There is an unwittingly funny passage in the Spanish edition of Ignacio Echevarría’s introduction to “El Secreto del Mal,” a still-untranslated collection of Roberto Bolaño’s stories, a passage that could easily have been cribbed from one of Jorge Luis Borges’ metafictions or, more to the point, from one of Bolaño’s. Echevarría observes that Bolaño’s work is “governed by a poetics of incompleteness.” Bolaño tends to interrupt his stories with other stories, and those with other tales in turn. He spends page after page building tension, then mischievously buries the climax or neglects it altogether. This makes it difficult to determine, Echevarría laments, which “among the pieces that he did not end up publishing can be considered finished.”

A good trick. Less funny, though, than it could be, because we know that “2666,” Bolaño’s last and greatest novel, was not completed to the author’s satisfaction when he died at 50 in 2003 while awaiting a liver transplant. “There are more than a thousand pages that I have to correct,” he told a Chilean newspaper a month before his death. “It’s a job for a 19th century miner.” Despite the book’s unfinished state, Bolaño left instructions that the five subsections that comprise “2666” be released separately, hoping this arrangement would better provide for his children. Fortunately, his heirs disobeyed him and published “2666” as a single giant work, strange and marvelous and impossibly funny, bursting with melancholy and horror.

more from the LA Times here.