Written and [[AuthorExistenceFailure left unfinished]] by Creator/RobertoBolano, ''2666'' depicts the [[RealLifeWritesThePlot unsolved and ongoing serial murders]] in Santa Teresa, Mexico ([[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_homicides_in_Ciudad_Ju%C3%A1rez aka Ciudad Juaraz]]), and the Eastern Front of UsefulNotes/WorldWarII. Spanning nearly sixty years, the plot also revolves around the exploits of the [[ReclusiveArtist reclusive author Benno von Archimboldi]], and the people whom he has affected. The story was originally released in 2004, adapted into a stage play in 2007, and was eventually translated for English audiences in 2008. Bolaño was posthumously awarded the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award for it as well. The novel is divided into five parts:
The Part About The Critics: A group of European literary critics discover the works of Archimboldi and bring them to [[WhatDoYouMeanItsNotDidactic forefront of academic debate and prominence]]. After [[SeriousBusiness building their careers]] around the elusive author, the critics seek him out in the last place he was supposedly sighted: Santa Teresa, Mexico.
The Part About Amalfitano: [[AbsentMindedProfessor Oscar Amalfitano]] works as a [[PhilosophyTropes philosophy]] professor at the University of Santa Teresa. As he slowly [[SanitySlippage loses his grip on reality]], he learns of the crimes being committed in the city and [[PapaWolf attempts to keep his daughter safe]].
The Part About Fate: [[MeaningfulName Oscar Fate]], an American [[IntrepidReporter newspaper reporter]], wanders around the country taking assignments. He is eventually sent to Santa Teresa to cover a boxing match, but he quickly becomes more interested in [[RegularlyScheduledEvil the killing spree plaguing the city.]]
The Part About The Crimes: [[PoliceProcedural The seemingly endless crime wave and its investigation]] are chronicled from the perspective of the Santa Teresa police force. Not only are the [[CruelAndUnusualDeath murders described in detail]], but the [[TheUnsolvedMystery attempts to find suspects]] and the [[DirtyCop corruption]] and [[PoliceAreUseless ineffectiveness of the authorities]] as well.
The Part About Archimboldi: The origin of [[ShroudedInMyth Benno]] [[TheVonTropeFamily von Archimboldi]] is finally unveiled. [[spoiler: He's really Hans Reiter, a Prussian born in 1920 who fought for Germany in UsefulNotes/WorldWarII and created a new identity as his homeland - and all of Europe - was reconstructed.]] The narrative follows Archimboldi's childhood all the way into [[RetiredBadass his eighties]], when his work has [[VindicatedByHistory gained literary acclaim]] and made him a contender for the [[UsefulNotes/NobelPrizeInLiterature Nobel Prize]].
* TheAce: Kessler, though even he can't solve the mystery of Santa Teresa.
* AmazinglyEmbarrassingParents: Amalfitano is a dark example of this. He's going insane, and his relationship with his daughter suffers for it.
* ApocalypticLog: Ansky's journal depicts how he got caught up in the Great Purge.
* ARiddleWrappedInAMysteryInsideAnEnigma: The true identity of Archimboldi and the mystery of the serial murders in Santa Teresa.
* AbsenceOfEvidence: Happens in just about every murder, given how most of the bodies are left in garbage dumps and that witnesses never come forward. What little evidence ''is'' found is frequently lost or forgotten.
* AloneWithThePsycho: Amalfitano and [[spoiler: Dean Guerra's son.]]
** Fate and [[spoiler: Chucho Flores and his group.]]
* AlwaysGetsHisMan: Subverted with Kessler, the American inspector sent in to instruct the Mexican police force and aid in the investigation.
* AntiClimax: The big boxing match Fate was supposed to report about? It's described plainly and barely lasts a paragraph.
** [[spoiler: The novel ends with Archimboldi discussing Fürst Pückler ice cream with a descendant of the inventor just before he leaves for Mexico to save Klaus.]]
* BadassBookworm: Archimboldi.
* BiggerIsBetterInBed: General Entrescu's defining feature. Baroness von Zumpe learned of it firsthand.
* BigDamnHeroes: [[spoiler: Amalfitano acts a distraction long enough for his daughter and Oscar to escape the city and head for the United States.]]
