Noise like crumpled pages, noise like burned books, and over 100 other similes from Roberto Bolaño’s novel 2666

    1. black eyes like two deep wells
    2. He seemed less like a child than like a strand of seaweed.
    3. little particles of his own filth floated, tiny bits of skin that traveled like submarines toward an inlet the size of an eye, a calm, dark cove, although there was no calm, and all that existed was movement
    4. watching the fragments of his body drift away in all directions, like space probes launched at random across the universe
    5. a region very like hell
    6. he moved across the surface of the earth like a novice diver along the seafloor
    7. strands that really did look like fingers
    8. The Poles look like chickens, but pluck four feathers and you’ll see they’ve got the skin of swine.
    9. They look like starving dogs but they’re really starving swine, swine that’ll eat anyone, without a second thought, without the slightest remorse.
    10. They’re like swine disguised as Chihuahuas.
    11. A churning gray like pus.
    12. like ghost towns
    13. like blood and rotting meat
    14. moving like a diver
    15. like a night diver
    16. What was it about the boy that made him look like seaweed?
    17. that dark sea, a sea like a pack of wolves
    18. dark waves like forest beasts
    19. the body of young Reiter floating like uprooted seaweed, upward, a brilliant white in the underwater space
    20. sometimes the baby looked like a bag of rubbish left on a pebbly beach
    21. other times like Petrobius maritimus, a marine insect that lives in crevices and rocks and feeds on scraps, or Lipura maritima, another insect, very small and dark slate or gray, its habitat the puddles among rocks
    22. like prophecies
    23. “My son,” said the one-legged man.
      “He looks like a giraffe fish,” said the former pilot, and he laughed.
    24. that weekend was like a month
    25. samurais were like fish in a waterfall but the best samurai in history was a woman
    26. an eternity, like the minutes of those condemned to die
    27. like the minutes of women who’ve just given birth and are condemned to die
    28. like luxurious excrescences or heartbeats
    29. go forth like the keeper of a swarm of bees, except that this beekeeper wasn’t protected by a mesh suit or a helmet and woe betide the bee that tried to sting him, even if only in thought.
    30. like the eyes of a hawk that flies and delights in its flight, but that also maintains a
      watchful gaze
    31. noise like crumpled pages, noise like burned books
    32. cavorted like a mermaid
    33. he watched the sunrise as it washed like a wave over the city, drowning them all
    34. darts along like a squirrel
    35. the village, like a black lump set or encrusted in the darkness
    36. like a box from some scientific research center where glove-wearing German scientists pack away something with the power to destroy the world and Germany too
    37. like seeing a giraffe go off in a pack of wolves, coyotes, and hyenas
    38. the seaweed jungle was like the locks of a dead giant
    39. like sheep or little goats
    40. He saw hills or rocky outcroppings that looked like ships about to sink, prows lifted, like enraged horses, nearly vertical
    41. the towers of the castle like two gray candles on a deserted altar
    42. being here is like being buried alive
    43. like a shadow
    44. more like a horse than a man
    45. like an engraving of a worker or artisan, an innocent passerby suddenly blinded by a ray of moonlight
    46. swaying back and forth, like a little shepherdess gone wild in the vastness of Asia
    47. reality was increasingly vague, more like a dream
    48. d her eyes, a washed-out blue, like the eyes of a blind woman
    49. strolling like philosophers
    50. woods like dark islands in the middle of endless wheat fields
    51. a black fog rose before his eyes, full of granulated dots like a rain of meteors
    52. he fired and walked, like someone strolling and taking photographs, until the
      fort exploded
    53. looking as if they were starving or like pupils at a reform school
    54. the sergeant looked like an ant that gradually grew bigger and bigger
    55. already approaching old age, like the biblical Abraham and Sarah
    56. drank like a condemned woman
    57. more like a strand of seaweed than a human being
    58. the seaweedlike extraterrestrial
    59. like a burning doll
    60. a rending violence, like a claw, but not a claw that did any damage
    61. like a claw that pounces and floats in the middle of the room, like a helium balloon, a selfconscious claw, a claw-beast that wonders what in God’s name it’s doing in this rather untidy room, who that old man is sitting at the table, who that young man is standing with tousled hair, then falls to the floor, deflated, returned once more to nothing.
    62. like something rotting
    63. like an orphan, a self-designated orphan
    64. On the subject of art, a politician with power is like a colossal pheasant, able to crush mountains with little hops, whereas a politician without power is only like a village priest, an ordinary-sized pheasant.
    65. They lived like garbagemen. They were the garbagemen of the jungle
    66. like birds
    67. like a horror painting
    68. other poets shun them like lepers
    69. the sudden appearance of this incredible woman is like a miracle
    70. inspecting the dead like someone who inspects a lot for sale or a farm or a country house
    71. like madmen escaped from an asylum
    72. From a hill he saw a column of German tanks moving east. They looked like the coffins of an extraterrestrial civilization.
