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).