although this maybe just because both were set in the world of academia. Does anyone else see a similarity between these two books?

I think it has the potential to be a really good book, and look forward to reading the next four sections, but I am really pleased that we are reading the book over several months, as I think the density of the text would really put me off completing this book in one go, and I would probably have been tempted to give up.

Overall, part 1 was quite average, but has the potential to be the start of a really good book.



What did you think of part 1?

Are you enjoying the read-along?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this massive book!