I ended 2011 with a book I read with a reading buddy, so I may as well start the year by reading another book with some online friends.
My first book for the year is 2666 by Roberto Bolano. I’ve always wanted to read this book, but its length has always intimidated me.
As with Midnight’s Children, I will be reading 2666 with Angus from Book Rhapsody, and possibly 3 others. I’m hoping my online reading group will help me get through this brick of a book!
The reading plan:
Start: January 3, 2012
End: January 18, 2012
The Part about the Critics
Day 01: 1-53 (53 pages)
Day 02: 53-106 (54 pages)
Day 03: 106-159 (54 pages)
The Part about Amalfitano
Day 04: 161-228 (68 pages)
The Part about Fate
Day 05: 229-290 (62 pages)
Day 06: 290-349 (60 pages)
The Part about the Crimes
Day 07: 351-409 (59 pages)
Day 08: 409-466 (58 pages)
Day 09: 466-522 (57 pages)
Day 10: 522-578 (57 pages)
Day 11: 578-633 (56 pages)
The Part about Archimboldi
Day 12: 635-689 (55 pages)
Day 13: 689-738 (50 pages)
Day 14: 738-790 (53 pages)
Day 15: 790-841 (52 pages)
Day 16: 841-893 (53 pages)
Part I – The Part About the Critics
Day 1 – Angus and I had a bit of a head start, but other members promised to read the day’s readings later in the day or at a later time. We were all just trying to get a feel for the novel and narrative style.
Day 1’s readings seemed to dispel any negative preconceived notions we all had about the novel, and at the end of the first day, we all had a more or less positive outlook on novel.
In the Part About the Critics, the readers are introduced to 4 scholars: Pelletier, Espinoza, Mondini, and Norton, who become bound together by their mutual obsession with the mysterious German writer, Benno von Archimboldi.
Me: It’s ok, I like it so far…I like the (semi) straightforward storytelling. After Midnight’s Children, it seems like a breath of fresh air!!
Angus: My preconceived notions: tough, a mental exercise, prepare to get bored. But really, this is fun. No need to prepare yourself. Or maybe I’ve been well prepared by [Midnight’s Children.]
The narrative is very engaging. I was laughing at some parts, particularly the part where Perrier (sic) and Espinoza are having a phone conversation about Norton (happiness used once, love used twice, Liz mentioned umpteenth times, etc.).
Me: I read that this book was about the gruesome murders of hundreds of women in Mexico, but so far it has only been hinted at. I don’t know how these 4 characters will tie in with that story.
Sometimes I feel like the writer is trying different experimental writing styles. Sometimes it’s stream of consciousness, sometimes it’s very straight-forward…
Emir: Beautiful writing, fervent and feverish. This is looking fun.
Day 1 left us with the following questions:
Angus: Is it really possible to feel fine when your friend is screwing the same woman you are screwing? There should be something that would form a lump in your throat, a sort of jealousy. Or are they just too liberal?
Emir: All the characters introduced are bound to the author Benno von Archimboldi: Pelletier, Morini, Espinoza, Norton. Archimboldi is reclusive and not very well known, so why are they enamored with him? They drifted to him through their own personal failures and limitations. Archimboldi was a necessity.
Later there’s a bifurcation (there’s the word) as the men characters simultaneously seek Archimboldian enlightenment through the author’s works and whatever little trail that points to him at one end and amorous relationship with the lone lady in the literary quartet on the other.
They could read him, they could study him, they could pick him apart, but they couldn’t laugh or be sad with him, partly because the deeper they went into his work, the more it devoured its explorers. In a word:…what they wanted to make was love, not war.
Me: So can we read that remark to mean that, you may be successful in your career/profession, and find enlightenment, but in the end, you will still seek something tangible, basic, and concrete, like a partner, and love?
Emir: Will you consider them successful? I’m not sure about that.
Mina: There is a realization that relationships are important. What people really want is a two-way relationship. They want to be an active participant; not just an observer.
Actually, I think they think love is not easy. Because if it is then their love for Archimboldi would have yielded something. In their eyes, they are at war, since they are fighting to gain access to what they love (more knowledge re: Archimboldi’s life).
Me: ….Successful in a way that they have made names for themselves as Archimboldi scholars.
