Arriving 658 Years Ahead of Schedule…

April 3, 2008 | 5 books mentioned 5 2 min read

As reported at The Complete Review, FSG has announced a publication date for Roberto Bolaño’s massive final work, 2666. In both hardcover (912 pages!) and softcover (a three-paperback boxed set!), the book will hit shelves on November 11, just in time for the birthday of a certain Bolañophile I know. I’m picturing a more adult version of the Harry Potter release parties: customers queueing up outside their neighborhood bookstores at 11 p.m. the night before, wearing small round spectacles, smoking cigarettes and scribbling poetry on toilet paper. I suppose it’s time we started figuring out how to get blogger to accept tildes. [Ed note: We’ve got them this time, but it takes no small amount of HTML wrangling.]

But seriously, folks: 2666 offers a bright spot at the end of what some observers believe will be a wrist-slittingly bad year for hardcover fiction sales. Not incidentally, it belies a number of pieties: that there’s no market for work in translation, that literary fiction is a tough sell… The New Directions and FSG publicity departments have been canny custodians of the Bolaño franchise, and the result has been an unmixed good: the introduction of an important Spanish-language writer to an American readership hungry for good books. I’ve had mixed reactions to some of Bolaño’s shorter works, translated by Chris Andrews (I’m currently working my way through Nazi Literature in the Americas), but Natasha Wimmer’s translation of The Savage Detectives was easily the best new novel I read last year.

2666, which I’m surmising relates to The Savage Detectives somewhat in the way The Silmarillion relates to The Hobbit, was mentioned on our “Most Anticipated Books” list for 2008. There had recently been some speculation that it would appear again as a most anticipated book for 2009. It’s impressive that, amid what appears to have been lots of pressure to produce, Ms. Wimmer managed to deliver a manuscript in time for this year’s winter holidays. There’s something a little unnerving about the idea of translating under the gun, but in this case, Ms. Wimmer’s process may have mirrored Bolaño’s own; the author had to race to finish his magnum opus before liver failure took his life when he was fifty.

Bonus links:

  • Natasha Wimmer interviewed at The Quarterly Conversation
  • Francisco Goldman surveys the Bolaño canon

is the author of City on Fire and A Field Guide to the North American Family. In 2017, he was named one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists.


  1. Glad to see such enthusiasm there as in these parts for 2666. However, given the Silmarillion-Hobbit metaphor, where's LOTR? And did he actually get to finish it?

  2. dglen-
    I just reached for the Silmarillion thing, hoping to imply a "related, but not sequential"-type relationship between the two books. Toward the end of The Savage Detectives, Caesarea Tinajero, a poet fallen into obscurity, alludes to some dark events surrounding prostitutes near the U.S.-Mexican border, and the number 2666 comes up. I'm gathering from The Quarterly Conversation's "Bolano geometry" diagram that those events take up much of 2666, but I don't know if Caesarea herself appears, and I very much doubt that Arturo, Ulises, and Juan Garcia Madero – my beloved Savage Detectives – appear in 2666, as Bilbo B. does in The Lord of the Rings. Anyone out there have more information on the continuity between the two books (or lack thereof)?

  3. I don't remember the number 2666 coming up in "The wild detectives". It does in "Amuleto" though. Belano and Lima do not really appear in the book, but they do play a part.

  4. I'm thinking of the plan of the canning factory Cesarea has drawn at the end of The Savage Detectives. Why? the teacher wonders. She "said something about the days to come…And Cesarea named a date, sometime around the year 2600. Two thousand six hundred and something." (It's on page 565 of my English-language edition.) It's unclear exactly what this says about the connection between the two books, but I'm hoping this is allusion, which has puzzled and intrigued me, will be clarified by 2666.

  5. Hey Guys,

    Great blog (only discovered recently, alas) and a nice post. I don't know if this has been mentioned on "The Millions" already, but Spanish-speaking fans of "2666" should check out Mexican journalist Sergio González Rodríguez' "Huesos en el desierto" (Anagrama, 2002)–a fine piece of reporting that was a big nonfiction influence on Bolaño's novel. I read it in between "The Savage Detectives" and my first few hundred pages of "2666" so far, and it made for a nice compliment to the latter.

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