Week 11: The Part About the Crimes concludes

I know that many people are glad to see this part end.

When I first read this part of the novel, cheap I felt like it needed to be cataloged in some way. We’re doing that here with tracking all of the deaths and all of the dreams and whatnot, but I have been more detached from this part this time around and I am way behind on even posting a weekly summary of what happened in the novel. Apologies. Part of what confounds me is that there is just so much data to process I find it hard to dig in without either seeming like some grand, bird’s-eye-view of the world or transitioning quickly back and forth between topics and ideas (see tidbits previously and below).

As I’ve mentioned several times, there is a correlation between the femicides and the Holocaust. I believe that Bolaño’s motivation in writing this Part and this novel is not to exploit these murders for their shock value or because he loves describing horrific violence against women. I see no pleasure here. By describing over a hundred cases in some detail, I believe he is trying to honor them in some way. A belief that each life is important motivates many Holocaust works (fiction and nonfiction). Israel’s official memorial to the Holocaust is called Yad Vashem—which comes from the Bible verse “And to them will I give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name (Yad Vashem) that shall not be cut off.” (Isaiah, chapter 56, verse 5). The name, I believe, is important. [A little tangent: Yad Vashem bestows the title Righteous Among the Nations to non-Jews who helped Jews escape the Holocaust. Only three Americans have received this honor: the Sharp couple and Varian Fry. Fry helped thousands of artists, writers, and filmmakers escape Europe, among them: Hannah Arendt, Max Ophuls, Marcel Duchamp, Andre Breton, Marc Chagall, and Max Ernst. How is this guy not better known?] What do you think? Is Bolaño’s portrayal of the murders insincere or exploitative or does he end up honoring the lives of the women?

Looking back over my notes for this whole Part (volume 2 of the 3 volume set), I have a few tidbits I’d like to put out there for conversation. Apologies if some of these have been covered in the forums or on other blogs.

• On page 579, Hass says the name of the killer of women in Juarez is Antonio Uribe. We see a lot about the slipperiness of the Uribe family. In fact, one of the men arrested for the murders in Juarez is named Uribe. “Juárez bus driver Victor García Uribe was given a 50 year sentence on October 13 by a Chihuahua judge for the rape and murder of eight women whose bodies were found in a cotton field in November 2001.”

• I mentioned how parts of The Part About Fate reminded me of Tarantino and Pulp Fiction, well I was surprised to feel that parts of The Part About the Crimes reminded me of Paul Thomas Anderson and Magnolia. I am particularly thinking of the behind-the-scenes TV show sections and this part about Reinaldo: “there was the famous host, Televisa’s star of the moment, sitting at the foot of the bed, with a drink in his hand…” which brought to mind a scene from Magnolia of Philip Baker Hall’s character, a famous TV show host sitting at the foot of his bed with a drink, feeling miserable, contemplating a confession to his wife. A tenuous connection, but just thought I’d mention it.

• In that same scene (page 566), Reinaldo realizes the famous TV host wants to kill himself and Reinaldo says “Anything I might say, I realized then, would be useless.” I think this is metaphor for the femicides. How can they be stopped? Should you intervene? What can you even say that will be useful?

• Way back on page 433, I saw this passage which reminded me of the themes of David Foster Wallace’s posthumous novel The Pale King: “And at this point, after sighing deeply, Florita Almada would say that several conclusions could be drawn: 1) that the thoughts that seize a shepherd can easily gallop away with him because it’s human nature; 2) that facing boredom head on was an act of bravery and Benito Juárez had done it and she had done it too and both had seen terrible things in the face of boredom, things she would rather not recall.”

• In our first bolano-l group read of 2666, Andrew Haley wrote: “The Part  About the Crimes is particularly tricky, as it obviously is based on real events, and apparently was inspired by a book length cataloging of the victims (Huesos en el Desierto; Anagrama, 2002) put together by the Mexican reporter Sergio Gonzalez on whom the character of the Mexican reporter named Sergio Gonzalez is based. Are we meant to read The Part About the Crimes as a kind of New Journalism? Is Bolaño using the vessel of his fiction to perform a political or social function that is essentially journalistic rather than literary? Is he in essence using 2666 as a vehicle to deliver Huesos en el Desierto to a broader audience?” Sergio Gonzalez Rodriguez’s book does not appear to be translated into English yet (publishers: get on it!), although there is a French edition. Somewhat related is Diana Washington Valdez’s book The Killing Fields: Harvest of Women.

