Part 3 of this novel is odd.  Bolano has shifted the protaganist to a black American who writes for Black Dawn profiling former activists.  While not yet sure about the place of the character, named Fate, Bolano is making some moves to prepare us for the coming bloodbath.  This seems to be the political part as he continually reminds women are so un-valued in our world that a mass murder of them is easily distracted by a boxing match.  The criticism begins on page 266 with two stories.

The first is about the slave trade in the seventeenth century.  20% of the slaves would die in the ships crossing the Atlantic and yet this was dismissed as cost of doing business.  “But if a plantation owner went crazy and killed his neighbor and then went galloping back home, dismounted, and promptly killed his wife, two deaths in total, Virginia society spent the enxt six months in fear, and the legend of the murderer on horseback might linger for generations.”

The second story: “During the Paris Commune of 1871, thousands of people were killed and non one batted an eye.  Around the same time a knife sharpener killed his wife and his elderly mother and then he was shot and killed by the police.  The story didn’t just make all the French newspapers, it was written up in papers across Europe, and even got a mention in the New York Examiner.”

Bolano explains these differing resposnes as the work of exclusion and inclusion based on economic lines.  I do like that explanation, but his examples seem possibly poorly chosen if his argument later on becomes that the murdered women are not valued.  The two examples are an exaltation of women above the outsiders.  Maybe they were insiders and hence these examples are consistent?  Maybe the rubric of the invisible murdered is more complex than just an economic analysis (the wife of a knife sharpener is considered included within the economic order?)  A more spohisticated approach would analyze the methods of the murders, i.e. Zizek’s distinction between systemic and individual violence.

A passage:

“I’m a reporter,” he said.

“You’re going to write about the crimes,” said the cook.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.  I’m going to cover the boxing match this Sunday,” said Fate.  (268)

Another:

The customs officer asked if he was coming to write about the killings.

“No,” said Fate, “I’m going to cover the fight on Saturday.’

“What fight?” asked the customs officer.

Notice the inconsistent day of the fight.  There are several editing issues like this that I have found so far.  I do not think this error is significant nor designed, this translation is a posthumous one, after all.

Besides the editing, or maybe another example, is the constant breaking fo the 4th Wall in this section.  Numerous times Bolano uses an ‘I’ without identifying anyone as speaking.  Is the ‘I’ an as of yet unknown narrator/character.  Is this just an editing error.  I have not yet found them to consistent or meaningful, the book has not yet acknowledged these breaks.  Section three is told in the past tense, but as the action is happening (“…Fate saw a man…[who] swung his arms as he walked.”)  And then sometimes Fate will remember something as though the story is a Frame story, but these slight ruptures are the only places where the framing is hinted at.

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I am still working through 2666, still?  the tome is only 900 pages long, I will be working on it for quite some time, and I think I know what has taken me by surprise here.  There are plenty of writers that write about writing and about writers, as a way to insert autobiographical events, but Bolano has taken a different tack.  The beginning of the book is about 4 literary critics that are chasing one author.

The critics are not obsessed and they strike me as normal, as far as academics are normal.  The author they follow is non-existent: they do not know any biographical information about him and yet he is still publishing.  This seems to be a way to keep the critics normal, a mechanism for Bolano to restrain himself from making the usual critics-as-nuts story.  The critics in the book do not write, they publish.  Bolano spends no time discussing writing and instead focuses mainly on their non-academic lives.  It’s a strange inversion and one that I am enjoying if only because it is easy to see how it would probably go awry with a less capable writer.

I just finished a passage where the critics are put into the psychoanalytic microscope as writers normally are by the critic.  The critics in this case are motivated by a desire for love.  I suspect/hope Bolano will turn to why these wants are manifest in criticism and not in creative production.  He does offers a glimpse into the presence/absence of imagination as a possible source of this split, but I have not yet seen the commitment for that to be his answer.  Right now 2666 strikes me as a treatise about extravagance.  I fear that he will make the critic’s task one of superfluousness and hence unnecessary.