The Third Reich: Udo the German

Why is Bolaño so obsessed with Germany? Maybe this is naive (and US-centric) question, sickness but throughout his work, discount Bolaño displays an interest in Europe as the center of culture, medicine with the U.S. playing much more of a supportive role. We see this in 2666 wherein the three critics are European and travel to Mexico. Oscar Fate represents the only significant American character—and he is an outsider. In The Third Reich, Udo Berger plays the board game “The Third Reich” and as a model of World War II, the focus is not on the Pacific Theater or the US, but on Europe. One of the benefits of reading a lot of contemporary Latin American fiction is gaining a different perspective on the world—especially one that does not countenance the United States of America very much. Bolaño and Enrique Vila-Matas (among others) share a fascination with Paris. Bolaño moved from Chile to Mexico to the Costa Brava, Spain—the setting of The Third Reich.

The Third Reich is the story of a man who goes to Spain on vacation and can’t bring himself to leave. This is sort of what happened to Roberto Bolaño. So, it’s easy to see how the novel is a love letter to Spain, La Costa Brava, the Mediterranean Coast, and Blanes. Even though this is a novel about the interplay of games, I would argue that one of Bolaño’s main interests here is geography. Geography and history.

“History in general is a bloody thing, you have to admit.”—Udo

The game (The Third Reich) appears to be a more intricate and detailed version of Risk or Axis & Allies: Europe. But as a realistic reflection of World War II, a better parallel would probably be the game Europa. [Note the large gameboard, complex documentation, rulebooks, calculators, tweezers (!!), and hex units:]

EUROPA

http://www.zoi.wordherders.net/?page_id=22

At first glance, Bolaño doesn’t seem too interested in making the details of the game known. It’s not until late in the book that he reveals how the game is actually played (with dice) and at first, it seems more like a chess game (which requires no apparatus beyond the game pieces). But as the game between Udo and El Quemado evolves, we see more details emerge relating to how the game is actually played. Also, Bolaño initially ties up the “game” sections of the novel into standalone set pieces (which can be skipped over cleanly), but once the balance of power begins to shift from Udo to El Quemado (and Ingeborg and Hanna leave, and Udo is alone), the “game” sections become more intertwined into the main narrative.

Historically, obviously, Germany is a losing position. Yet, Udo is a national champion gamesman, from Germany, playing the German side. Until he actually loses to El Quemado, he remains convinced that he can always prevail with the German side. But he believes this is more of a strategic declaration than sympathy for the Nazis. Udo even says “I’m a kind of anti-Nazi.” It’s El Quemado whose ambiguous heritage represents the Other, the victim and enemy of the Germans. Udo is trying to re-write history in the name of geographical strategy.

Udo finds himself in a real-world game. The other game pieces are trapping him on multiple fronts and, like his match with El Quemado, the balance of power begins to shift and he finds his control over the situation slipping away. “The Wolf” and “The Lamb” seem less people than game pieces. When they corner the maid, Clarita, in Udo’s hotel room, Udo notes “she took possession of a strategic spot next to the bed.” Udo sees everything as a game, a contest, the people merely players.

Like many other novels, and many other games, there is a lot of setup without a lot of action. Like a lot of wars and a lot of summer vacations, there is monotony, a hurry-up-and-wait mentality. The allure of The Third Reich is all about setting and geography and atmosphere and scenarios. And yet, the characters, the world Bolaño creates here, comes to life as much as The Savage Detectives or 2666.

 

Week 6: Characters

by Brooks Williams

Guadalupe Roncal
A reporter covering the murders in Santa Teresa that Fate meets in the bar of the hotel where most of the other sportswriters are staying (Sonora Resort) (295-296).  She says that investigating the murders is extremely dangerous.  She fears for her life.  Fate agrees to accompany her to visit the chief suspect in the murders.  Rosa Amalfitano accompanies Guadalupe and Fate to the prison to meet the killer (344).

Rosa Amalfitano
Meets Fate at the Fernández/Pickett fight (309).  Fate rescues her from Charly Cruz’s house and brings her back to his hotel (323).  Fate accompanies her to her house where he meets her father, treat Oscar Amalfitano (342-344).  At the request of her father (343), viagra Fate takes Rosa to the United States so that she can return to Spain (347).

Chucho Flores
A reporter covering the Fernández/Pickett fight.  He and Fate go to a bar after the press event at the Fernández event and meet Charly Cruz and Rosa Méndez (278-279).  Was Rosa Amalfitano’s boyfriend (329-337).

Charly Cruz
Friend of Chucho Flores. Owns three video stores (279).  Tells Fate the story of Robert Rodrigez’s first film (280-281).  Fate meets up with him again at the Fernández/Pickett fight and they (Chucho Flores, Charly Cruz, Rosa Amalfitano, Rosa Méndez, Juan Corona go back to Charly Cruz’s place where he shows Fate the Robert Rodriguez film (320).

Rosa Méndez
She has dated both Charly Cruz and Chucho Flores.  Fate finds her passed out on a bed in Charly Cruz’s house (232).  She appears to be Rosa Amalfitano’s only female friend.  She tells Rosa Amalfitano about sleeping with policemen (“…like being fucked by a mountain in a cave inside the mountain itself…”) and sleeping with narcos (“…like being fucked by the desert air…”) (328-329).


Minor Characters

Kahlil
Member of the Mohammedan Brotherhood (292).  Meets with Fate to discuss the Mohammedan Brotherhood.

Ibrahim
Member of the Mohammedan Brotherhood.  Meets with Fate to show the charitable work of the Brotherhood (293).

