This short novel subtly draws politics and literature in Chile together. It's a deathbed memoir told from the perspective of a literary-minded priest/poet/critic who has worshipped the word more than the Word. The writing is moody, quick, almost expository. Events flash past that only someone with a knowledge of Chilean history would understand. Bolano criticizes both sides--the literary/religious types who hypocritically ignore political excesses and the political types who, under the very feet of a literary salon in a basement, conduct torture of regime enemies. The actual events in the novel really aren't the novel's strong point; what matters more is the suggestive reminiscence, the bittersweet reflection, the flighty recollection of the dying priest. In the end, he seems to have been a priest who didn't matter much, a critic who didn't matter much, and a poet who didn't matter much. Except in relation to Pablo Neruda, who makes brief appearances in the text, this is probably a good outcome. Few, if any, of the other figures in the book seem to have done much good in the world with their weightier talents. The blurb language on the cover of the book suggests this is "still his greatest work"--James Wood, New York Times Book Review. That's by far not so. 2666 is wilder, less tidy, and much more brilliant.
Causes Robert Earle Supports
World Wildlife Fund