Roberto Bolaño, unaltered grace

Roberto Bolaño, unaltered grace

“2666. Complete Works VI”, by Roberto Bolaño, translated from Spanish (Chile) by Robert Amutio, L’Olivier, 1,168 p., €29, digital €21.

It is not known whether the magnitude of 2666 discourages talking about it or inclines, on the contrary, to try to say what we can. Poetically, the novel itself carries this ambiguity: it manifests a kind of suspended apocalypse, accomplished less in a dazzling and total revelation than by the sending of brief and scattered coordinates. They lead to the threshold of disturbing caves with encrypted power. Who issues it? Each reader must enter and discover it, alone. Posthumous and unfinished work, published in 2004, shortly after the death, at the age of 50, of the Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño, 2666 above all embodies the incompletion erected into ars poetica : both a novel of the urgency of the final quest and that of the in-finite promised to any quest.

Also read the 2008 review: “2666”, by Roberto Bolaño, an open hell

In the last lines of the hilarious “Part of the reviews”, the first of the book, the ironic tone of Bolaño towards the four European academics launched on the ice trail of a mysterious writer, Benno von Archimboldi, tips into a twilight melancholy in the Mexico. In Santa Teresa, the intellectual and grotesque epic of the specialists turns into a slow creeping in the basement of a nightmare. Two of them are swallowed up by this Luciferian city, bearer of a raw light, devouring all light, and decomposed by an intolerable heat, a diffuse violence, night skies similar to “carnivorous flowers”, the open eyes of murdered women, the poisonous hypnosis of the Sonoran Desert. Everything seems close at hand and yet lost. “Archimboldi is here, and we are here, and we will never be closer to him”, says Pelletier, the French academic, to his Spanish colleague Espinoza. Here, metaphorically, is the experience of reading 2666 : there is near us something invisible, inconceivable by its horror or by its beauty – but we will only do it, can experience it by intuition.

His sentence promises, invents and plays continuously

No heaviness, however, weighs down a writing whose supple, energetic and cheerful style is remarkably rendered by Robert Amutio, the Chilean author’s main French translator. Bolaño passes from the poetry of the vulgar (“He kissed her until she was a shiver in his arms”) to the precious (or its parody) with unaltered grace. His sentence promises, invents and plays continuously; it proceeds here by baroque accumulation, then dries up in an economy on the verge of banality. Whatever its mood, however, this sentence always offers a shadow: the possibility of a metaphysics. One enters it as one sinks into the selve of multiple, presumably autonomous stories.

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