Beyond Biopolitics: Reading Bolaño's Human Fragments

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The bodies of murdered Mexican women in Roberto Bolaño's novel 2666 have been taken by critics to signify the biopolitical power of the neoliberal order. This article will contend that such readings overlook a broader crisis of bodily representation, which is apparent both in 2666 and in Bolaño's earlier novels. The extent to which the body might be ‘read’ as part of a signifying system is insistently challenged in Bolaño’s work, where images of the human are frequently fragmented or unstable. Drawing on ideas from Levinas and Deleuze, I suggest that the difficulty of representing the human, and the political implications of that act, are particularly clear when Bolaño approaches the face. I then argue, following Jean-Luc Nancy, that the theological imagery which accrues around the body of the artist in Bolaño’s work stages the deconstruction of Christian humanist aesthetics. Ultimately, Bolaño’s fragmented bodies invite a mode of reading which is not uniquely concerned with representation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalModern Languages Open
Publication statusPublished - 9 Dec 2015


  • Bolano
  • body
  • Biopolitics
  • face
  • Gilles Deleuze
  • Emmanuel Levinas
  • Jean-luc Nancy
  • Representation


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