Angus: But, but, whether successful or not, it almost always boils down to love (cue: I Just Need Somebody to Love – Justin Bieber). However, Pelletier-Norton-Espinoza strike me as somewhat desperate.
Mina: In their case, prior to the sex happening, neither Pelletier or Espinoza expressed their intention or desire to be with Liz. Their attitude towards this would be different if after their first meeting, one of them said he’s interested and the other would say go for it. [But then he also went for it] Somehow, their love triangle (if we could call it that) is more circumstantial than 100% intentional.
Me: Anyway…I don’t like that idea that it all boils down to love and companionship, etc. I think the critics are “desperate” because they are elitists…meaning they probably don’t think that other people are worthy of them and vice versa. In their world, they deem themselves intellectual equals…only they think themselves worthy to love each other…
Angus: But being an elitist does not necessarily mean being desperate, yes? And even if we don’t like that idea about love, friendship (I don’t like it as well), why did they even seek each other and continue their correspondences? Surely, companionship is one reason.
Me: No, I didn’t mean being elitist = being desperate. I just meant that, maybe what you saw as desperation was really just them being their elite selves…that’s just my idea of it, anyway.
Well, in the beginning, of course they were brought together by their common interests (Archimboldi) and careers, but then they maintained their friendship probably because of those same interests, and for me, I think it’s really because they think they are intellectual equals, so again that’s where their intellectual elitism and snobbery comes in. Maybe, if it did evolve into love or companionship, it happened much later (in their relationships with each other).
Day 2: As the story progresses, we learn more about the 4 “critics” as well as other people they meet while attending conferences, lectures, etc.
A character in the novel, an artist named Johns opines that:
…as far as coincidence is concerned, it’s never a question of believing in it or not. The whole world is a coincidence. I had a friend who told me I was wrong to think that way. My friend said the world isn’t a coincidence for someone traveling by rail, even if the train should cross foreign lands, places the traveler will never see again in his life. And it isn’t a coincidence for the person who gets up at six in the morning, exhausted, to go to work; for the person who has no choice but to get up and pile more suffering on the suffering he’s already accumulated. Suffering is accumulated, said my friend, that’s a fact, and the greater the suffering, the smaller the coincidence.
…Coincidence, on the other hand, is total freedom, our natural destiny. Coincidence obeys no laws and if it does we don’t know what they are. Coincidence, if you’ll permit me the simile, is like the manifestation of God at every moment on our planet. A senseless God making senseless gestures at his senseless creatures. In that hurricane, in that osseous implosion, we find communion. The communion of coincidence and effect and the communion of effect with us.
Angus: And then there’s all this talk about the world being a coincidence. I am not sure if I want to agree because it makes me feel like a machine if I put that in my head. Like there are strings pulling me to lead me wherever it is I am supposed to go. I don’t like that. I want to think that I can perform my purpose without the necessity of the strings.
Me: What if what you think of as “choice” is really “destiny?” As far as destiny vs. choice goes…I don’t believe in destiny. The paths of our lives depends on the choices we make (random or not) – I don’t think we are “destined” to do anything…and I don’t believe that people are born with a purpose. That’s just things we create to give our lives meaning
Mina: Can’t remember who said this “We are all destined to be great. It is left up to us to choose to be great.” [I agree with this].
In the end, it’s the choices that we make that defines us.
Last thoughts on the readings for Day 2…
Emir: Personally, I think that Bolaño’s thematic takes on interpretation (critics to Archimboldi’s work, Pellitier and Espinosa to Norton or all of them to Morini, reader to writer, connoisseur to art(ist)) possibly hint on the importance of viewpoints and interpretation. I’m excited to know how this thematic handling is related to the whole of 2666.
Day 3: Highlights…
Me: [My favorite part of the readings for Day 3 was] when Amalfitano was going on and on about Mexican scholars’ involvement in the government….and at the end of his long rant, Norton said “I don’t understand a word you say…” and Amalfitano replied with “Yes, I was just talking nonsense.”
Angus: [That was the first thing on my notes]. Like what the hell are you talking about, Amalfitano? I tried rereading some parts, but it’s just futile. It doesn’t make sense. And then Norton said, I don’t understand a thing that you said. Which is funny because I attempted to make sense of something that is supposed to be nonsense. Or it could be that there really is some vague form of sense in the prattle Amalfitano delivered.
