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2666 Read-along : Week 4

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.

Part of the donation of the bag purchase goes to Book Bus foundation for the children of Africa

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 Criticswas 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.

Bernardo O'Higgins

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 Fatefeatures 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 !!!


About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.


10 thoughts on “2666 Read-along : Week 4

  1. I was the same way with A Suitable Boy. It’s a doorstop of a book. Like a brick and I tired of carrying it around. I never did finish it for that reason.

    Posted by Ti | March 22, 2011, 4:19 pm
  2. I can’t imagine reading this on the train – it was hard enough holding it up in a comfy seat at home! Good on you for trying though 🙂
    Congratulations on getting this far. I hope the next section doesn’t put you off – I better warn you that the Part about Crimes isn’t a nice or easy read. Good luck!

    Posted by Jackie (Farm Lane Books) | March 22, 2011, 6:49 pm
    • Jackie, I know! It is sooo hard to read a big book on the train. I know the next part about Crime is going to be grim. ahem… I’ll persevere… Good to know you read the book! 🙂

      Posted by JoV | March 22, 2011, 10:28 pm
  3. Nice review, Jo! I don’t know why you insisted on reading this on the train… I would have got a hernia just carrying it around! 🙂

    I didn’t understand the bit about the Araucanian tribe at all so I took it that Amalfitano had gone mad and this was part of it.

    I like it how we see different things in this book!

    Posted by Leeswammes | March 26, 2011, 10:04 am
    • Judith, Thanks. Some days I don’t carry it now if I’m out and about. I reached a point in the book now that may confirm Amalfitano is insane. So you are right, he is. It is nice to hear different views about the book. Thanks for hosting the read-along! 😉

      Posted by JoV | March 27, 2011, 6:56 am
  4. Excellent mention of the O’Higgins part and I’d forgotten the link between Fate and exile but I did notice it when reading.

    Good point about the telepathy as well. Phew. It’s an interesting read so far and I’m glad to have picked up some extra pointers from your post. I’ll catch up with the next weeks when I get around to reading them too. Take care.


    Posted by Joanna | April 18, 2011, 9:46 pm
    • Joanna, Thanks for dropping by. I’m still hinging on the telepathy to provide a lead, but it may be a red herring. I hope you are still at it, because I am doing my skim reading and as I skim read across all those dead bodies news cataloguing that runs by hundred of pages. 😦

      All the best. Jo

      Posted by JoV | April 25, 2011, 8:26 pm


  1. Pingback: Bolaño 2666 Read-A-Long – Week 4 « Leeswammes' Blog - March 26, 2011

  2. Pingback: 2666… Phew finally! « Bibliojunkie - December 31, 2011

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

Books Read

JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City

JoV's favorite books »
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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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