In Roberto Bolaño’s posthumous magnum opus, 2666, a type of peripheral realism in which realist aesthetics are impurely intermingled with the irreal is crucial to the novel’s registration of the uneven structural relations of capitalist modernity. This essay explores three layers of the novel’s conception of reality in the Mexican borderlands: first, the Ciudad Juárez femicides as objects of representation; second, the economic conditions underlying the systemic violence perpetrated against female maquiladora workers and the rift between labor and capital; and third, the relation of art to ideology and reality and the artist’s problematic role in representing either the murders or their structural causes. Deckard argues that 2666 is a “world-system novel” that reformulates realist aesthetics to interrogate the ideological nature of art and the limits of realism while encoding the conditions of millennial capitalism in the semiperiphery.

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