Ah, 2666. Your methodical recording of misogyny, legal incompetence, and cultural neglect of humanity continues unabated. Way to stick with it, really. I couldn’t write this telescopic focus on a dump alongside a border town that could be a symbol for all that is wrong with trade and consumerism and capitalism and the war on drugs and tiered social systems that offer as little hope as a caste system for 400+ pages. Congratulations?
In going back over this section, I noted, as Dan Summers does over at bleakonomy, the despicable blathering of civil servants over breakfast: two full pages of jokes about beating women, complete with standards about belonging in the kitchen, having no brain, and being useful only for sex. Social tradition noted, vapid machismo noted, and nausea calmed only slightly by watching the linguistic choices in the passage. The repeated call and answer format of the so-called jokes, the Spanglish convention of beginning the answers with pues, and the increased violence of these particular jokes over the standards in the U.S. were all notable. But what a despicable way to spend two pages, which David calls the nadir of the novel’s misogyny, to depict the officers spending the time after the long day at work. The long day in which they assume, if a murder victim had red toenail polish she must have been a whore (520).
Dan also notes the interesting and welcome interlude about Lalo Cura’s family history of intensely resilient outsider matriarchs. Rape, thrive, rape, thrive, rape, thrive. While I’m not entirely sure about celebrating “good nature and the fortitude to endure periods of violence or extreme poverty” (555) because I much prefer generation stories of women kicking ass instead of enduring ass-kickings, but at this point I am fully aware that the Exposito women’s ability to make it out alive is more than most characters of the novel can claim. I’m really beginning to hate this depiction Mexico, I have to be honest, but I do appreciate the flavor of Marquez and of Allende in these passages. Of, if we went away with one of these women instead of tripping over the bodies of the narrative’s bodycount drumbeat.
In this section, too, we finally start seeing the narcos and their influence on the incompetence of the so-called authorities of Santa Teresa. “It seemed the police had fallen afoul of some big fish whose sons, the Jrs. off Santa Teresa, owned almost the entire fleet of the city’s Peregrinos (it was a car of choice for rich kids, like the Arcangel or Desertwind convertible), and they pulled strings to get the cops to stop fucking with them” (530). Well, of course. One thread running through at least 20% of the murders are black Peregrinos, so closing off investigation of that connection is a great choice for the rich kids and another slap on the face of the brutalized and decomposing bodies in the dump. “When the neighbors were asked who lived in the house, their answers were contradictory, which made the patrolmen think it could be narcos and they’d better leave and not make trouble” (530).
So buried within 400+ pages of crimes, we see what the authorities can’t or won’t: suspects, motive, pattern of criminal behavior. The curtain wasn’t drawn too tightly, but at least Bolano led us to the corner and let us peek behind it before drawing us back into the narrative of confusion and helplessness. Others notice this, too, as reporters begin to ask “some questions out loud. If the murderer was behind bars, who had killed all these other women? If the killer’s lackeys or accomplices were behind bars, too, who was responsible for all these deaths? To what extent were Los Bisontes, that terrible and improbable youth gang, a real phenomenon and to what extent were they a police creation?” (559).
Good questions. Better question: when will we get to Archimboldi? Two weeks? Okay. But that’s all you get. I’m so very done with the Crimes, with poverty, with misogyny, with rampant death, with ignoring the international implications of a maquiladores economy for the residents and the consumers. Get me outta here.