So many superlatives have been attached to Roberto Bolaño’s 2666
by American critics and readers in the past year that I’m afraid we run the risk of exceeding our allotment. Fortunately, I’m called upon here not to offer an exegesis, or even a proper review, but to decide between two novels using whatever arbitrary criteria I choose, so I will keep this verdict short.
Bolaño’s 900-page, five-part book is a brilliant, far-ranging, occasionally trying, meditation on art, life, and the relationship between the two. As Jonathan Lethem has said, 2666
evokes the absurd yearning embedded in our reverence toward art, and the tragicomic paradoxes ‘masterpieces’ embody in the human realm that brings them forth and gives them their only value. Reading it is more like falling into a fever dream than entering the world of a novel. During the weeks I lugged the giant volume around with me, to the office and back again, I sank so far into the story that the real world seemed oversaturated with meaning. People and things even looked wrong, like I was trapped in an early colorized photo.
Louis de Bernières is best known for his historical-fiction bestseller Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
, which was poorly adapted for the screen several years ago. In his latest novel, A Partisan’s Daughter
, the author narrows his lens to focus in on a married man’s obsession with a Serbian woman he initially mistakes for a prostitute and tries to hire. The story is lean, the prose straightforward, the unreliability of the lust object’s narrative almost, but not wholly, plausible.
Like Bolaño’s novel, A Partisan’s Daughter
comments (if mostly implicitly) on the nature of storytelling and art, but its insights are a little slight and in any event have receded in the delirium induced by 2666
. I vote to advance the Bolaño.
2666 by Roberto Bolaño