Juan Corona
Meets Fate at the Fernández/Pickett fight (309).  Appears to be dating Rosa Méndez.  Gets punched out by Fate (324).

The Fourth Man
A mysterious individual that rode with Fate on the way to Charly Cruz’s house (319).  He doesn’t speak.  If I had to guess, I suspect he was part of some kind of plot of Charly Cruz’s to rob/kidnap/murder/etc. the group that Charly Cruz has invited to his house. That would explain the checking of the watch – waiting for accomplices maybe?


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Osama Bin Laden
(1957 – ) – Leader of the terrorist organization al-Qaeda, best known for the September 11 attacks on the United States and numerous other mass-casualty attacks against civilian targets.

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Mohammed Atta
(1968 – 2001) – Member of al-Qaeda who participated in the September 11 attacks on the United States.

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Denzel Washington
(1954 – ) – African American Actor.  Portrayed Malcolm X in 1992’s Malcolm X.  Won an Academy Award for Best Actor in 2001 for Training Day.

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Barry Guardini – Fictional film director

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Professor J. Plateau – Professor at the University of Ghent (Belgium).  A defense of his “general Theory of the Visual Appearances which arise from the Contemplation of Coloured Objects” can be found here

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Wolfgang Paalen
(1905 – 1959) – Austrian-Mexican surrealist painter.  Created a technique called fumage in which the smoke from a candle or lap is used to create patterns on a canvas.  Paalen would them paint over these patterns using oils.

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David Lynch
(1946 – ) – American filmmaker, known for his surreal films.  Works of note include Blue Velvet, Lost Highway and Mullholland Drive.

Michael Jackson (1958 – 2009) – African-American singer and dancer.  Known as the King of Pop.

Week 5: Characters

by Brooks Williams

Quincy Williams (“Oscar Fate”)

Reporter for Black Dawn magazine in New York (242).  He has some kind of stomach trouble (243).  At work he receives a call that his mother, discount Edna Miller, health has died (231).  He is sent to Detroit to do a profile on Barry Seaman and attends Seaman’s sermon (243, help 246).  He is sent to Santa Teresa in Mexico to cover the fight between Count Pickett and Merolino Fernández (262).  Once in Mexico he joins a caravan of Mexican reporters to Merolino Fernández’s ranch outside of Santa Teresa (275).  Goes out to a bar with Chucho Flores where he meets Charly Cruz and Rosa Méndez (278-279).

Barry Seaman

A founder of the Black Panthers with Marius Newell.  Did time in prison.  Author of Eating Ribs with Barry Seaman (244).  Gives a sermon on Danger, Money, Food, Stars and Usefulness (246-256).

Antonio Ulises Jones

The last Communist in Brooklyn.  He is called Scottsboro Boy by the local kids (259).  Fate interviews him for his first piece for Black Dawn magazine.  Gives Fate a copy of The Slave Trade (260).

Count Pickett

A Harlem light heavyweight boxer (262).  He is fighting Merolino Fernández in Santa Teresa (272).

Albert Kessler

An old, white-haired man at the diner outside of Tuscon.  Kessler is talking to a young man named Edward about the murders in Santa Teresa (267). Kessler has caught someone named Jurevich in association with the murders (265).  Kessler is returning to Santa Teresa after a few years absence.

Lino (“El Merolino”) Fernández

Mexican boxer who will be fighting Count Pickett in Santa Teresa (272).

Omar Abdul

Another of Merolino Fernández’s sparring partners.  Black American from California (275).  Twenty-two years old (276).

Chucho Flores

A reporter covering the Fernández/Pickett fight.  He and Fate go to a bar after the press event at the Fernández event and meet Charly Cruz and Rosa Méndez (278-279).

Charly Cruz

Friend of Chucho Flores. Owns three video stores (279).  Tells Fate the story of Robert Rodrigez’s first film (280-281).

Rosa Méndez

She has dated both Charly Cruz and Chucho Flores.


Minor Characters

Edna Miller

Oscar Fate’s mother.  Her death opens The Part About Fate (231).

Mr. Tremayne

Works for the funeral home where Edna Miller’s funeral is held (233).

Mr. Lawrence

Works for the funeral home where Edna Miller’s funeral is held.  Mr. Lawrence coordinates the funeral with Fate (233).

Miss Holly

Edna Miller’s neighbor.  Has a heart attack while calling Fate to inform him that his mother is dead (231).

Jimmy Lowell

Formerly covered boxing for Black Dawn.  Is killed outside of Chicago (235).

Rosalind

Miss Holly’s daughter.  Fate meets her when he visits Miss Holly’s body (238).

Marius Newell

A co-founder of the Black Panthers with Barry Seaman (245).  Probably based on Huey Newton. He’s dead (247).

Anne Jordan Newell

Marius Newell’s mother.

Ronald K. Foster

Reverend at the church were Barry Seaman gives his speech (246).

Dick Medina

Chicano television reporter that Fate sees on TV while in Detroit.  Medina is reporting on the murders in Santa Teresa (258).

Jeff Roberts

Sports Editor at Black Dawn.  Sends Fate to Mexico to cover Count Pickett (262).

Víctor García

One of Merolino Fernández’s sparring partner.  He has an unsettling tattoo on his back (274).

López

Merolino Fernández’s manager (275).

Angel Martínez Mesa

Mexican reporter covering the Fernández/Pickett fight.  An older man who appears to be Chucho Flores’s mentor.  Fate has dinner with him and Flores (278).