** Implied in the last few pages, in which [[spoiler: Archimboldi heads to Santa Teresa to get his nephew Klaus out of prison.]]
* BigSecret: It's heavily implied that [[spoiler: the mayor, police, and the criminal underworld are all connected.]]
* BookWorm: All of the critics made their careers out of it. Lalo proves to be studious as well.
* BrokenBird: Azucena Esquivel Plata.
* BumblingDad: Amalfitano.
* ChekhovsGunman: [[spoiler: Mrs. Bubis.]]
* TheChick: Liz Norton.
* ChildrenForcedToKill: Lalo Cura.
* ClearMyName: Klaus Haas, [[spoiler: after being accused of committing the serial murders and left to rot in jail. It was declared a mistrial, and the book ends as Archimboldi heads to Mexico to get him out of prison.]]
* CloudCuckooLander: Amalfitano.
** Ingeborg is considered crazy by her own family.
** Hans is considered this early on in the war.
* CluelessDetective: Some of them are, though occasionally as a dark example of ObfuscatingStupidity.
* CoolOldGuy: Mr. Bubis.
* CoolOldLady: Mrs. Bubis, [[spoiler: aka Baroness Von Zumpe and one of the few people to know Archimboldi's real identity.]]
* CorruptionOfAMinor: Subverted with Lalo Cura, a child hired to bodyguard Pedro Rengifo's family. He eventually becomes part of the Santa Teresa police force, [[spoiler: but he remains a far more honest and straightforward officer than his mentors.]]
* CowboyCop: Epifanio.
* CrapsackWorld: Santa Teresa. It's based on the real life city of [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_homicides_in_Ciudad_Ju%C3%A1rez Ciudad Juárez]], where things are even ''worse''.
* CreepyChild: Many of the adults find Lalo Cura unnerving.
* CrusadingLawyer: Klaus's lawyer. [[spoiler: The fact that they're sleeping together gives her an incentive.]]
* DaChief: Pedro Negrete.
* DefectiveDetective: Juan de Dios Martinez.
* DestroyTheEvidence: Whenever there's evidence, it inevitably ends up missing.
* DieLaughing: [[spoiler: Mr. Bubis.]]
* DirtyCop: And ''how.'' The extent of corrupt members of the police force and local government is never directly revealed, but it's heavily implied to include the higher ups and the majority of the beat cops [[spoiler: especially Epifanio]].
* DissonantSerenity: Hans Reiter looks and walks around as if he's on the ocean floor...even when he's ''in the middle of battle in UsefulNotes/WorldWarII.''
* DoorStopper: The untranslated version is roughly 1,100 pages long.
** The English translation ain't no slouch either, being almost 900 pages long.
* DownerEnding: Lola Amalfitano [[spoiler: has another child, gets AIDS, and returns just long enough to see her husband and daughter, only to hitchhike out of town again.]]
* DrivingQuestion: Who and where is Benno von Archimboldi?
* EarnYourHappyEnding: Especially with Archimboldi, who had to [[spoiler: fight in UsefulNotes/WorldWarII, survive multiple injuries, change his identity, and forge his new career as a writer in post-war Europe. It's never revealed if he won the Nobel Prize, but he certainly earned it.]]
** Played with in regards to the fate of [[spoiler: Klaus Haas. After getting locked up, he devotes all his time and efforts towards expanding his power base, clearing his name, and helping with the case. In the last few pages, Archimboldi heads for Mexico to get him out of prison, but it's never revealed if Klaus makes it out alive.]]
* EldritchLocation: All of the characters notice that something's... ''off'' about Santa Teresa. As one reviewer put it:
-->There is something secret, horrible, and cosmic afoot, centered around Santa Teresa (and possibly culminating in the mystical year of the book's title, a date that is referred to in passing in ''Amulet'' as well). We can at most glimpse it, in those uncanny moments when the world seems wrong.[[http://blog.semcoop.com/2008/11/10/2666/]]
** Many of the soldiers think Dracula's castle has some kind of otherworldly influence. [[spoiler: It's mentioned that some of them were building the huge cross ''before'' they decided to crucify General Entrescu. When they tried to dig trenches around the fortress, they kept finding skeletons.]]
* EveryoneIsASuspect: So much so that the authorities arrested [[spoiler: Klaus]] just so they could make it appear progress was being made in the investigation.