I don’t know, but I also find it funny that Espinoza, after his visits with Rebeca, finds Pelletier reading. That is a pattern of maybe 3-4 cycles: Espinoza and Rebeca’s budding romance, Pelletier’s reading habits, and Norton’s email.
The email’s content shouldn’t be surprising but I still found myself surprised. I just thought Morini was being fatherly. Tsk tsk, I missed the subtle hints of Morini’s love for Norton.
Me: [The part about Mornini] I think I saw it coming. Norton seems like the type. I just hoped that maybe Morini was above all that…but I guess not. I actually thought they had something going on in earlier parts of the book, like when they were talking about the artist who cut off his hand for money.
Angus: So you see, it somehow goes to this: the need to looove. Psychology 101, there’s this hierarchy of needs. Love is on the third level, I think, but sex, a physiological drive, resides on the base. They might not love each other, but screwing, so to speak, is one of their, and our, necessities.
Part II – The Part About Amalfitano
Day 4: The second part of ‘2666’ is about Oscar Amalfitano, a Chilean university professor living in Santa Teresa with his daughter, Rosa. Amalfitano was introduced earlier in The Part About the Critics, when the critics decided to visit Santa Teresa to look for Archimboldi. Amalfitano, the so-called Archimboldi expert of Santa Teresa, was assigned to see to the critics’ needs while in the city.
The Part About Amalfitano starts with sort of a flashback, describing his unstable wife, Lola, and an event which proved to be a turning point in their relationship. The latter part of the section deals with Amalfitano’s present life in Santa Teresa, with his daughter, Rosa; his life in the university; his strange relationships with members of the university and community; the ghost in his life; and his struggle to keep sane.
Angus: The Part About Amalfitano…Or is it really about him? First part is mostly about his wife Lola. It came as a surprise to me because I imagined him just as old, or slightly older than our literary critics. And he has a daughter.
The part about Amalfitano’s wife is more of a distraction to me. However, I am somehow drawn to the woman’s self-destructive story, notwithstanding my irritation. Sort of a love-hate relationship?
And the next part is about… Amalfitano’s schizophrenia? Or is it the mystical history of Chile?
Gawd, I don’t know what to make out of those parts, but I think that this could be a deeper layer of the story. Note that our critics were not mentioned, not even once. At least I don’t remember any reading anything about them in this part, not even Archimboldi.
I like the hanging book thing, so that a book of principles might learn something about life. Or something like that. But I don’t get the drawings because I do not know most of the names that Amalfitano is doodling.
I can’t say I understood this part, but it doesn’t make me feel bad or unprepared for the next part.
Me: I agree. I feel that there is a deeper meaning to all that or that it has some historical relevance, but I have no idea what it is. That book about the Araucanian is especially bizaare hehehe.
Amalfitano’s ghost or whatever it is is interesting, though I don’t know what it has to do with anything, other than typing up the character of Amalfitano with the story so far.
So from Part 1 and Part 2, a connection has been established between the critics and Amalfitano and Archimboldi…
So I guess the reason why the critics found him strange sometimes (blood red eyes, etc). was because Amalfitano has been struggling with the voices in his head.
I’m more or less done with The Part About Fate, and not to give any spoilers or anything, but the last part of it is pretty strange.
I think, more or less, the three separate parts so far is to introduce characters who have a slight connection with each other – and that these characters will all come together for the 4th part, which is the Part About the Crimes, and maybe for the final part – The Part About Archimboldi.
Part III – The Part About Fate
Day 5 – Part 3 concentrates on Oscar Fate, a reporter for an African-American magazine, Black Dawn. Fate travels to Santa Teresa to cover a minor boxing match in lieu of the magazine’s sports writer who recently passed away. When Fate arrives in Santa Teresa, Mexico, he learns about the mysterious killings and tries to persuade his editor to let him cover that story instead. Unfortunately, his editor would not let him for lack of public interest.
While in Mexico, Fate meets a lot of interesting people, mainly fellow reporters – American and Mexican, friends of reporters, Rosa Amalfitano, and Guadalupe Roncal, a reporter in Santa Teresa covering the killings of the women, who is scheduled to meet the alleged murderer, a man behind bars.
