Who’s Afraid of Roberto Bolaño?

Since you can’t get tickets to “Hamilton,” perhaps you would be interested in another unexpected adaptation of an incredibly long but popular book: Roberto Bolaño’s 2666.  The five-and-a-half hour stage performance opened yesterday at the Goodman Theater in Chicago. The New York Times says that it “wins full marks for ambition, but falls short as a work of dramatic art.” The Chicago Tribune calls it “a long, complicated night of theater.”

2666 stage

Watch an excerpt from the play on the New York Times site.

The fact that these are not ringing endorsements should not detract from the crazy fact that this thing exists at all.

The novel that provides the source material, often called Bolaño’s magnum opus (including in the Times review), is not a prime candidate for adaptation. It’s long, for one, clocking in at more than 900 pages. It’s also weird as hell. There is lots of mystery and far too much murder, but there is no clear narrative arc or what you might call a real “ending” — though there is speculation that recently discovered writings include another chapter to add to what has already been published.

Even with three intermissions, sitting through the 2666 adaptation seems like it would be a tough slog. That’s not always a bad thing with great art, and if anyone out there is willing to do it, we’d be happy to hear your thoughts.

For me, the whole concept — an ambitious and possibly insane attempt to adapt the violent, mystical, cryptic masterpiece of a dead author — seems like it would be more interesting as a novel itself.

Michael Moats

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