* FailureIsTheOnlyOption: The critics [[spoiler: eventually admit that they'll never find Archimboldi, but know he's somewhere in Santa Teresa.]]
* ForgottenFirstMeeting: It takes Hans a little while to remember Ingeborg.
* FriendToAllChildren: Epifanio initially comes off as this with regards to Lalo Cura, but it doesn't last.
* GeekyTurnOn: Liz Norton's debating skills are what got Pelletier and Espinoza interested in her.
* GeniusBruiser: Archimboldi is a Nobel Prize contender and [[spoiler: fought for Germany in UsefulNotes/WorldWarII]]
* GenreSavvy: Mr. Bubis, who immediately calls Archimboldi out on his ridiculous name.
** Even if he's not quite sane, Amalfitano [[spoiler: instantly realizes how dangerous her daughter's boyfriend is, and is pivotal in getting her and Oscar Fate out of Santa Teresa.]]
** Klaus [[spoiler: survives and ''thrives'' on this after being thrown in prison.]]
** Azucena Esquivel Plata knows she can't trust the Mexican police and uses her political power as much as possible.
* GentleGiant: Archimboldi.
* GiveGeeksAChance: Liz [[spoiler: eventually ends up with Morini.]]
* GoodLawyersGoodClients: Played with in regards to Klaus's lawyer. She's definitely on his side, but still shady.
* GrowingUpSucks: Especially when you're stuck on the Eastern Front of UsefulNotes/WorldWarII.
* HappilyMarried: Mr. and Mrs. Bubis. [[spoiler: He's a Jewish survivor of UsefulNotes/WorldWarII, and she's the former Baroness von Zumpe.]]
* HaveIMentionedIAmHeterosexualToday: Lola Amalfitano writes this in her first letter to her husband...after she's run off on a lifelong adventure with her female best friend.
* HearingVoices: Amalfitano.
* HelloAttorney: [[spoiler: By the end of the book, Klaus and his lawyer are blatantly in a sexual relationship.]]
* HeroOfAnotherStory: Lola Amalfitano's exploits abroad serve as a counterpoint to Oscar's story.
* IdentificationByDentalRecords: Attempted in the few times when the bodies were decomposed beyond recognition. It doesn't always work.
* IdleRich: Baroness von Zumpe. [[spoiler: She gets better.]]
* IllGirl: Ingeborg Bauer.
** In a male version, Morini's health declines so much that he doesn't accompany the other critics to Mexico.
* IncorruptiblePurePureness: Lalo Cura, though judging by some of his actions, it may be a case of PingPongNaivete.
* IndyPloy: Oscar Fate's escape from Santa Teresa.
* InnocenceLost: Lalo kills a man, and sees the corruption of the police force firsthand.
* InternalAffairs: If there were, they've long since been bought out or killed.
* IronLady: Congresswoman Azucena Esquivel Plata.
* ItNeverGetsAnyEasier: Most of the police officers have gotten used to see dead women. [[spoiler: Juan de Dios Martinez]] eventually starts showing signs of a mental breakdown.
* IWasQuiteALooker: Mrs. Bubis, [[spoiler: who is eventually revealed to be the Baroness von Zumpe.]]
* KarmaHoudini: Those responsible for the Santa Teresa murders.
** [[spoiler: Hans gets away with murdering Sammer by becoming Archimboldi.]]
* KidDetective: Lalo Cura spends so much time studying old procedural handbooks that he points out flaws in the officers' investigation of a crime scene.
* KidSidekick: Epifanio treats Lalo like one.
* KissingCousins: Hugo ''wishes'' he was this with the Baroness. It never happens.
* LastMinuteHookup: The first part ends with [[spoiler: Liz leaving the love triangle with Pelletier and Espinoza in favor of Morini.]]
* LastNameBasis: Archimboldi.
* LoveMakesYouCrazy: Pelletier and Espinoza assault a taxi driver.
* LoveTriangle: Between Norton, Pelletier, and Espinoza. [[spoiler: Norton eventually leaves them for Morini.]]
* MadArtist: There's an artist who chopped off his own hand to provide the centerpiece for his last work. The critics visit him at the asylum.
