For the first week of my 2666 read-along, I loaded my big tome into my Waterstone’s book bag and took to the daily train ride to London.
It didn’t turn out to be a pleasant ride. Both the experience of trying to read a big tome on a swaying train and getting through the book.
I tried to read while standing and balancing the book in one arm and another arm holding myself steady by the vestibules. The weight of the book almost sprain my arm. The day I got a seat, the small tray in front of my chair couldn’t hold both my tome and my thermos travel mug of coffee. Sure enough when I leaned over to get a pen from my bag the seat, I pushed the book which in turn tipped the travel mug, and I spilled coffee on my 2666 !!! Arghhh!!! I frantically wiped away the smudge and prayed that the pages wouldn’t swell with damp. The lucky thing is that my home made coffee is diluted, but the smudge still gnaws at my keep-book-perfect aspiration nerves.
Not a good start.
Neither does the book.
(May contain spoilers from here on)
The first chapter “The Part about the Critics” was about four academics by the name of Liz Norton, Manuel Espinoza, Jean-Claude Pelletier, Morini following the trail of an elusive writer named Benno Vom Archimboldi. The pages thereafter were splattered with many names dropping of literary greats and multi-syllabus names that spun my head. The three academics involvement in a love triangle was inevitable and then it gets complicated …… chapter 1 was a compelling read but it made me felt like reading a gossipy news about celebrities with no value added to the development of my mind.
In “The Part about the Amalfitano”, it is a mellow read but nonetheless feels a bit grounded as a spark of brilliance here and there beginning to appear. There is a mention of Latin American’s history and the introduction of the Chilean named Bernardo Higgins. I am able to pick quotes of significance and sussed out powerful statements:
Amalfitano repeated it many times, that in 1974 he was in Argentina because of the coup in Chile, which had bliged him to choose the path of exile. Everything becomes a habit.
“Exile must be a terrible thing,” said Norton sympathetically.
“Actually,” said Amalfitano, “now I see it as a natural movement, something that, in its way, helps to abolish fate, or what is generally thought of as fate.”
“But exile,” said Pelletier, “is full of inconveniences, of skips and breaks that essentially keep recurring and interfere with anything you try to do that’s important.”
“That’s just what I mean by abolishing fate,” said Amalfitano. “But again, I beg your pardon.”
and then it alludes to the title of chapter 3 “The Part about the Fate”. You see the wordplay? You see any connection? There seems to be, but not yet, I have yet to see any clear connections.
It is to my good fortune that while watching Michael Palin on Full Circle with Palin travel series re-runs last week, Palin visited Chile and came to a place in Santiago where every road, every square, every building bears the name Bernardo O’Higgins. An Irish name in a Spanish city? This I must know.
One cannot purport to know Chilean history if you don’t know who Bernardo O’Higgins is. So it is with my great delight at page 222, when Bolano goes into length about the theory of O’Higgins half ancestry from the Araucanian tribe which are famous for their telepathic ability of communication.
Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme (August 20, 1778 – October 24, 1842) was a Chileanindependence leader who, together with José de San Martín, freed Chile from Spanish rule in the Chilean War of Independence. Although he was the second Supreme Director of Chile (1817–1823), he is considered one of Chile’s founding fathers, as he was the first holder of this title to head a fully independent Chilean state. O’Higgins was of Irish and Basque descent.
Bernardo O’Higgins’ mother’s name Dona Isabel Riquelme, is almost similar to Amalfitano’s mother’s name Dona Eugenia Riquelme and Amalfitano’s hair stood on end.
I didn’t feel that Amalfitano was going mad. I think every character that is introduced in this book are a little mad anyway, what makes Amalfitano madder than the rest of them?
I have now arrived at 320+ pages in “The Part about the Fate”. Throughout the book, the protagonists have been having strange dreams and hearing voices, so I presumed that must have something to do with telepathy and sort but I still don’t see the link. The dark side of this fictional town of Santa Theresa town (which all characters seems one way or another visited or live in) lurks a serial killer that preys on women, but! that is not what this book is all about.
“The Part about the Fate” features a New York African American reporter Quincy Williams who is really better known as Oscar Fate. More observation about the Mexican socio-politics, socio-economical analysis came into play in this chapter, with Bolano’s lateral thinking and psychedelic story telling ability, Bolano takes me to a wild ride of thementions Chairman Mao to Lin Piao across to Osama Bin Laden and sort.
Bolaño can have a wry sense of humour. The part about why Mexican is growing taller to the extend they now have a Mexican president who is taller than the president of the United States of America made me laugh (page 288, oh sorry 288 is not part of this week’s reading plan, but week 5).
I don’t know where all these is heading, but it better be good !!!