The Broken Book

Roberto Bolaño's 2666 is bizarre, enigmatic, 898 pages--and the year's most exciting novel

Cannarsa Basso / Grazia Neri

Born in Chile, he died in Spain at age 50.

There could be nobody better suited to describe the hilarious, improbable triumph of Robert Bolaño than Bolaño himself, which is a terrible shame because he's dead. At the time of his death, from liver disease, in 2003, Bolaño was a major writer in the Spanish-speaking world but virtually unknown and untranslated in English. Why that should be is not much of a mystery. Bolaño, who was born in Chile and spent most of his life in Mexico and Spain, is a difficult, angry, self-reflexive writer who lived an erratic and occasionally unpleasant life. And Americans, as the head of the Swedish...

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