Mr. Sol

Pickett’s manager.  Takes questions at Pickett’s press event (285).

Ralph

Report at Pickett’s press event.  Asks if Pickett has brought any women with him to Santa Teresa (285).

Chuck Campbell

Report for Sports Magazine.  Speaks to Fate in a bar before the Fernández/Pickett fight.  Explains that he knew Jimmy Lowell.

Fictional Character References

Sebastian D’Onofrio (246)
Jesse Brentwood (284)
Hércules Carreño (287)
Arthur Ashley (“The Sadist”) (287)

p251
Mao Zedong (1893 – 1976) – Chinese Communist leader and the first Chairman of the Communist Part of China.
Lin Piao (1907 – 1971) – Chinese Communist military leader and member of the PLO.  Helped put Mao Zedong in power but later attempted to overthrow Mao.
Henry Kissinger (1923 – ) – German-born American political scientist and diplomat.  Served under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State.  Recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973.
Richard Nixon (1913 – 1994) – American President  (1953-1961).
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Voltaire (1694-1778) – French enlightenment writer and philosopher.

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Hugh Thomas (1931 – ) – British Historian.  The author of The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1440-1870

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John Newton (1725 – 1807) –  English clergyman in the Anglican church.  Former slave-trader, later became an abolitionist with the publication of the pamphlet “Thoughts Upon the Slave Trade”.  Wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace”.

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Spike Lee (1957 – ) – African-American filmmaker.
Woody Allen (1935 – ) – American filmmaker.
Robert Rodriguez (1968 – ) – American filmmaker.

Week 4: Characters

by Brooks Williams

Amalfitano

Father of Rosa, for sale ex-husband of Lola (164).  Finds a copy of Testamento geométrico that he doesn’t remember buying or packing in a box of books when he arrives in Santa Teresa (185).  Clips it to the outdoor clothesline (190).  Begins to hear voices of his grandfather or father or maybe just a ghost.

Rosa

Amalfitano’s daughter (163).  Seventeen years old and Spanish.  Her mother is Lola (164).

Lola

Amalfitano’s ex-wife.  Rosa’s mother.  Always carries a switchblade (164).  Her favorite poet lives the insane asylum in Mondragón and she believes (although, visit web according to Amalfitano, purchase it isn’t true) that she had slept with the poet at a party.  Runs off with Imma to see the poet (166).  Is able to gain entry into the asylum on the third try and speaks to the Poet, meets Gorka (171).  Has a brief relationship with Larrazabál (175-179).  Has another son named Benoît (182).   Returns to Amalfitano after seven years (182-183).  Reveals that she was diagnosed with AIDS while in France (184).  Leaves again after a few days (184-185).

Inmaculada (“Imma”)

Friend of Lola, who calls her Imma.  Lesbian (167).  Travels with Lola to visit the poet in Mondragón.  Once they are able to meet with The Poet, she essentially stands against the wall, reading poems.  Their money runs out shortly afterward and Imma goes to make some money and never returns (175).

The Poet

Lives in an insane asylum in Mondragón (165).  Gay.  Heavily medicated.  Blows smoke rings “in the most unlikely shapes” (172).

Edurne

Friend of Inma.  Lola and Inma stay with her and her husband (Jon) when they first arrive in Mondragon.  She had been an ETA commando (171).

Gorka

The Poet’s doctor.  He is writing a biography of the Poet (173).  It is entirely possible that Gorka is just a patient at the asylum.

Larrazábal

A driver that picks up Lola on the road.  Takes her to the cemetery in Mondragón, where they have sex (175).  They run into each other again in the cemetery when he has brought another woman there (176-177).  Lola moves in with him and he becomes her lover, gives her money, takes her to the asylum (179).

Silvia Pérez

Professor.  She convinces Amalfitano to take the teaching job in Santa Teresa.  They meet in Buenos Aires and then later in Barcelona (199).  Has a 16 year-old son (204).  Amalfitano and Rosa accompany Silvia and her son on a trip (204-205).  She appears to have a romantic interest in Amalfitano.

Marco Antonio Guerra

Dean Guerra’s son.  Carries a gun.  He gives Amalfitano a ride home from the university, but first they go for a drink outside of Santa Teresa (214-216).  He likes to get into fights – both to give beatings and to get beat up.  He only reads poetry (226).

Week 3: Characters

by Brooks Williams

Augusto Guerra

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Letters in Saint Teresa, remedy makes the introduction to Amalfitano (112).

Oscar Amalfitano

Acts as a guide for Norton, Espinoza and Pelletier in Saint Teresa.  Translated The Endless Rose in 1974 (116).  He is from Chile.  The Critics are fond of him (130).  Norton’s initial impression “was of a sad man whose life was ebbing swiftly away…” (114).

“Exile must be a terrible thing,” said Norton sympathetically.

“Actually,” said Amalfirano, “now I see it as a natural movement, something that, in its way, helps to abolish fate, of 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.” (117)

Has a copy of Rafael Dieste ‘s Testamento geometrico hanging on his clothesline.

Appears to have a close relationship with Augusto Guerra’s son (128, 130).

Rector Negrete

Rector at the University of Santa Teresa.  Tall, lightly tanned (111).  Norton, Espinoza and Pelletier attend a party at his home (127).

Augusto Guerra

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Letters at the University of Santa Teresa (112).  Makes the introduction, by letter, between Amalfitano and Norton, Pelletier and Espinoza.

Doktor Koenig

“German” magician and member of the Circo Internacional in Santa Teresa.  Visited by Amalfitano and The Critics (132).  Turns out he’s an American named Andy Lopez.  His act entails making living things disappear – moving from small (flea) to large (child).

