Things I love

Francine Prose on Roberto Bolano’s 2666:

Four hundred pages in, I thought I was beginning to have some idea of what the book was about, though later I realized how little I’d known. The five books get steadily more engrossing as they comment and reflect on, refract, deepen, and complete one another, five sections so unalike that they suggest different genres, all converging on the dead women lying half-buried or simply tossed aside in the nightmare moonscape of Santa Teresa. On my second reading of 2666, I was surprised to notice how often buzzards and vultures are mentioned, because after I’d finished the book the first time, it had occurred to me (out of nowhere, or so I had thought) that the shape of the narrative is like the flight of some carrion-eating bird with a wingspan so enormous that to see it take off and soar seems miraculous. Bolaño’s terrifying and gorgeous vulture of a novel keeps landing in Santa Teresa—but the wider arc of its flight (which includes Nazi Germany) reminds you that evil touches down in one country this time, next year in another place. The erratic but relentless flight plan of human evil from one era and continent to the next is, as much as anything, the subject of 2666.