    73. feeling something very strange that sometimes seemed like happiness and other times like a guilt as vast as the sky
    74. the bottom of the river was like a gravel road
    75. a vague noise, like the clatter of furniture, as if sick people were moving furniture around
    76. the full moon filtered through the fabric of the tent like boiling coffee through a sock
    77. my name has grown like a malignant tumor and now it turns up on the most unlikely documents
    78. the light sweeping the tent like a bird’s wing or a claw
    79. dreamlike
    80. they seemed less like children than like the skeletons of children, abandoned sketches, pure will and bone
    81. like girls who’ve just woken from a terrible nightmare
    82. like the habitues of racetracks who commit suicide in cheap rented rooms or hotels tucked away on back-streets frequented by gangsters
    83. like a murderer
    84. like a ragpicker’s room
    85. he drank like a Cossack
    86. the killer will open the window of my room and come tiptoeing in like a nurse
      and slit my throat, bleed me dry
    87. I would never manage to create anything like a masterpiece.
    88. He writes like someone taking dictation.
    89. his old man’s neck, like the neck of a turkey or a plucked rooster
    90. his gray temples like a stormy sea
    91. deep eyes that at the slightest tilt of his head seemed at times like two endless tunnels, two abandoned tunnels on the verge of collapse.
    92. a kind of crepuscular lethargy crept from under the doors like poison gas
    93. Mickey, like the mouse
    94. Everything is burning. It looks more like the moon than Normandy.
    95. like the living dead, zombies, cemetery dwellers, soldiers without eyes or mouths, but with penises
    96. like the soldier who was trapped under a pile of corpses and there, beneath the corpses and the snow, he dug a little cave with his regulation shovel, and
      to pass the time he jerked off, more boldly each time, because once the fear and surprise of the first few instants had vanished, all that was left was the fear of death and boredom, and to stave off boredom he began to masturbate, first timidly, as if he were seducing a peasant girl or a little shepherdess, then with increasing determination, until he managed to bring himself off to his full satisfaction, and he went on like that for fifteen days, in his little cave of corpses and snow, rationing his food and indulging his urges, which didn’t make him weaker but rather seemed to retronourish him, as if he had drunk his own semen or as if after going mad he had found a forgotten way back to a new sanity, until the German troops counterattacked and discovered him
    97. not dirty or like shit or urine, nor like rot or worm meat
    98. like Ali Baba’s cave
    99. like a doll’s house, a cabin, a hut, a place that existed on the edge of time and remained fixed in a willed and imaginary childhood, comfortable and unspoiled.
    100. like something out of a fairy tale
    101. Then he began to talk, still pacing, about Europe, Greek mythology, and something
      vaguely like a police investigation
    102. like something out of a PreRaphaelite painting
    103. a little white-chocolate house with beams like slabs of dark chocolate, surrounded by a little garden in which the flowers looked like paper cutouts and a lawn trimmed with mathematical precision
    104. all human beings are obliged to bear until their deaths, like the rock of Sisyphus
    105. throbbed like the ripped-out heart of an Aztec victim
    106. typewriter was like a heart, a giant heart beating in the middle of the fog and chaos
    107. the stain of blood was like a giant rose in full bloom
    108. and the mountains multiplying in the night, all white, like nuns with no worldly ambitions.
    109. a laugh that sounded to Archimboldi like a cascade of ice
    110. she didn’t weigh a thing anymore, it was like climbing up with a bundle of sticks
    111. like a couple of vagabonds
    112. buildings propping each other up like little old Alzheimer’s patients, a jumble of houses and mazelike passageways where distant voices could be heard, worried voices asking questions and offering answers with great dignity
    113. Like the final surroundings of Sisyphus
    114. like a phantom
    115. He smiled like a father
    116. the place looked like a graveyard
    117. the old man in pajamas looked less like a vanished novelist than like a justly forgotten novelist, the typical hard-luck bad French novelist, most likely born at the wrong time
    118. a sweet and chirping voice, like the water of a brook that runs over a bed of flat stones
    119. The essayist looked like a cigarette covered with a handkerchief.
    120. arm in arm like two ex-lovers who no longer have many secrets to tell
    121. a car like a hearse awaited her
    122. the days were like nights and the nights like days
    123. sometimes the days and nights were unlike anything, everything was a continuum of blinding brightness and explosions
    124. Mouths like carrots, with peeling lips, and noses like wet potatoes
    125. like women who haven’t yet begun to menstruate
    126. he preferred someone decent and hardworking, who wouldn’t suck his blood like a
      vampire
    127. Her suffering was like the screech of chalk on a blackboard. As if a boy were dragging a piece of chalk across a blackboard on purpose to make it screech.
    128. like looking for a needle in a haystack
    129. slept like a baby
    130. The sounds she heard were like the sounds of the abyss.

These similes are from “The Part About Archimboldi,” the fifth part of 2666, a novel by Roberto Bolaño, in English translation by Natasha Wimmer.

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