Albert Kessler

Mentioned (138).

Rebeca

Girl who sells rugs in the market.  High school age, wants to become a nurse (125).  Espinoza has a romantic relationship with her and takes her and her brother (Eulogio) under his wing.  She has a sister named Cristina (147).

Eulogio

Rebeca’s little brother (149).  Works with Rebeca in the market.


p60
Rodrigo Fresán (1963 – ) – Argentinian writer and journalist.  He was a close friend of Bolaño.

p103
Zócalo -A massive plaza in the center of Mexico City.  The word zócalo translates to “base” or “plinth”.

Plaza Santo Domingo – A plaza surrounding the Church of Santo Domingo in Mexico City.  In the plaza, writers can be found with typewriters, willing to draft legal documents, etc for illiterate people.  “Unfortunately, this area is also very well-known for the falsification of documents.”  (Maybe that’s why Archimboldi wanted to go there…)

Angel on Reforma – A victory column featuring a bronze angel (representing law, war, justice and peace) perched at the top.  The column is at the center of a roundabout in central Mexico City.  It was built to commemorate the centennial Mexico’s War of Independence.  It looks similar to the Victory Column in Berlin.

p105
Mikhail Bulgakov (1891 – 1940) – Russian novelist and playwright.  His most famous work is The Master and Margarita, a novel Bulgakov spent ten years writing and rewriting.  It was in its fourth draft when Bulgakov died and was finished by his wife in 1941.

Situationists – An international revolutionary group active from 1957 – 1972.  The situationists rejected capitalism and held that mass media manufactured a false reality that attempted to cover up the degradation of the working class at the hands of capitalism.

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Marcel Schwob (1867 – 1905) – French symbolist writer.  Translated Robert Louis Stevenson to French.
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 – 1894) – Scottish writer.  Author of Treasure IslandThe Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Kidnapped (among others).

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Silvio Berlusconi (1936 – ) – Italian Prime Minister and billionaire.

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Willie Nelson (1933 – ) – American country music singer and songwriter.

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Martin Heidegger (1889 – 1976) – Hugely influential German philosopher who questioned the fundamental question of “being”.

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Günter Grass (1927 – ) – German writer.  Nobel Prize (Literature) in 1999.
Arno Schmidt (1914 – 1979) – German author and translator.

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Franz Kafka (1883 – 1924) – German writer.  Notable works include The Metamorphosis and The Trial.
Peter Handke (1942 – ) – Austrian controversial avant-guard novelist and playwright.
Thomas Bernhard (1931 – 1989) – Austrian controversial playwright and novelist.

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PRI– The Industrial Revolutionary Party.  Formerly a socialist party, the PRI occupies the center-left of Mexican politics.  The PRI was the dominant political party in Mexico for much of the 20th century.
PAN– The National Action Party.  Theoretically neither a left or right-wing party, the PAN can generally be viewed in a christian context and thus currently occupies a place in Mexican right-wing politics.  The president of Mexico has been a member of the PAN since 2000.
Paul Valéry (1871 – 1945) – French symbolist poet.

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Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1894 – 1961) – French writer.  Real name was Louis-Ferdinand Destouches.  Notable works include Journey to the End of the Night.

Pierre Drieu La Rochelle (1893 – 1945) – French writer and Nazi collaborator.
Charles Maurras (1868 – 1952) – French writer.  Believed in fascism, but did not support Hitler and the Nazis

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The Gorgons – The children of Phorcys and Ceto.  “the term commonly refers to any of three sisters who had hair of living, venomous snakes, and a horrifying gaze that turned those who beheld it to stone. Traditionally, while two of the Gorgons were immortal, Stheno and Euryale, their sister Medusa was not, and was slain by the mythical hero Perseus.”

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Rafael Dieste (1899 – 1981) – Spanish writer.
Testamento geometrico – I found this

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Pierre Michon (1945 – ) – French writer.  Notable works include Small Lives and The Origin of the World.
Jean Rolin (1949 – ) – French writer and journalist.  Notable works include L’organisation.

Javier Marías (1951 – ) – Spanish novelist and translator.  Since 1986 all of his protagonists have been translators.  Notable works include A Heart So White.

Enrique Vila-Matas (1948 – ) – Spanish novelist.  Notable works include Bartleby & Co. and Montano’s Malady.


Week 2: Characters

by Brooks Williams

Alex Pritchard

Friend (maybe boyfriend) of Liz Norton. Secondary school teacher (70). He is insulted by Espinoza when Espinoza and Pelletier first meet him in Norton’s apartment (Espinoza calls him “badulaque” (66)). Thinks that “German Literature [is] a scam” (66). Pritchard later tells Pelletier to “beware of the Medusa” (69) in reference to Norton.

Vanessa

A whore to which Pelletier becomes attached. She has a son and a husband, information pills who is a Moroccan and a Muslim (81).

Edwin Johns

Painter who cuts off his own right hand and inserts it into his own painting (52-53). Credited with kicking off an artistic movement – the new decadence or English animalism (52).

Currently resides in a mental institution (the Auguste Demarre Clinic) in Switzerland (87). Has replaced his missing hand with one made of plastic (89).

Visited by Morini, thumb Espinoza and Pelletier on the suggestion of Morini (87-92). Delivers a monologue about coincidence and fate (90). Whispers to Morini why he cut off his hand (91).

The character of Edwin Johns may be loosely based on performance artist Pierre Pinoncelli.

