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Bolaño against Babel: multilingualism, translation and narration in 2666, ‘La parte de los críticos’

Altenberg, Tilmann ORCID: 2018. Bolaño against Babel: multilingualism, translation and narration in 2666, ‘La parte de los críticos’. Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 95 (2) , pp. 217-233. 10.3828/bhs.2018.13

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This article examines the first part of Roberto Bolaño’s novel 2666 with regard to the strategy of telling a multilingual story in a monolingual narrative. Discussing the motives behind, and implications of, this flattening of the text’s linguistic surface, it argues that to dismiss the tension between story and discourse as a defect is to overlook one of the novel’s principal proposals and to deny a key aspect of Bolaño’s narrative poetics. The article shows that in ‘La parte de los criticos’, effortless communication is confined to a utopian communicative space, which provides a level playing field for characters from different cultural-linguistic backgrounds. The novel’s approach to multilingualism and translation, for which Bolaño may have found support in his readings of Ludwig Wittgenstein, suggests that to him, languages matter not for what separates them but for what they have in common as a generic means of communication. The article contends that the novel’s linguistic flatness is programmatic, exposing to ridicule narratives that claim to represent reality faithfully. In place of the myriad real-world problems of Babel, Bolaño sets an ideal of linguistic transparency and perfect translatability made possible by way of literature.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Modern Languages
Additional Information: This article was published open access under a CC BY license
Publisher: Liverpool University Press
ISSN: 1475-3839
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 August 2016
Date of Acceptance: 30 August 2016
Last Modified: 03 May 2023 13:44

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