• If you are interested in seeing how some of the characters from this Part might look on stage, I’ll link to a post from last year about a theatrical adaptation of 2666. (Warning: Possible Spoilers)

• The affair between Juan de Dios Martínez and Elvira Campos seems awfully reminiscent of a relationship in a Manuel Puig novel, but I’m forgetting which one. Anyone remember if it’s in Blood of Requited Love or Pubis Angelical? There is a lot about being in dark bedrooms at dusk, looking out across the city.

• The passing mention of Sherlock Holmes on page 610 reminded me that Borges wrote a poem called Sherlock Holmes. His short story Death and the Compass also bears a strong resemblance to a Sherlock-type detective. There is even a novel wherein a character named Jorge Luis Borges is a crime-solving detective.

• Some quotes:
“If life is misery, why do we endure it?”
“Every hundred feet the world changes.”
“Trust in God, He wont’ let anything disappear.”
“When you make mistakes from the inside, the mistakes stop mattering. Mistakes stop being mistakes.”

Once again, there is a fantastic summary of this week’s reading, with commentary, over at ijustreadaboutthat:

Since most of us in the online readalong also read IJ, we have a tendency to use it as a point of comparison (even though it really isn’t comparable at all).  But I will get in the comparison game as well, just to say that like IJ, each Part of this book ends with something way up floating in the air.  And while the IJ ending was initially discomfiting, upon later reflection, it works quite well.  I only hope that 2666 offers the same satisfaction.

Week 11: Dreams

by Daryl L.L. Houston

571: This isn’t a dream, page but as Florita tells Sergio about her visions of the killings, adiposity she explains that an ordinary murder (in her visions) ends with an image of liquid, as of a lake or a well being disturbed, while the serial killings have a heavy image, metallic, mineral, or smoldering. These images resonate with some of the critics’ dreams. The killers in her visions speak a mixed-up (made-up) language, another thread that ran through the critics’ dreams.

581: We learn that Kessler almost never dreams about killers and seldom remembers his dreams. He’s described as lucky for forgetting them. His wife dreams frequently, usually about dead relatives or friends they haven’t seen in a long time.

594: Kessler dreams of a man pacing around a crater and figures the man is probably himself before deciding it’s not important and losing the image.

605: Congresswoman Azucena Esquivel Plata, telling the story of her friend Kelly Parker, states a belief that when her friend began going by Kelly Parker rather than by Luz Maria Rivera, “she somehow took the first step into invisibility, into a nightmare.”

621: While in Santa Teresa investigating the case of her missing friend, the congresswoman finds herself pacing her hotel room, and she notices two mirrors — one at the end of the room and the other by the door — that didn’t reflect one another unless you stood in a certain place. Yet she couldn’t see herself in the mirrors from that place. She experimented wit positions as she tried to go to sleep. While this is not put forward as a dream, it bears an eerie resemblance to Norton’s dream about the mirrors in her hotel room. It’s almost as if Norton was dreaming the congresswoman’s experience somehow. I wonder if their hotel room was the same one, and I wonder how the timing of the two occurrences works out.

624: Reporter Mary Sue Bravo dreams that a woman was sitting at the foot of her bed. She could feel the weight of the body on her mattress but could feel nothing when she stretched her legs out to touch the body.

626: The following passage from the point of view of the congresswoman isn’t really described as a dream or a vision, but it must be one or the other, or something like it: “Those voices I heard (voices, never faces or shapes) came from the desert. In the desert, I roamed with a knife in my hand. My face was reflected in the blade. I had white hair and sunken cheeks covered with tiny scars. Each scar was a little story that I tried and failed to recall.”




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