The Gallery Owner

Owner of an unsuccessful gallery/bar/used clothing shop (located on Hyde Park Gate, near the Dutch embassy) where Norton brings Espinoza and Pelletier (87). The gallery/bar/shop is located in his grandmother’s former house. He claims that his grandmother haunts the place (97-98). He formerly lived in the Caribbean, where he learned to make margaritas and worked as a spy.

Rodolfo Alatorre

Young Mexican student/writer who seeks out Norton, Pelletier, Espinoza and Morini at a seminar in Toulouse. During a conversation with Morini, he mentions that a friend (Almendro) had met recently Archimboldi in Mexico (99).

Hector Enrique Almendro (“El Cerdo”)

Essayist, novelist, “cultural official”, friend/mentor to Rodolfo Alatorre. Allegedly meets Archimboldi in a hotel in Mexico City near the airport. Archimboldi may have gotten El Cerdo’s contact information from Mrs. Bubis, who he met at a party in Berlin (103).


Historical Characters

Page 34 Mnemosyne – The personification of memory in Greek mythology

Ulysses – Main character in The Odyssey. Spent ten years getting home after the Trojan War.

Eurylochus – Second in command on Ulysses’s ship in The Odyssey. Portrayed as cowardly and undermining Ulysses.

Zeus – In Greek mythology, Zeus is the king of all the gods.

Prometheus – Stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mortals. Punished for all eternity, tied to a rock while an eagle eats his liver – every day.

Page 39 Adolf Hitler (1889 – 1945) – German politician and head of the Nazi party. Chancellor of Germany from 1934–1945.

Page 41 the Fury – The physical embodiment of ancient gods, portrayed as horrific female figures, sent to punish mortals.

Hecate – Greco-Roman goddess associated with childbirth and nurturing the young, but also with ghosts, witchcraft and ghosts.
Page 52 Emma Waterson – Fictional person.

Page 60 Berthe Morisot (1841 – 1895) – French impressionist painter. Undervalued for over a century because of her sex.

Page 64 Jacob Epstein (1880 – 1956) – American born British sculptor. Pioneered modern sculpture.

Page 69 Medusa – A female monster of Greek mythology. A Gorgon. Anyone that looks at Medusa is instantly turned to stone.

Phorcys – Primodrial sea god of Greek mythology. Father of the Gorgons, husband of Ceto.

Ceto – Primordial sea goddess of Greek mythology. Mother of the Gorgons, wife of Phorcys.

The Gorgons – The children of Phorcys and Ceto. “the term commonly refers to any of three sisters who had hair of living, venomous snakes, and a horrifying gaze that turned those who beheld it to stone. Traditionally, while two of the Gorgons were immortal, Stheno and Euryale, their sister Medusa was not, and was slain by the mythical hero Perseus.”

Hesiod (~8th Century B.C.) – Ancient Greek poet. His work is a major source of Greek mythology.

Stheno – A female monster of Greek mythology. A Gorgon. Sister of Medusa and Euryale.

Euryale – A female monster of Greek mythology. A Gorgon. Sister of Medusa and Stheno.

Perseus – The first mythic hero of Greek mythology. Kills Medusa.

Chrysaor – The brother of Pegasus, son of Poseidon and Medusa. Born from the neck of Medusa when Perseus cut off her head. Often depicted as a winged boar.

Geryon – A giant with one head, three bodies and two arms. The grandson of Medusa, son of Chrysaor.

Pegasus – A winged horse, born from the blood of Medusa.

Page 73 Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) – Argentine writer, known mostly for short stories focusing on fantasy and dream worlds.

Charles Dickens (1812 – 1870) – Victorian English novelist. Among the most popular writers of all-time.

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 – 1894) – Scottish writer. Author of Treasure Island, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Kidnapped (among others).

Page 74 Salman Rushdie (1947 – ) – British Indian novelist. Notable works include Midnight’s Children and The Satanic Verses.

Valerie Solanas (1936 – 1988) – American radical feminist writer. Attempted to kill Andy Warhol in 1968. Her writings encouraged male gendercide and an all-female society.

Page 76 Anthony Perkins (1932 – 1992) – American actor, famous for playing Normal Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.

Page 87 Auguste Demarre – Fictional “late nineteenth-century Swiss politician or financier.”

Page 89 Hans Wette – Fictional painter

Page 95 G. K. Chesterton (1874 – 1936) – Influential English writer.

Father Brown – Literary character who appeared in 52 G. K. Chesterton short stories.

Page 96 Filippo Brunelleschi (1377 – 1446) – Italian architect and engineer during the Italian Renaissance

Page 99 Alfonso Reyes (1889 – 1959) – Mexican writer and philosopher.

Sor Juana (1648/51 – 1695) – Mexican writer. Early figure of Mexican literature.

Page 101 Voltaire (1694 – 1778) – French Enlightenment writer, famous for his advocacy of civil liberties.

Page 102 Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720 – 1778) – Italian Artist. Produced a set of prints called the Prisons, which influenced Romanticism and Surrealism.


