Wood, the prestigious New Yorker
critic, in his recent How Fiction
Works. The fact that Bolaño, rather
than a writer like García Márquez,
is in Wood’s book shows how
quickly the Chilean writer’s stature is growing.
It would be surprising if 2666, Bolaño’s posthumous novel, originally
published in 2004 and published in
English in November 2008, matches
the critical and commercial success
of The Savage Detectives. Still, there
is no doubt that this monumental
novel will cement Bolaño’s reputation in the United States as a bold,
ambitious and innovative writer.
Even though he died without being able to revise the final draft, the
published manuscript is close to Bolaño’s final intentions, according
to Ignacio Echevarría, the literary
critic in charge of editing his posthumous work.
Nevertheless, there is some disagreement about how 2666 should
have been published. The novel is
divided into five parts, each concerned, in one way or the other,
with the search for Benno von Ar-chimboldi, a German writer whose
influence grows following his disappearance. Bolaño left specific
instructions for each part to be
published separately; his primary
reason was not literary: knowing
about his impending death, he
wanted to secure his family’s financial future. Both Jorge Herralde,
his Spanish editor, and Echevarría,
based on literary reasons alone, decided to publish the five parts as
one volume. However 2666 is read,
its impact is powerful.
One of Bolaño’s main themes
has always been the confrontation
with evil, with the horror that lurks
behind the most civilized discussions about art and literature—a
subject treated delicately in Latin
American literature. While many
Latin American writers and intellectuals have seen themselves
as the moral consciences of their
countries and as voices for the voice- a very specific time and place, such
less, Bolaño has focused, in books as Chile under General Augusto Pi-like Nazi Literature in the Americas, nochet (where he was imprisoned
on those who have ideologically briefly following the coup that top-defended and justified fascist and pled President Salvador Allende).
totalitarian regimes. Two earlier With The Savage Detectives, however,
works, By Night in Chile and Distant Bolaño’s focus expanded to include
Star, demonstrate that Bolaño’s ap- Spain, France and Israel.
proach to evil was often rooted in In 2666, his reach extends from