Angus: I thought this [part] is going to be a real drag, but the opening paragraph proved otherwise. Something about death. And then immediately, we are introduced to a Quincy Williams (?). Like who is this guy and how will he contribute to the grand scheme of things? And why is this even about fate?
Rather Fate? I honestly thought it’s about fate fate, about destiny, coincidence, etc. Philosophical musings, existentialism, et al. But not really. We are presented with a guy called Oscar Fate. Why? I don’t know. It was never mentioned why. We probably always don’t need the why’s. There could be a celebrity with the same name, but I don’t know for sure. If not, it’s a bit of a puzzle, but as I mentioned, let’s not brood over it. It could be just a whim.
I enjoyed this part better than the previous part. Probably because there are interesting touches, like Seaman’s (?) talk about Danger, Money, Food, Stars, and Usefulness. I can’t say I fully understood them, but they are worth a reread. They can even stand apart from the book.
This novel is structured similarly to David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, differing only in timeline. The parts of Bolano’s novel are moving concurrently while the chapters of Mitchell’s novel are connected in layers. 2666, however, somehow also works in layers, just because there’s a feeling that you are getting deeper into things, hahaha.
Me: I think I mentioned earlier that of all the parts so far, this one is the most “concrete,” in a sense that it’s about real issues, real problems, and real people. As opposed to scholars with their philosophical and intellectual troubles.
For me, if there is a part that could stand by itself, I think it’s the Part About the Critics, because though I’m starting to get an idea how Amalfitano, Fate and Rosa tie into the whole story, I don’t know what the critics have to do with it other than being Archimboldi scholars….
Angus: I think the events took a sharp turn here. A preparation for the next part, I think, since there is more talk about the crimes than before. We are introduced to Guadalupe, a reporter assigned to investigate the heinous crimes.
And look, Rosa Amalfitano is here. I didn’t expect her to have a lot of exposure on this part. Well, what can I say? She’s your typical American teenager. Well, she’s not American, but booze and drugs while slacking your college years away is something I find all too familiar. Not that I’ve been a college derelict, but hey, you get the drift. I think? At the last few pages of Part III, there’s a sense of mounting action. We are excited to know who the prime suspect is. And we want to find out what will happen to Fate and Rosa. Is someone really after them? Will Guadalupe be able to pop the first question? Judging by the remaining number of pages, those questions will not be answered. I also think that Fate’s character lost its flavor at the near end. He turned out to be someone who had less gall. I still give him credit for some of the things that he exhibited, like his interest to cover the crimes. But after seeing the beauty of Rosa, he crippled down and settled to a fetal position. That’s what I imagines, at least. He stopped caring for that.
Does this say that men’s principles are at the mercy of women?
Me: I think Part 3 jives with the existing theme that, in the end, it all boils down to sex….
Anyway, I thought the ending of Part 3 was strange…with Fate hitting that guy at the other guy’s house, then Amalfitano telling Fate to take his daughter, Rosa to the US…then Guadalupe meeting Rosa and the three of them meeting the suspect and prisoner…
When I read that, I had to re-read it a few times to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I just found Amalfitano’s actions toward Fate and Rosa so strange….
Angus: Exactly my point. What you call strangeness is action to me. After two parts of meandering narratives, we finally get to a rapids of sorts.And yes, everyone in the last part are afflicted with paranoia. Which could probably be the reason behind their rash decisions.
Me: To me the ending of Part 3 just seemed disjointed and out of character (for Amalfitano). I don’t know.
Part IV – The Part About the Crimes
The 4th part of the book deals with the mysterious murders of the women of Santa Teresa and surrounding areas. Different victims are listed down. Most are women, between the ages of 13-35, with long black hair. Most are raped, before they are strangled to death. Most of the women who are killed work in factories, or dubbed as “whores,” or both. Some women are victims of domestic violence, killed by a spouse, a step-father, or a lover.
Characters introduced in Part 4 include police officers, detectives, a seer / herbalist, a reporter, the alleged murderer, and a congresswoman.
Angus: We read all about the women who were abducted, raped, strangled, staked, and thrown everywhere. The descriptions are delivered matter-of-factly, much like a police report. Well, these are mostly police reports, and autopsy reports, and such reports.
And since there are police reports, there are also inspectors. We are introduced to a number of them, but I remember mostly Juan de Dios Martinez. He seems to be the most capable and levelheaded among them, the inspectors and police men. But despite this, he can’t crack the cases assigned to him yet.
