Bolano 2666 quote of the week (6)

This week’s reading succeeds in showing, rather than telling, Bolano’s intentions regarding Santa Teresa. “The Part about Fate” grows darker, more labyrinthine, misogynistic, bigoted, befuddled, surreal, and violent as we follow Fate around city, to the fight and a bar-hopping and city-encircling drive that grows increasingly menacing until he leaves with Rosa.

The section, the novel, the story of the crimes are twisted, hidden, dark, and ignored in favor of bluster and ignorant banter, which makes the characters in this section almost unbearable. As Rosa Amalfitano notes, “they seem right, they seem authentic, but they’re actually full of shit” (327). Oscar Amalfitano recognizes this, just as he clearly recognizes his own descent into madness (332). Like Seale in Detroit, Chucho and the other men Fate talks with in Mexico present their existential theories based on nothing; they mislead and confuse and cloak, which leaves both Fate and the reader more and more distanced from the city’s reality.

The sense of Fate having landed on a Martian landscape is reinforced each time he calls New York and someone who doesn’t sound quite right deflects and avoids; when his editor refuses to hear him; when the voice seems a million miles away. This section, as with the others, is well written, expertly crafted, intriguing, and intelligent. But Hobbesian in the “nasty, brutish, and short” life way, with booze and beatings and drugs and sex and talking all taking on characteristics of being dirty and dangerous and heavy handed and curtained yet cartoonish. This section’s metaphor lies in El Rey del Taco; and in the fight arena where Fate can’t find who is calling him; and on the maze-like dark streets and the closed doors and the dreams that swirl in and out of waking.

The same foreboding that clings to the end of The Part about Amalfitano lingers at the end of Fate’s section…was the black car Amalfitano spied outside waiting for Rosa? Will Fate get her out of the city? And is that imprisoned suspect Archimboldi? Bolano has a Dickensonian facility with cliffhangers.

Quote of the section, I think, is:
“The tone, he thought, was solemn and defiant, the battle hymn of a lost war sung in the dark. In the solemnity there was only desperation and death, but in the defiance there was a hint of corrosive humor, a humor that existed only in relation to itself and in dreams, no matter whether the dreams were long or short. Sonoran jazz” (308).

Your reactions?

6 thoughts on “Bolano 2666 quote of the week (6)

  1. I’ve made my peace with the hallucinatory quality of the novel as a whole. I think over at Infinite Zombies Steve has written about the parallels with the films of David Lynch (about which, truth be told, I know very little beyond “The Elephant Man” and DFW’s profile of him [natch]), and this rings true to me. Trying to make sense of this in the typical linear (or even discursive) manner is pointless. It’s about sensations and disorientation and moving inexorably toward a lurking menace.

    I think Bolaño does this all very well, and my esteem for the novel grows with each passage. I don’t like any of the characters (other than in brief moments, such as when Fate rescues Rosa), and I doubt I will ever love this book, but I am beginning to understand why it has the reputation it does.

  2. Yeah, Organic, some of the quotes in this book border on the epic.
    Dan, I’m interested to see what happens to Rosa and to Amalfitano. Beyond that, I’m in this for the ride. I’m going to hold my breath and plow through The Crimes and hope I’m done before baby gets here. I have a sense that the last section will pay off, in its own way, but that I’ll have to force myself to just allow the waves of The Crimes to crash over me for a while. Here goes nothing.

  3. Pingback: Disjointed Post Is Disjointed « Infinite Zombies

  4. I’m unfamiliar with a lot of Bolano (except for the few short pieces I have read). The language of the book is quite -ist to me (misogynist, racist, homophobist (I know, but it was such a tidy way of saying it). And I wonder if this is a Bolano thing, if these attitudes are part of what he does, or if he is commenting on these attitudes. I mean, to write a book about these crimes, without glorifying them, does imply a certain sensitivity to women, right? But having nearly every random woman be a hooker surely doesn’t.

    As I’m reading the book, I’m trying not to think about issues like that too often, but when I stop, they come flooding back!

    • Paul, I agree with the -ist question: is it comment, is it pervasive enough through Latin culture to be invisible to him, is it a narrative technique that informs character, is it part of the novel’s main point? I’m leaning toward the demeaning of others functioning as a backdrop against which the crimes are almost logical and predictable. And shruggable. That’s the horror of the pervasive misogyny and homophobia and ignorant bluster: it makes mot of society disposable. Yuck.
      Anyway, I hope he’s using the intentionally. If not, I’m really really offended.

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