Saturday, July 3, 2010

Robert Bolano

2666  by Roberto bolano   The  heart of darkness        Translated by Natasha wimmer

The introduction
To say that 2666 is epic or on a grand scale, would be be an understatement. It would be to misunderstand what's asked of you. This book doesn’t just want commitment, it wants blood, wants sacrifice & even that's not enough. It will hold your hand, take you down a blind alleyway then vanish, taking away all that you understood, all that you had grasped, all those images hoarded in the hope of finding a path through it.
How do you write about a book that's about everything & nothing, that has in it’s shadow, or  is the whole of the 20 century?

The synopsis
This book is in 5 parts, the 1st is titled The part about the critics. This follows four critics from  across Europe & their shared interest in Archimboldi a post war German writer, who vanished years ago & who they are searching for, it’s also a love triangle.
Part 2, The part about Amalfitano is about a Chilean philosopher living Santa Teresa (Mexico), with his daughter. The Philosopher  between bouts of madness (hearing voices in his head) and worrying about his daughter, conducts an experiment based on some ideas by Marcel Duchamp.
The 3rd part, The part about Fate, concerns an African-American journalist                                           
(Oscar Fate), as he travels to Santa Teresa to cover a boxing match & meets Amalfitano’s daughter & learns about the killings that have been going on there for years.
Part 4, The part about the crimes. This book covers the killing of countless women, over decades in Santa Teresa & is based on the actual events in Juarez. It’s written as hardboiled fiction & reportage.
The final part (5) follows the writer Archimboldi from his birth onwards, through the 2nd world war. In fact, through most of the 20 century (1920 – 2000) & along the way answers some of the questions  that have been prodding  you  with a sharp stick.

                                                  How sour the knowledge travellers bring away!
                                                  The world’s monotonous and small; we see
                                                  ourselves today, tomorrow, yesterday,
                                                  an oasis of horror in a desert of ennui!
                                                                                    Charles Baudelaire
 An oasis of horror, in a desert of boredom

The impression
2666  2666 is an unfulfilled love story, its a world war 2 epic, it’s science fiction, it’s horror, reportage, it’s a thriller, it’s a comedy, it’s a vision of hell. It’s also the vision St Thomas Aquinas had of heaven, where the righteous can enjoy their  beatitude & the grace of god more richly by being granted a perfect sight of the damned.
2666 is a nightmare that is beautiful & a dream that haunts the edges of your waking hours, you could take a set square & compass to it & describe it logically, but all you would end up with is a pile of words, scattered across your floor.
  2666 is massive, a dark nothing out of which everything explodes - life, death, love & hate. This is the start of the universe & the inertia born of its dying. This is the black heart of the sun.

Writers on Bolano
26662Argentine novelist, Rodrigo Fresian, wrote “It doesn’t make much sense to read about 2666, one must read 2666”
   “He took what was there, as Joyce did with Ireland almost a century earlier – a broken society with a strange literary  tradition. And he set about turning it on its head, using chaos, its unformed & unstable nature, its violence & making a myth out of that”  –Colm tiobin
“Anyone who has been young & in love & besotted with poetry, can’t help but respond to Bolano. He has a natural storytellers  gift – but more important, he has the power to lend an extraordinary glamour to the activities of making love & making poetry” – Edmund White 
Bolano on Archimboldi – “The style was strange. The writing was clear & even transparent but the way the stories followed one after another didn’t lead anywhere:  all that was left were the children, their parents, some animals, some neighbours & in the end, all that was really left was nature, a nature that dissolved little by little in a boiling cauldron until it vanished completely.”

The conclusion
Once upon a time,  three  blind schoolchildren went to the zoo, on a project to understand Elephants. The First child went to the back of the elephant, to its hind leg. On feeling the leg he thought it was tall & strong like an Oak tree, in fact it reminded him of the trees that were used to build the ships that had sailed against the  Armada (as he had learnt in history).
The second child felt his way to the side of the creature, he realized that an Elephant was tall ,wide & as tough as stone, just like the castle (Camelot) he had read in his favourite book about King Arthur.
Walking to the front of the elephant the third blind kid, grasped it by the trunk & was lifted clean off the ground. Once back down he thought how strong & sinuous an elephant was, like some large snake, maybe an Anaconda,  just like his teacher had described when she talking about the Amazon.
The next day at school, they described to their tutor what an Elephant was.
One with his tall oak trees & the large warships, another with his castles & the tales of the round  table & the third with the Boa- constrictor, all sinuous crushing strength. They talked & argued for most of the day, without reaching a definitive description of an Elephant


Anonymous said...

I read Bolano's The Savage Detectives this spring and loved it. It was so expansive, so full life and full of lives, so futile and so vibrant all at once. I'm not sure I have the energy to launch into 2666 straight away, but your review makes me excited (and a little bit trepidatious, but in a good way) about beginning it, as soon as I can find the time and muster the courage. I'm happy to have stumbled upon your blog! Especially as I definitely need some pointers as to my whiskey drinking.

Stop by my blog, I'd love to hear what you've got to say about my reviews, or about what bottle I should buy on my next trip to the liquor store.

@parridhlantern said...

Its one of those books, that you look at, pick up, put down, then sigh. After you completed the process enough times, maybe reading something lighter, (cursing yourself for copping out)you finally pick it up. Then your done for! it will haunt you. It covers a lot of the same ground as The Savage Detectives(which I've also reviewed), in fact the two students appear in 2666 .Thanks for the comment

Bellezza said...

I love this part of your review:

"is beautiful & a dream that haunts the edges of your waking hours, you could take a set square & compass to it & describe it logically, but all you would end up with is a pile of words, scattered across your floor."

I'm so relieved to know that others are affected in much the same way I was when reading Bolano's Monsieur Pain. On the surface, it's quite clear and easy. But to summarize it? To make sure you fully understand all he meant to convey? I have a bit of that scattered across the floor experience you describe.

This review was fascinating, and thanks for commenting on mine; it helps to discuss Roberto Bolano's work with you.

@parridhlantern said...

THANK YOU(yes I meant it in capitals)its nice to hear from a fellow Bookfiend. Especially if what you communicate resonates,which is highly appropriate with Bolano's work, as its the images he creates that carry on resonating/haunting long after the last page is turned

Bellezza said...

Much like Murakami does. Although I far prefer Murakami's work, I can appreciate Bolano's efforts. He does create an unforgettable atmosphere. Almost like a nightmare in Monsieur Pain.

Mel u said...

great line "This book doesn’t just want commitment, it wants blood, wants sacrifice & even that's not enough. It will hold your hand, take you down a blind alleyway then vanish"-the only thing I would add is as the book vanishes it informs you of the 100s of others who have been killed in the alley, then the book laughs hysterically and walks away-I also loved Savage Detectives and really liked Nazi Literature in the Americas

@parridhlantern said...

Thanks ,that "hysterical laughter" haunts your mind, has you grasping for some support, some reference points to guard your sanity. But of course there aren't any.
haven't yet read nazi literature in the Americas, but have Last evenings on Earth sat waiting for me.

Chinoiseries said...

Really good review. Your passion for the book shows! Just the prod I needed to get back to reading 2666!

@parridhlantern said...

@chinoiseries, Thanks, This was my 2nd Bolano, being pretty ignorant about him at the time I read the 2 big ones first, before then learning more about his work.