The cases, which are not only about the killings, include one about a church desecrator, which is more of a side story, unless this desecrator is somehow related to the more serious crimes. I’m quoting someone when I say that, I think it’s the police chief who said that.
There is another side story about a young bodyguard who turned to be a real police thanks to the fearless execution of his duty. Actually, there are a lot of side stories. The descriptions of the crimes are all side stories, some to be endured, some to be relished.
I sometimes think that these relaying of the crimes is saturating this part. We get the point: the murders appear random, they are violent, they are crawling at a significant number. Is this the intention of the author, to make us flinch at each page?
There are some crimes which I find less interesting than the background. Like the murder of one woman where the body is found by an El Salvadorean, who was imprisoned and released a broken man. He then wandered around, lost in that city, and he died. That’s me cutting the short story shorter.
And then there’s also the family of the eleven-year old victim. A picture of a squalid, striving family. Very poignant. And there’s something really terrible about young girls being raped.
And there is, too, the case of the American. Not really striking, but it sort of left me hanging because that’s where I stopped reading last night.
Me: The crimes in Part 4 are interesting – some very detailed, some mentioned just in passing. And the side stories are interesting too, especially the one about the Penitent.
I think the author is trying to saturate the readers with his violent descriptions, trying to desensitize them.
It’s strange because though there are lots of killings, they don’t seem to be done by the same guy or people. A lot of them are caused by domestic problems and a lot of the girls are killed by their boyfriends/husbands.
I think it maybe have something to do with what the Asylum Director was saying about how Mexican Men have a fear of women…
I just noticed that there are a lot of whores and pimps in Santa Teresa….
I wish that instead of just listing down all the dead women, that the author would elaborate more on the events and kind of gel together the narration. For now, it’s still just a list of individual victims.
As of yesterday’s readings, I counted 46 dead women…
Angus: I don’t think the reader is trying to shock the readers with the crimes. Probably he’s trying to say that murder can be as mundane as taking a stroll in the park if people who are supposed to investigate the crimes aren’t really fit for it.
The appearance of Florita Almada is such a delight! It’s a nice break from the reportage of the crimes. Florita, or La Santa, has a beautiful background. Beautiful not because she’s a princess but because it is thought-provoking. Besides, it’s hard not to be drawn to a character who reads a lot and who is somehow nerdy and who has a tendency to be incoherent.
Florita, I should say, is officially my favorite 2666 character. Anyway, the novel wouldn’t revolve around her, so let’s get back. Where is the novel leading to? I only have a vague feeling of what this is all about.
Is it about justice, which is only that, a lofty ideal that is forever out of reach? Is it about the slumbering society, who needs a hundred crimes to wake up and do something? Is it about the fear of women, as pointed out earlier?
Me: I think one of the things the author is doing is (exposing) and criticizing South American / Mexican culture – the prevalence of corruption,police brutality, drug-use, sex crimes, the general ideas of men towards women…etc.
Angus: Cause of death: Strangulation. Vaginally and anally raped. No source of identification. Multiple stab wounds. Hair is shoulder level. Wearing gray sweatshirt, black leggings, and white tennis shoes.
At least at this part, there is development as far as the crimes are concerned. Epifanio does his best to solve one of the cases assigned to him. He ended up with the arrest of a computer store owner, Klaus Haas, but even if this man is in prison, the murders go on.
Haas may have a history of sexual assaults, but I don’t think he has anything to do with the murders on a large scale. Really, I don’t know what to think of.
I was told by a college colleague that one of the safest places here on earth is the prison. That is, if you are not an inmate. I think it is better to assume that nowhere is safe. There’s always the danger of the AC exploding right in front of my face while typing these words.
Maybe that’s not being unsafe. It’s being unlucky. Haas must have been unlucky to get tangled in this murder business. But I don’t think he’s unlucky at all. Being able to call a press conference while you are at jail is not bad. It’s annoying if you imagine that happening in real life, but if we only consider luck here, it’s not bad at all.
Angus: I am so tired of reading about the crimes. It’s becoming a drag, like pulling a blanket cast out of the sea. I am no longer interested whatever it is that is behind the crimes. I just wish for this part to end.
