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This paper was part of the 2013-2014 Penn Humanities Forum on Violence. Find out more at


Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño owes much of his current literary celebrity to the posthumous publication of his magnum opus, 2666. The novel comprises five parts, which ultimately coalesce to create a harrowing portrait of violence against women in a Mexican border town. As this grisly scene unfolds, Bolaño implicates the novel's characters—and, more broadly, the reader—in a crime equally disturbing: inaction, indifference, and thus complicity. However, Bolaño offers artistic solutions to the bleakness of the modern condition: reading and writing. In creating this utterly sui generis novel—and violating established literary norms in the process—Bolaño thus enacts the very solution that he offers to the problems of modernity, a time in which "poetry is the one thing that isn't contaminated."


Roberto Bolano



Date Posted: 17 November 2016