* MamaDidntRaiseNoCriminal: Lotte for [[spoiler: Klaus. She knows he committed a few minor crimes when he was younger, but knows he's no murderer.]]
* ManicPixieDreamGirl: Ingeborg is a dark version of this for Hans. Everyone, including him, realizes that the girl is crazy.
* MayDecemberRomance: Mr. and Mrs. Bubis.
* MeaningfulName: Oscar Fate and Lalo "The Madness" Cura.
* MeaningfulRename: Benno von Archimboldi [[spoiler: is named after Guiseppe Arcimboldo, an artist Hans Reiter read about while going through Anksy's diary. The ''von'' is associated with his Germanic heritage, but it's also a way for Reiter to remember Baroness von Zumpe.]]
* MightAsWellNotBeInPrisonAtAll: [[spoiler: Klaus gains so much power and media attention in prison that he takes a few steps in solving the investigation himself. He even has a cell phone to communicate to the outside world whenever he wants.]]
%%* MightyGlacier: Hans. The guy is huge, but moves as if he's walking on the ocean floor.
* MissingMom: Lola Amalfitano.
* MistakenForGay: The critics assume Amalfitano is gay.
* NonIdleRich: Mrs. Bubis runs the publishing business well [[spoiler: and played a key role in getting Archimboldi's writing career started.]]
* NothingIsScarier: It's never revealed what the Germans and Romanians saw inside Dracula's crypt, but the visitors "''were divided into two groups, those were pale when they emerged, as if they had glimpsed something momentous down below, and those who appeared with a half smile sketched on their faces, as if they had just been reapprised of the naïveté of the human race.''"
* NotNowKiddo: In a particularly chilling example, [[spoiler: Epifanio angrily dismisses [[MouthyKid Lalo's observations]] in order to impede the investigation of the crime scene.]]
* NotSoHarmlessVillain: Popescu is introduced as a Romanian intellectual touring Dracula's castle with General Entrescu. [[spoiler: Several years later, he shows again, tying up loose ends from the war by killing a former comrade.]]
* OldCopYoungCop: Epifanio and Lalo Cura.
* OverlyLongName: ''Benno von Archimboldi.'' Both Mr. and Mrs. Bubis mention what a weird and ridiculous [[spoiler: and an obvious pseudonym]] it is.
* ParentalAbandonment: Lola Amalfitano ditches her daughter and husband and travels with her best friend in search of a poet with whom she once had sex.
* ThePeepingTom: Hans and a few other soldiers watch Entrescu and the Baroness have sex.
* PoliceAreUseless: When it comes to the serial murders. Evidence is frequently lost, few leads are followed through, and certain steps in logic are never taken. Not even pressure from the government makes a difference.
* PoliceBrutality: In one instance they not only beat a perp, but they douse him with water and urine and well.
* ProtectedByAChild: Pedro Rengifo hires Lalo to be a bodyguard for his family.
* PsychicDreamsForEveryone: Pops up occasionally, most notably with the critics, Florita Almada, and Lotte.
* ReallyGetsAround: Azucena Esquivel Plata and [[spoiler: Mrs. Bubis's]] sex lives and affairs are legendary. Plata quickly remarks that all legends are false, especially in Mexico.
* ReasonableAuthorityFigure: Sammer starts out as one, [[spoiler: until he's mistakenly left in charge of the care and eventual disposal of hundreds of Jews originally meant for Auschwitz.]]
* RedHerring: [[spoiler: The crazy man who goes around desecrating religious icons is not the killer.]]
* RefugeInAudacity: Klaus practically runs on this after [[spoiler: he's thrown in prison. He even has a cell phone, which he uses to contact the outside world whenever he wants.]] ''Everyone'' knows and goes along with it.
* ReluctantPsycho: Amalfitano knows he's going crazy and occasionally mentions the possibility of being committed to an asylum.
* RescueRomance: Between Oscar Fate and [[spoiler: Rosa Amalfitano.]]
* RippedFromTheHeadlines: Santa Teresa is the fictional version of Ciudad Juarez.
* RuleOfSymbolism: General Entrescu spends a lot of time discussing heroism, history, and religion. He also has access to Count Dracula's castle. [[spoiler: He's eventually crucified by his own men.]]