I insist that all those descriptions about the crimes are unnecessary to the development of the novel’s core plot. Speaking of development, I don’t know whether the unresolved cases will have further development or they will just stagnate there, on the shelves. Cliffhangers, maybe?
As I try to connect this part with the previous ones, I wonder if there is anything solid to make it all cohesive. I am always waiting for characters from the previous parts to be mentioned, particularly Guadalupe, the reporter that Fate assisted and who was about to interview the prime suspect of the killings. But no, she was not mentioned, yet. Other reporters are mentioned though, but is that enough to link the two parts together? Is it even necessary to have a link?
Will Haas be able to redeem himself in such a rotten system, one that is filled with corruption and negligence? Everything is being lost, like blood samples, DNA results, and others. And if Haas were truly innocent, this would have sucked a lot. It is screaming injustice. But if he really were involved with the crimes, is justice really served?
Why, Haas is a perpetrator of injustice himself. Remember that the end does not justify the means? He is trying to investigate the matter by resorting to under the table tricks, like obtaining a cell phone while in prison. That is not allowed anywhere, right? I mean ideally? Really, I do not know what I am talking about.
Angus: I cannot fully express my joy and sense of achievement when I got to the last page of this part. It seemed to go on and on forever, and just as I predicted, it ended with no closure. There was a sense of development, but we are now moving to a different part, which hopefully will tie up all the loose ends.
We are introduced to the congresswoman Azucena. I didn’t really get what her role is in the near-end phase of this part. I thought she was the art writer’s lover. Until the last couple of pages, I realized that she wants the writer to follow up the case of her missing best friend.
It could be that this art writer, Sergio, is that guy whom Guadalupe from Part 3 succeeded. In a novel like this, one can never be too sure.
And there are more investigations being started instead of being wrapped up. No, Guadalupe was not mentioned, and I don’t understand why I keep on expecting her to be a part of this. Anyway, the new investigations, particularly the one by Mary-Sue, are quite promising, but again, I feel that all efforts are doomed.
I think I understand now why the five parts of this novel were not published individually as the author requested on his last will. They can barely stand alone. Each novel, or part, will leave the reader gritting with both suspense and disappointment, which is both a good and bad thing. The first part is good enough. The second part is too short. The third part is a mix of the first too: quite good and quite short. The forth is a mess.
And now, we are on the last part. I do not know what to expect anymore. Rather, I do not wish to set any expectations.
Me: I’m still waiting for the connection between the characters in the Part about the Crimes with the characters from the previous parts, but I don’t think there were any, except that Haas was the guy that Guadalupe (?) from The Part About Fate interviewed in prison. But other than that…there doesn’t seem to be any connection.
Part V – The Part About Archimboldi
The 5th and last part of the novel is about the mysterious Archimboldi, the German writer who brought our critics together in part 1, who is also partially connected to Amalfitano in Part 2.
Part 5 opens just before the birth of Archimboldi, then still Hans Reiter, son of a one-legged man, and a one-eyed woman.
Angus: It’s really a nice break to get away from the crimes. I am tired of reading those police reports and medical examiners’ findings. In fact, I almost gave up on the book.
We now get back to Archimboldi. Readers might have forgotten about him, but not me, because I’m really curious who really is this author that the literary critics from the first part are hunting.
The first part of the last part talks about the childhood of Hans Reiter. I suppose this is Archimboldi. I’ll be damned if he’s not. Reiter is not from an illustrious family, which is not hard to guess. In fact, his parents are what we shallow people would call the misfits. His mother is one-eyed, his father is one-legged, and the kid himself is abnormally tall.
The height of this kid is what made me assume that he is Archimboldi. It would be a huge coincidence if this kid is just an irrelevant character who just happened to be as tall as our elusive writer. And really, what sense is there to keep introducing new and irrelevant characters when we are at the near climax?
Irrelevance, I think, is a technique that the novel uses all throughout the novel. I am not even sure if this can be called a technique. It’s something that I am making up. It is something akin to stream of consciousness and the unreliable narrator, but there are slight differences. It can be argued that the seemingly irrelevant stuff are all necessary. I don’t know. I just have this feeling that there is a lot that can be taken out. Of course, I am just assuming. I guess I just want to finish this novel as soon as possible.
