Roberto Bolano died before the publication of this book, his last wish was that this book waaas published as 5 separate books, hopefully providing money for his children - his publishers decided that it was best to publis this all as one volume.
I'm going to talk about each section separately as in some cases their is little link between the sections.
The Part About the Critics
Four critics from different parts of Europe separately stumble upon the work of a little known author Archimaboldi, three of them work to translate his works into thier own language , and set out writing about his works. Their attention moves this little known author into a recongnisable laterary name.
This section is about their relationship with each other (three men and one woman = an inevitable literary love triangle); their search for the author who seems invisible and their interest in the painter Elliot Johns who chopped off his own hand in the name of art.
The short sections (2/3 of a page) give us glimpses of events over the years culminating in a trip to Chile on a tip off that the author is there.
The Part about Amalfitano
This teeny section is only 60 pages in length and focuses on the life of the Latin American professor that the four critics o0f the earlier section met on their trip to Chile.
His life is shown to us through snapshot moments, interspersed with accounts of letters from his wife that she sent to him after she left (she fell in love with a poet she'd never met and went in search of him). We also have Amilfatino's explaanation of why he has a work of geometry hanging from his washing line.
These sections, especially thouse accounting his wife's travels and explorations are longer but start to feature some of the magic realism Latin American fiction is famous for.
The Part about Fate
Oscar Fate is a New York reporter having aa bad week, first his mother dies then he is sent to interview a boxer-turned writer-turned preacher. Then off to Mexica to report on a boxing match which ends up with him mixed up in the Mexican underworld. This section features the daughter of the professor from the previous section. The focus has moved from literature to philosophy and now to crime.
The Part about the Crimes.
A huge section focused on a police investigation (lack of investigation) into the numerous murders and serial killing of women in a town in Mexico.
A large number of female killings are dealt with - after about the 50th grisly and graphic descriptions I ended up skipping these. The rest of the section is focused on some of the police, criminals, and a psychic lady who believes she can see the murders.
This section was far too long and tedious. Thankfully the next section saved the book.
The Part about Archimbaldi
This section starts with a young boy desparate to live at the bottom of the sea and follows him through his many jobs, life in the army, his love for a mad girl abd finally his transformation into Benno von Archibaldi - the author searched for in the first section. We learn why he is an enigma.
As a whole I enjoyed this book although this fourth section really let it down. Each section had some link to a previous section, but like other books like this I really wanted to go back and discover the rest of the srtory of some of the characters - a mamouth feast.