* SanitySlippage: Amalfitano, though it's implied to happen to people who stay in Santa Teresa for too long. Being caught up in UsefulNotes/WorldWarII doesn't help matters, either.
** Espinoza [[spoiler: eventually becomes enamored with a local girl and nearly forgets about the search for Archimboldi.]]
** Sammer [[spoiler: goes from running a quaint European town to ordering the deaths of hundreds of people.]]
** Entrescu [[spoiler: gets desperate enough to take refuge in Dracula's castle and is eventually crucified by his own men.]]
* ScrewTheRulesIHaveMoney: Implied with Pedro Rengifo.
* ScrewTheRulesIMakeThem: Implied with the mayor of Santa Teresa.
* ScrewThisImOuttaHere: Few of General Entrescu's men - most notably Popescu - stay behind once the Russians get close.
** Liz Norton leaves Mexico much sooner than the other critics.
** Oscar Fate, once he realizes that he's gotten into something way over his head.
* SociallyAwkwardHero: Oscar Amalfitano, who spends his chapter gradually going insane.
* SocietyIsToBlame: Regarded as an explanation to the motives behind the killings.
* SomethingOnlyTheyWouldSay: Lotte realizes that [[spoiler: Archimboldi is really her brother Hans, based upon the descriptions she read in one of his novels.]]
* TheStraightMan: Hans Reiter, compared with the characters he meets throughout the war.
* StrawMisogynist: Prejudice against women is common in Santa Teresa, which fuels the domestic violence and murders. [[spoiler: One scene even depicts officers taking advantage of prostitutes that they arrested.]] Then again, the crimes in the novel are based on the real-life murders of [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_homicides_in_Ciudad_Ju%C3%A1rez literally hundreds of women in Ciudad Juárez]], so this is arguably an extremely uncomfortable case of TruthInTelevision.
* StrongFamilyResemblance: Klaus looks just like [[spoiler: his uncle, Archimboldi.]]
* SuspiciouslyIdleOfficers: While they're all busy, many of them are on the take.
* SympatheticMurderer: [[spoiler: Hans Reiter kills Leo Sammer, resulting in him changing his name to Archimboldi to help cover his tracks.]]
** [[spoiler: Sammer attempts to portray himself as this in his backstory, but fails to convince Hans.]]
* TakeAThirdOption: Liz Norton spends much of the first section in a love triangle with Pelletier and Espinoza. [[spoiler: She ends up with Morini.]]
* TechnicallyASmile: Azucena Esquivel Plata doesn't even attempt to hide her bitterness and resentment.
* ThatManIsDead: [[spoiler: Hans Reiter becomes Archimboldi.]]
* ThereAreNoTherapists: Averted with Elvira Campos, who runs Santa Teresa's asylum.
* TheyDo: Between Liz Norton and the other critics. [[spoiler: After having a threesome with Pelletier and Espinoza, she leaves both of them for Morini.]]
* ThoseTwoGuys: Pedro Negrete and Pedro Rengifo.
* ThoseWackyNazis: Averted, as the Germans are portrayed as normal people. The characters Hans Reiter ''does'' meet are crazy in their own ways.
* ThroughTheEyesOfMadness: The Part About Amalfitano practically runs on this.
* TroubledChild: Lotte, who spends much of her life wondering when her brother will return from UsefulNotes/WorldWarII.
* TroublingUnchildlikeBehavior: Lalo Cura [[spoiler: kills a gunman sent to kill his boss's family.]] He's also sharp enough to notice key flaws in the police force's investigative procedures.
** Hans Reiter is considered strange by his peers as well.
* TheUnsolvedMystery: Much like in real life, the serial murder investigation is never concluded.
* UpperClassTwit: Hugo Halder, especially when compared to the Baroness.
* ViewersAreGeniuses: There are references to literary theory, geometry, mythology, psychology, philosophy, morality, art, religious symbolism, Dracula, Communism, Mexican, German, and Russian history and culture, UsefulNotes/WorldWarII, and many others.
* WhatHappenedToTheMouse: The fate of [[spoiler: Hugo Halder.]]
* WallOfText: There's paragraphs that lasts around 5 pages, seriously. Those are most prominent in the fourth part.
* WrongGuyFirst: Liz Norton's relationship with the other critics.
''"An oasis of horror in a desert of boredom".''