Me: The Part About Archimboldi…hmmm…I’m only on the first 50 pages but I’m finding it quite boring and I am not as interested to read it as the other parts.
For me, the first and the 2nd part gel together well enough…the 2nd and 3rd only slightly, and 3rd and the 4th, not so much and the 4th doesn’t really gel together with the 1st three parts of the book, though I liked the 4th part. I liked reading about the crimes and the corruption, etc. It would have been my favorite part except that it kinda doesn’t go with anything else in the book so far. And though the part about Kelly Rivera was interesting, the story the congresswomen told was too long and took too long to get to the point.
Me: Still behind on my reading…so far Archimboldi is still Hans Reiter, a boy frequently described as seaweed-like, of all things! He has a one-legged father, and a one-eyed mother, and a so-far normal sister.
He befriends the newphew of a Baron and a japanese man, gets drafted in the war and almost gets himself killed thrice.
Sometime during the war he gets stationed at Dracula’s castle….
While searching through abandoned houses, he finds some hidden manuscripts behind a fireplace of some guy named Anasky (Amasky)?
The manuscript, which is supposedly about Anasky isn’t really about him (surprise, surprise) but about his friend, Ivanov, who is a fantasy/sci-fi writer.
Now I’m on the part where Hans is reading about a book that Ivanov wrote, “Twilight,” which seems just as bad as Stephenie Meyer’s version.
Did I miss anything so far…? lol.
This book is just getting crazier and crazier. And why do I have a feeling that the author is going to tie up the 5 separate parts in the end…??
Me: Honestly, I don’t really understand a lot of the stories in Part 5, or maybe it would be more truthful to say that I don’t want to try to understand the stories anymore…
Angus: There’s a really graphic scene here. Oops! Is this something to look forward to? An officer and a baroness f**ing in one of the bedrooms of Dracula’s castle? With blood and excessive bodily fluids? And oh, there are no rats in this castle, as if that really matters. But it does, just to make a point that Dracula might have been on a rat diet.
The war parts remind me of War and Peace, all the walking and battle scenes and attacking and retreating. Which is fine, probably because I got used to all that kind of stuff with the heavy Tolstoy read.
Tolstoy, speaking of him, is mentioned here, but not as extensively as Gorky. You see, Reiter, after contemplating suicide and evading death thrice, got his hands on this journal by Ansky during his recuperation at a far-flung Jewish town. This journal by Ansky is not really his journal. It’s more of a series of writings about his writer friend, Ivanov, who dreams of being in the ranks of Tolstoy. Which happened for like 15 minutes, and he even got Gorky, a writer that I don’t really know, to write him a fan mail. Which has a lot of ellipses. Not my favorite punctuation, hahaha, but yes, the letter elated Ivanov so much that he had it framed.
For which novel did Gorky write the letter? It’s for the novel Twilight. Not the basis of that Stephanie Meyer novel, but I think it’s better. I actually like that novel, particularly the parallel universe stuff and its ending.
Anyway, Reiter got obsessed with this journal that he started to have dreams of it and of Ansky, whom he has never seen, and that is pretty obvious. He dreamed that the journal was severely damaged while he was drifting through a river. Upon waking up, he decided to return the journal to where he found it.
And yes, finally, the name Archimboldi is mentioned, who is a painter. Not a writer, huh? So probably this is a pen name after all, if Reiter really is the Archimboldi that the literary critics are looking for.
Me: And what is the point of all that, really???
I’m not on the part where Hans Reiter officially becomes Benno von Archimboldi and a man with a typewriter is ranting about writers, masterpieces and minor works….
Angus: Of what?
Me: Of Ansky and Ivanov and Twilight? There are a lot of side stories in Part 5, the significance of which eludes me. Are the side stories important in knowing the “real” Archimboldi, or are the stories important in understanding the author (Bolan’s) philosophies in life, or are the stories important in understanding the novel as a whole?
Angus: I think it’s more of Bolano’s philosophies. They are subtly delivered with the side stories, and I admit to enjoying them, mostly because I got really tired of the crimes. Pati nga yung Aztec thing with that girl (Ingeborg?) I enjoyed it. Maybe I enjoyed it because I’m almost done (with the book).
Me: I liked the side stories from the earlier parts of the books, but for some reason I didn’t find the side stories in Part 5 very interesting.
