Santa Teresa: the fictional city of 2666

2666 is a massive 5-part novel written by Chilean author Roberto Bolano. It was published posthumously in 2004 by Bolano’s heirs, and translated from Spanish into English in 2008. This dark, and often violent mystery revolves around the fictitious north-Mexican border-town of Santa Teresa (thought to be Juarez, Mexico). As 2666’s multiple main characters haplessly run their literary course, Santa Teresa is the oblique theme, forcing together the unwitting participants into mysterious, clever, and horrifying circumstances. While set in modern times, I believe the title alludes to Bolano’s looming apocalyptic view of the near future: cities are dark places where the strong live quickly and take advantage of the weak. Bolano’s Santa Teresa embodies the urbanized globalization dichotomy through its character: hyper-niche literary professors chase a figment to Santa Teresa, engrossed in their own personal intrigues, while the entire city is brought to its knees by hundreds of grotesque murders of its indigenous residents. These two disparate worlds (or in the case of 2666, five very different worlds) are brought to the same geographic location yet almost entirely miss each other throughout the novel.

Santa Teresa is described as an extremely ugly place, of sprawl and dust, home to hundreds of thousands working in polluted factories and outdoor markets. Major characters and minor characters alike, even the many murder victims, gruesomely described and as emotionally-detached as a police report, goes on for almost three hundred pages; it is off-putting to say the least. Yet all of the characters are drawn to Santa Teresa, this apocalyptic place. No one ever packs up their bags and leave, visitors keep coming back, and workers continue to supply the factories. As one continues reading 2666, you become familiar with Santa Teresa, its plazas and markets, ditches and garbage piles where lives are mourned. What is it that draws us to these cities and will not let us leave, even though we know we should? Bolano gives us five reasons in 2666, but we all have our own.

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