Since his death at the age of fifty in 2003, Roberto Bolaño’s reputation has burgeoned in the Anglophone world, and with it the mythology of an author discovered too late (currently there is debate about whether he was a heroin addict). The English publication of The Savage Detectives in 2007 saw him hailed as a major novelist. The book concerns an obscure school of poets, the Visceral Realists, and was set in a down-at-heel milieu familiar to Bolaño, who became something of a wandering minstrel after briefly being incarcerated in his homeland, Chile, after General Pinochet’s coup.
Bolaño was working on 2666 right up to his death, and it certainly shows a lack of polish and an uncertainty of purpose at the end of each of the five sections that it comprises. Nonetheless it is a sprawling triumph, technically brilliant on the level of the