Bolano’s 2666 quote of the week (4)

I’m not behind on my reading, but I certainly am on the blogging here and at, where they’re discussing 2666 over the course of 2666 hours.

[If what follows is derivative of the opinions blogged by the 2666 reading group, including our dear bleakonomy friend, so be it. I’m offering my first reaction and will go read their posts in a minute. i felt pretty lame last time offering a thin response to the richest sections only to find the other readers providing in-depth commentary, but such are the limitations of my life right now. I’m not writing a paper on this thing. I barely have time to read it.]

So. “The Part about Amalfitano.” Oh, my fair readers, I’m glad I made it to this section. *This* is why I agreed to tackle this novel with bits and parts of the erudite Infinite Summer group, and why magical realism is one of my favorite stylistic inclinations. This section leaves behind those self-absorbed critics and engages in the ponderous, the surreal, and the spooky. Hope the rest of the novel continues along this vein.

“For a second he thought it was all a lie, that Lola was working as an administrative assistant or secretary in some big company. Then he saw it clearly. he saw the vacuum cleaner parked between two rows of desks, saw the floor waxer like a cross between as mastiff and a pig sitting next to a plant, he say an enormous window through which the lights of Paris blinked, he saw Lola in the cleaning company’s smock, a worn blue smock, sitting writing the letter and maybe taking slow drags on a cigarette, he saw Lola’s fingers, Lola’s wrists, Lola’s blank eyes, he saw another Lola reflected in the quicksilver of the window, floating weightless in the skies of Paris, like a trick photograph that isn’t a trick, floating, floating pensively in the skies of Paris, weary, sending messages from the coldest iciest realm of passion” (182).

I don’t think I’ve read an author in a long time who writes scenery and visions and mirages as well as this.

But he’s awfully good at dialogue, as well, as in my favorite scene about the most awesome geometry-book weathering experiment:

“It isn’t mine, said Amalfitano. It doesn’t matter, Rosa said, it’s yours now. It’s funny, said Amalfitano, that’s how I should feel, but I really don’t have the sense it belongs to me, and anyway I’m almost sure I’m not doing it any harm. Well, pretend it’s mine and take it down, said Rosa, the neighbors are going to think you’re crazy. The neighbors who top their walls with broken glass? They don’t even know we exist, said Amalfitano, and they’re a thousand times crazier than me. no, not them, said Rosa, the other ones, the ones who can see exactly what’s going on in our yard. Have any of them bothered you? asked Amalfitano. No, said Rosa. Then it’s not a problem, said Amalfinato, it’s silly to worry about it when much worse things are happening in this city than a book being hung from a cord. Two wrongs don’t make a right, said Rosa, we’re not animals. Leave the book alone, pretend it doesn’t exist, forget about it, said Amalfitano, you’ve never been interested in geometry” (196).

The illogical nonsequitors in these characters’ dialogue, which read so logically, are my favorite part of this novel. And this passage has two nonsequitor retorts that honestly sound exactly the way people talk…just ludicrous.

This section was simply dreamy.

3 thoughts on “Bolano’s 2666 quote of the week (4)

  1. If it weren’t for the fact that we’re on a schedule, and I don’t want to get behind, I would go back and reread The Part About Amalfitano, because I think I would appreciate it more the second time around. I, too, LOVED the images of Lola cleaning in Paris (I think it’s telling that the bits you like so often mirror my own preferences), and think that Bolaño’s greatest strength is his ability to create scenes that are at once vivid and dreamlike. I also truly loved the closing dream, of the last Communist philosopher and his song and talk of magic.

    Hmmmm…. maybe I’m enjoying this book more than I thought.

  2. I think, Dan, that your blog post about this section gets right to the point…some of the machismo bullshit makes you squirm in visceral ways, and it’s hard to let a text wash over you when you’re guarded. I think you have really, really, really good sociohistorical reasons to be guarded and I can only guess at how hard it is to retract the deflector shields about the homophobia and ignorance in the text. Part of what has helped me, other than wholesale dismissal of a culture (helpful? no…but useful) is to realize how ludicrous the things these people say can be. They are really all poseurs, not in a blatant Catcher in the Rye way, but in subtle, wily way that so many people in the world are poseurs…they say things that are wrong and dumb and lame but make their bullshit sound aphoristic. The characters are so deeply flawed, and the landscape is so gouged with those flaws, that I am starting to be able (now that the critics are gone) to just let the text flow.

    As I said, I’m still withholding judgment. It was a short section so he’d better prove that he has more of that in him for me to love this book.

    That Communist philsopher dream was pretty amusing. Yeltsin knows his third legs, by jimminy.

  3. I’m working on letting the text flow, as you put it, which seems to be a better approach.

    Like you, I am itching to comment on the first section of the Part About Fate, but will comply with the schedule and refrain until Monday.

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