The Aztec thing was interesting though. But I didn’t really like the part about Twilight, and the later ones which you may not have read yet, I didn’t like very much.
Don’t you find it weird that bits of Mexican culture is incorporated into Hans’ life? Like that Aztec story? Where would a crazy German girl read about the Aztecs during WW2?
Angus: Things are getting better. There are still the distractions. I don’t think we could get rid of these. But really, I don’t mind. Yes, there should be a preparation for a climax, so it’s quite logical to let go of the side stories, which may or may not contribute to the grand scheme, but I was entertained with these. Even that lengthy story of the Jews killer. I even found myself reeling with weird emotions and seething with anger, and at the back of my head, I wished to be a Jew.
Anyway, at this part, we get to know how Hans Reiter transformed to Benno von Archimboldi. It’s not a dramatic metamorphosis. It’s just that, a whimsical instance. Not really out of whim, I believe, although on the surface it seems that way. It’s on one of those pivotal moments in a life, which is an ironic thing to say, having just read in one of the pages that history is not composed of such pivotal, monumental times; it’s just a series of instances clamoring for attention, like a whore working on her next client. Something like that.
There are also a lot of things said about reading and writing and literature. Like who are the real writers? How can we sift them away from the unreal writers? What makes up literature? Is it the masterpieces or the so-called minor works? What are the roles of the two?
And is it possible to abandon writing and still love literature? Of course! What is reading if not the communion of the reader and the writer, who screw each other to plant the seeds of fun and entertainment in the reader’s womb.
So the writer is a gigolo? And we, readers, are whores? And all the fun and entertainment are bastards?
Me: Actually I did enjoy some of the side stories in Part 5, like the story of the Jew killer. And the part about Hans’ life is pretty interesting.
It’s strange how, they show Archimboldi as a writer who just writes because he wants to – without much thought to his work or stories. And then we read earlier how the critics are so obsessed with his work and how they analyze it to death, injecting his novels with different meanings, philosophies, etc.
It seems like such a contrast from Archimboldi’s life at the time he was writing the novels, which seemed so real (as opposed to the scholars’ abstract ideas and meaning).
Angus: Already, five of Archimboldi’s books were published by a Hamburg publishing house owned by Mr. Bubis, perhaps the only publisher who has faith in Archimboldi’s capabilities. This Mr. Bubis, as fate would have it, is married to the baroness! Archimboldi and the baroness inevitably meet, and they finally let themselves to be consumed by their lusts.
And they talk about penis size. Why is it that almost every Latin American writer that I read puts a special emphasis on the length of one’s member? Oscar Hijuelos, Junot Diaz, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Roberto Bolano didn’t fail to make it a point that endowment is a virtue of sorts. Bolano’s take veers differently, although it is essentially the same. His has a matter-of-fact, defensive air. Should I expect Mario Vargas Llosa and Jorge Luis Borges to bring this up, even in passing, in their respective works?
Anyway, there’s a lovely part here about us being consumed by the past. It’s that scene where Ingeborg talks about the light of the stars being dead and yet existing. I imagined her dying on that freezing night while coughing blood on the snow. The blood on the snow is influenced by my reading of Halldor Laxness’s Independent People, his supposed masterpiece.
Really, I am as always being incoherent. I can’t help it. I’m excited to finish this tonight.
Angus: This is just to formally finish my reading. But not the discussion (if there are still things you wish to rant about).
For people who love closures and who are not comfortable with cliffhangers, I suggest that you do not read this book. Wait. I change my mind just now. I strongly suggest that you stop wishing for clean, happy endings. It’s better for our mental health to have questions boggling us than to have those answers. They clog our thinking. They kill our limited neurons.
Still, I found a sense of… an ending. I found the Lotte side story acting like an epilogue, something that would loop the whole thing to the first part. Although this book is not part of a series, I think it screams at the reader to get a copy of Amulet and The Savage Detectives (another brick), other Bolano works that are akin to 2666.
But I’m good. I won’t rush to the book store to buy those two ASAP. Probably when I finish reading my hoarded books I will consider.
Me: The End. Thank you very much. Next! A wonderful, but crazy – insane(!) book lol. By the time I finished, I was left with more questions than answers.
Now, I want to go out and read all of Bolano’s novels, starting with The Savage Detectives then Amulet.