Updates to Existing Entries

Jean-Claude Pelletier

Born 1961. Discovered Archimboldi (D’Arsonval) while studying German literature in Paris, Christmas 1980 at the age of 19 (3). Read Mitzi’s Treasure and then The Garden. Translated D’Arsonval into French in 1983. A professor of German in Paris (by 1986). Translated two other (unnamed) Archimboldi works. “…regarded almost universally as the preeminent authority on Benno von Archimboldi across the length and breadth of France” (4). Experiences a sort of rebirth while translating D’Arsonval. Not unlike the biblical story of Jacob wrestling with the angel (Genesis 32:22-32). “…first, that his life as he had lived it so far was over; second, that a brilliant career was opening up before him, and that to maintain its glow he had to persist in his determination, in sole testament to that garret.” (5) First met Morini in 1989 at a German literature conference. First met Espinoza in 1990 at a conference. First meets Norton in 1993 or 1994 (12). Realizes he loves Liz Norton (16) and is first to sleep with her after the meetings with Schnell and Mrs. Bubis in 1995 (30). Along with Espinoza, beats down a Pakistani cab driver in London and then steals the cab (73-74). Accompanies Morini and Espinoza to Switzerland to meet Ethan Johns (87-91).

Piero Morini

Born 1956, near Naples. Discovered Archimboldi in 1976. Translated Bifurcaria, Bifurcata to Italian in 1988. Shortly afterwards, published two studies – “one on the role of fate in Railroad Perfection, and the other on the various guises of conscience and guilt in Lethaea, on the surface an erotic novel, and in Bitzius, a novel less than one hundred pages long, similar in some ways to Mitzi’s Treasure…” (6). Also translated Saint Thomas in 1991. Has multiple sclerosis, “suffered [a] strange and spectacular accident that left him permanently wheelchair-bound.” (6) Teaches German literature at the University of Turin. First met Pelletier 1989 at a German literature conference. First met Espinoza in 1990 at a conference. First meets Norton in 1993 or 1994 (12). Goes with Espinoza and Pelletier to Switzerland to find Ethan Johns and ask why he (Johns) cut off his own hand (87-91). He disappears directly after the meeting and goes to London to visit Norton (92-97).

Manuel Espinoza

Younger than Pelletier and Morini (no date of birth given). Originally wanted to be a writer and studied Spanish literature. Had a brief period of interest in Ernst Jünger before becoming interested in German Literature. Completed his doctorate in German literature in 1990. Never translated any German author “since the glory he coveted was of the writer, not the translator.” (6) First met Morini and Pelletier in 1990 at a conference. First meets Norton in 1993 or 1994 (12). Realizes he loves Liz Norton (16) and sleeps with her after the meetings with Schnell and Mrs. Bubis (33-34). Along with Pelletier, beats down a Pakistani cab driver in London and then steals the cab (73-74). Accompanies Morini and Pelletier to Switzerland to meet Ethan Johns (87-91).

Some additional thoughts:

• Bolano infers that in The Sorrows of Young Werther Espinoza would find a “kindrid spirit” (6). As a plot device it infers that Espinoza is chasing a career in writing that he will never have and he ought to just murder that desire and get on with it. At the same time Espinoza’s character is illuminated – he is emotional and likely to perform mellow dramatic acts of passion that have grave consequences. Or maybe not.
• Espinoza seems fundamentally immature. Example – “He also discovered that he was bitter and full of resentment, that he oozed resentment, and that he might easily kill someone, anyone, if it would provide a respite from the loneliness and rain and cold of Madrid.” (7-8) I guess it’s supposed to reflect some kind of Spanish passion, but to me it just feels immature. Rather emo, really.

Liz Norton

Born 1968 in England (9). She is divorced (33). Discovered Archimboldi in 1998 when visiting Berlin – was loaned The Blind Woman by a friend. Later discovered Bitzius in a college library (9). Teaches German literature at a university in London. Not a full professor. Discovered by Pelletier, Morini, and Espinoza via an article in Literary Studies (#46) in 1993 or 1994. Met them around the same time at a conference (12). Has no close friends (44). Sleeps with Pelletier in 1995 (30). Some time afterwards sleeps with Espinoza (33-34). Introduces Ethan Johns to Morini through a story (51-54). In early 1997 she summons Espinoza and Pelletier to London in order to end her romantic involvement with them (57, 59).

Week 1: Characters

by Brooks Williams

Jean-Claude Pelletier

Born 1961. Discovered Archimboldi (D’Arsonval) while studying German literature in Paris, link Christmas 1980 at the age of 19 (3). Read Mitzi’s Treasure and then The Garden. Translated D’Arsonval into French in 1983. A professor of German in Paris (by 1986). Translated two other (unnamed) Archimboldi works. “…regarded almost universally as the preeminent authority on Benno von Archimboldi across the length and breadth of France” (4).

Experiences a sort of rebirth while translating D’Arsonval. Not unlike the biblical story of Jacob wrestling with the angel (Genesis 32:22-32). “…first, that his life as he had lived it so far was over; second, that a brilliant career was opening up before him, and that to maintain its glow he had to persist in his determination, in sole testament to that garret.” (5)

First met Morini in 1989 at a German literature conference. First met Espinoza in 1990 at a conference. First meets Norton in 1993 or 1994 (12).

Realizes he loves Liz Norton (16) and is first to sleep with her after the meetings with Schnell and Mrs. Bubis in 1995 (30).

Piero Morini

Born 1956, near Naples. Discovered Archimboldi in 1976. Translated Bifurcaria, Bifurcata to Italian in 1988. Shortly afterwards, published two studies – “one on the role of fate in Railroad Perfection, and the other on the various guises of conscience and guilt in Lethaea, on the surface an erotic novel, and in Bitzius, a novel less than one hundred pages long, similar in some ways to Mitzi’s Treasure…” (6). Also translated Saint Thomas in 1991.
Has multiple sclerosis, “suffered [a] strange and spectacular accident that left her permanently wheelchair-bound.” (6)
Teaches German literature at the University of Turin.
First met Pelletier 1989 at a German literature conference. First met Espinoza in 1990 at a conference. First meets Norton in 1993 or 1994 (12).

