Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Best Novel of the Year

Time Magazine just named 2666 the Best Book of the Year. I would argue that it's the most important piece of fiction to come out in the last 50 years... which is just a large blanket statement designed for impact... a statement for which I have no argument or proof.

It's virtually impossible to describe this book. I can say that you haven't heard from me in a while because of it, I've been so immersed and so traumatized by it that my dreams have been infected, and I see visions of unnameable and indescribable...discomfort. There are 5 stories, all loosely connected to the enormous number of rape/murders that remain unsolved in the bordertown of Santa Teresa in the Sonoran Desert. Hundreds and hundreds of women have been brutally tortured and murdered without respite for the last decade and a half. The crimes remain unsolved.

Bolano dances around the issue in the first three parts of the book, but part four... part four. Each woman killed, how she was found, who she was, what they did to her. It's awful. He names them, describes them, and humanizes them enough in a paragraph or two to make each one devastating. the sheer number of them, though, no matter how well we know them, or how personal it gets, we just cannot remember them, and therein lies the genius of this section. Each becomes part of a faceless mob of corpses, and they just keep coming. This is why nothing has been done, Bolano seems to be saying. The sheer overwhelming numbers almost makes each death meaningless in the face of the bigger atrocities.

By no means an easy read, but as Kafka says:

"If the book we are reading does not wake us, as with a fist hammering on our skulls, then why do we read it? Good God, we also would be happy if we had no books and such books that make us happy we could, if need be, write ourselves. What we must have are those books that come on us like ill fortune, like the death of one we love better than ourselves, like suicide. A book must be an ice axe to break the sea frozen inside us."

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