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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Mounted specimen of Conuropsis carolinensis, M...
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Flaubert is dead, and the disciplines of desire have lost their urgency in the grand salons of comfort and privilege we have created for the arts.  the self-congratulatory rhetoric of sensibilite continues to perpetuate itself, and in place of gorgeous parrots, we now content outrselves with the ghostly successors of Marie Antoinette’s peasant village, tastefully installed within the walls of Versailles.  Hickey, Dave.  (1996).  Simple hearts.  In D. Hickey, 1997, Air guitar (25-31), LA: Art.Issues.Press, 31.

This piece strikes me as a proclamation of how affective art can be, with the above as the concluding paragraph for us to not become complacent.   Art and art critics are often too concerned with sensibility and coherence at the expense of affect and glory.  I like the image of the parrot as glorious, it is actually the one portion of Flaubert’s “A simple heart” that I remember. It is partly the art scene here in Minneapolis that has endeared the city to me.  New York always struck me as full of itself as serious art and high culture but here in Minneapolis they are smaller artists with a chip on their shoulders, hence the art scene here tends to shuck the rules and conventions.  Never before have museums moved me the way they do here.  It could be age and a blooming appreciation for artistic endeavors, or it could also be something else.  Following Hickey’s warning I will opt for the latter.

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There is an old newspaper account of a mass execution in 1922 of some Greek leaders after a failure in a military campaign against Turkey. The Greeks were brought into a courtyard and one of them was very ill, barely able to walk to the execution site. Supposedly, this one man was unable to stand for his execution and despite efforts to stand him up, the executioners decided to shoot him with his head on his knees. This account is somewhat misleading.

People interpret this as the man being very ill, but why is that necessarily the case? Could it also be that the man was resisting. If he is about to be killed, why make it any easier on his executioners? Why allow them to think there is a dignity in the process? Maybe the scene was filled with the dignity of a Picasso, a scene rife with challenges and hegemonic forces encountering their own resistances.

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