Manuel Espinoza

Younger than Pelletier and Morini (no date of birth given). Originally wanted to be a writer and studied Spanish literature. Had a brief period of interest in Ernst Jünger before becoming interested in German Literature. Completed his doctorate in German literature in 1990. Never translated any German author “since the glory he coveted was of the writer, not the translator.” (6)

First met Morini and Pelletier in 1990 at a conference. First meets Norton in 1993 or 1994 (12).

Realizes he loves Liz Norton (16) and sleeps with her after the meetings with Schnell and Mrs. Bubis (33-34).
Some additional thoughts:

• Bolano infers that in The Sorrows of Young Werther Espinoza would find a “kindrid spirit” (6). As a plot device it infers that Espinoza is chasing a career in writing that he will never have and he ought to just murder that desire and get on with it. At the same time Espinoza’s character is illuminated – he is emotional and likely to perform mellow dramatic acts of passion that have grave consequences. Or maybe not.

Espinoza seems fundamentally immature. Example – “He also discovered that he was bitter and full of resentment, that he oozed resentment, and that he might easily kill someone, anyone, if it would provide a respite from the loneliness and rain and cold of Madrid.” (7-8) I guess it’s supposed to reflect some kind of Spanish passion, but to me it just feels immature. Rather emo, really.

Liz Norton

Born 1968 in England (9). She is divorced (33). Discovered Archimboldi in 1998 when visiting Berlin – was loaned The Blind Woman by a friend. Later discovered Bitzius in a college library (9).

Teaches German literature at a university in London. Not a full professor. Discovered by Pelletier, Morini, and Espinoza via an article in Literary Studies (#46) in 1993 or 1994. Met them around the same time at a conference (12).
Has no close friends (44).
Sleeps with Pelletier in 1995 (30). Some time afterwards sleeps with Espinoza (33-34).

The Opposing Group of Archimboldians

Schwartz, Borchmeyer and Pohl (11) and later Dieter Hellfeld (37).

The Swabian

Unnamed, obscure German author that speaks at a 1995 penel discussion on contemporary German literature in Amsterdam. Tells a story about being a cultural promoter “for a Frisian town, north of Wilhelmshaven, facing the Black Sea coast and the East Frisian islands…” (18) where Archimboldi had come to do a reading.
Notes that Archimboldi had read two chapters from his second novel, a work in progress. His first novel, according to the Swabian, was short – between 100 and 125 pages [Lüdicke] . Archimboldi is 29 or 30 years old [so this is probably around 1950]. After the reading, the Swabian and Archimboldi go to dinner with a teacher and a widow. The latter tells a long story involving a gaucho, a horse race, and a riddle. By the next morning Archimboldi had disappeared.
The Swabian reappears via an article in the Reutlingen Morning News in which a bit more information is given about Archimboldi and the widow (38).

Schnell

Editor in chief of Archimboldi’s publisher (in Hamburg). Pelletier and Espinzoa visit him shortly after the encounter with the Swabian (and believe him to be gay) (24).

Mrs. Bubis

Widow of Archimboldi’s publisher (Mr. Bubis). Visited by Pelletier and Espinzoa. Tells a story about how the work of George Grosz affects her (joy) versus how it affects a critic friend (sorrow) (26-27).

Shares an odd review of Archimboldi’s first novel by someone named Schleiermacher (27-28).

Mr. Bubis

Archimboldi’s publisher. Knew (and was loved by) all of the famous German writers, according to his wife (26). Aside from the publicity director and the copy chief, he is the only person at the publishing house that had actually met Archimboldi in person (24).


Liz Norton’s Ex-Husband

“… six foot three and not very stable…”
“…the worst husband a woman could inflict on herself, no matter how you looked at it. (34)

“…a horribly violent monster, but one who never materialized…” (40)

Referenced again in an email from Norton to Morini (43).

The Stranger

First mention: (48)

The stranger sits next to Morini in a park in London while Morini is visiting Liz Norton (48).
“The stranger had straw-colored hair, graying and dirty, and must have weighed at least two hundred and fifty pounds.” (48)

The stranger worked for a mug company that shifted their focus from text to pictures. This shift made the man very unhappy and he quit his job. He said that it was the new modernness of that caused his unhappiness (“they’re destroying me inside”) (49-50).

He asked Morini to read him some recipes from the book Morini is reading (Il libro di cucina di Juana Inés de la Cruz) (50-51)

