I’ve heard this book mentioned in hushed tones in recent years; the way the people refer to “Ulysses” (James Joyce’s that is) i.e. an epic, a revolutionary book.
I sort of agree, but have some nagging doubts. Bolano was Chilean, and wrote in Spanish. So bearing in mind that this is a translation, the first thing that strikes you is the extraordinary beauty and complexity of the language. There are passages that take your breath away. There are passages (like “Ulysses”) which extend a sentence over several pages with little or no punctuation.
It is a very long book (neary 900 pages), and you often wonder where it is going. On the other hand, it is somehow very readable. Split into 5 sections (which may have originally been intended as 5 separate books), it ranges back and forth between continents and periods, with a large cast of characters, making it, at times, difficult to follow.
It primarily traces the life of a fictional obscure novelist, Archimboldi, and the efforts of three academics experts to find him. A large part of the book is set in Mexico in a city with an epidemic of feminicide (based on the real Mexican city of Ciudad Juárez).
I’m glad I read it, and can honestly say I enjoyed it. But I have a nagging doubt that maybe, just maybe, it is highly pretentious.