Historical Characters

  • Page 6
    • Friedrich Hölderlin (1770 – 1843) – German Romantic poet. A Swabian (!!)
    • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) – German writer and polymath. Famous works: Faust, The Sorrows of Young Werther. Interesting trivia – the second part of Faust was published posthumously.
    • Friedrich Schiller (1759 – 1805) – German poet and playwright. Schiller was buddies with Goethe from 1794 until his death. A Swabian (!!)
    • Ernst Jünger (1895 – 1998) – German writer. A leader (?) in the Conservative Revolutionary movement of the 1920’s. Among the forerunners of magical realism (which would be later used to great acclaim by Gabriel García Márquez).
  • Page 7
    • Camilo José Cela (1916 – 2002) – Spanish writer. Fought on the side of Franco in the Spanish Civil War. Nobel Prize (Literature) in 1989.
    • William James (1842 – 1910) – American psychologist and philosopher.
  • Page 10
    • Heinrich Heine (1797 – 1856) – German Romantic Poet (assumed reference here, only the last name is used in the text)
    • Arno Schmidt (1914 – 1979) – German author and translator.
  • Page 11
    • Miguel de Unamuno (1864 – 1936) – Spanish essayist, novelist, poet, playwright and philosopher
  • Page 12
  • Page 19
    • Gustav Heller, Rainer Kuhl, Wilhelm Frayn – invented authors
  • Page 26
    • Chaim Soutine (1893 – 1943) – “… Jewish, expressionist painter from Belarus. He has been interpreted as both a forerunner of Abstract Expressionism and as a proponent of painting in the European tradition”
    • Wassily Kandinsky (1866 – 1944) – Russian painter. Early abstract painter
    • George Grosz (1893 – 1959) – German artist. Known for caricature work in his early career. A member of the Verist-wing of the New Objectivists group.
    • Oskar Kokoschka (1886 – 1980) – Austrian expressionist painter
    • James Ensor (1860 – 1949) – Belgian painter
    • Thomas Mann (1875 – 1955) – German writer. Nobel Prize (Literature) 1929. Younger brother of Heinrich Mann.
    • Heinrich Mann (1871 – 1950) – German writer. Exiled in 1933. Older brother of Thomas Mann
    • Klaus Mann (1906 – 1949) – German writer. Son of Thomas Mann. It’s notable that each mentioned member of the Mann family lost their German citizenship between 1933 and 1936 and ended up living (and dying) in the US.
    • Alfred Döblin (1878 – 1957) – German expressionist novelist. Heavily influenced Günter Grass.
    • Hermann Hesse (1877 – 1962) – German born Swiss writer. Nobel Prize (Literature) 1946.
    • Walter Benjamin (1892 – 1940) – “a German-Jewish Marxist philosopher-sociologist, literary critic, translator and essayist”
    • Anna Seghers (1900 – 1983) – German writer.
    • Stefan Zweig (1881 – 1942) – Austrian writer.
    • Bertolt Brecht (1868 – 1956) – German poet and playwright
    • Lion Feuchtwanger (1884 – 1958) – German novelist and playwright
    • Johannes Becher (1891 – 1958) – German expressionist writer and politician.
    • Oskar Maria Graf (1894 – 1967) – German writer. Sometimes used a pseudonym – Oskar Graf-Berg.
    • Hans Fallada (1893 – 1947) – German writer. Born Rudolf Wilhelm Friedrich Ditzen.
    • Marlene Dietrich (1901 – 1992) – German-born American actress and singer.
  • Page 42
    • Charles Baudelaire (1821 – 1867) – French poet and translator. “Baudelaire’s name has become a byword for literary and artistic decadence.”
  • Page 44
    • Marquis de Sade (1740 – 1814) – French aristocrat and writer, famous for his erotic novels.
  • Page 47

Misc. References

The Sorrows of Young Wertherpublished 1774, written by Johann Wolfgang con Goethe. Plot summary is essentially that there’s this dude (Werther, a thinly disguised Goethe) who falls in love with this girl (Charlotte) but she’s already with another guy (Albert). Regardless, Werther becomes very close to Charlotte and Albert. The marriage of Charlotte and Albert cause Werther all kinds of mental anguish and after Charlotte sends him away, Werther commits suicide.

Huguenot (38) – “…members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France (or French Calvinists) from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. Since the eighteenth century, Huguenots have been commonly designated ‘French Protestants’, the title being suggested by their German co-religionists or ‘Calvinists’. “

Some Additional Notes On The Works Of Archimboldi:

D’Arsonval – possibly a reference to Jacques-Arsène d’Arsonval, who was a French physicist. The D’Arsonval phenomenon is commonly referred to as the Tesla Current (“An alternating current having a frequency of 10 kilohertz or greater produces no muscular contractions and does not affect the sensory nerves”). Remember that this is the first Archimboldi that Pelletier reads and is also the first that he translates from German to French. We’ll discuss this more next week…

Saint ThomasThomas the Apostle was known mostly for disbelieving in Jesus’s resurrection (John 20:28). The phrase “doubting Thomas” finds its origins in Saint Thomas. It is Morini that translates this work – I wonder if there’s any significance?

LethaeaLethaea – From Wikipedia:

“a mythological character briefly mentioned in Ovid‘s Metamorphoses. Due to her vanity, she was turned to stone at Ida by the gods. Her lover Olenus wished to share in the blame, and so shared her fate. The story is used a metaphor for how stunned Orpheus was after a failed attempt to bring back his wife from the underworld. It was as if he too were turned to stone.”

Again, this work is linked to Morini through a paper he authored on “on the various guises of conscience and guilt in Lethaea, on the surface an erotic novel…” The paper also uses Bitzius as a primary reference.

Bifurcaria, Bifurcata – Some science-y stuff here – Bifurcaria is a source of unique diterpenoids which may prove pharmaceutically beneficial. In one preliminary study, an extract of Bifurcaria bifurcata halted the proliferation of cancer cells. This work of Archimboldi was also translated by Morini, who has multiple sclerosis. So maybe there’s a link between this stuff that might offer some kind of cancer relief and the one character that’s confined to a wheelchair? Also, Bifurcaria, Bifurcata makes me think of Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! mostly for the sound and the shape of the words.

Bitzius – Probably a reference to Albert Bitzius, who wrote under the pen name Jeremias Gotthelf. All we know of Bitzius is that it’s a short novel, less than 100 words. More of a novella, really. This one is tied to Morini again, but I don’t see a clear connection within the context of 2666.





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