Week 1: Dreams

By Daryl L. L. Houston

Our first encounter with dreams in 2666 isn’t so much an encounter as a brush-by. On page 14, we’re told that Morini may have dreamed some horrible unrecollected dream.

On page 22, we have another non-dream, but a sleep disturbance, as the Frisian lady in the gaucho story the Swabian recounts is kept up one night, tossing and turning as she tries to unpuzzle the gaucho’s son’s revelation that her husband’s horse racing victories had been fixed.
Yet another false-start on the dream front is the sort of hypnotic state Norton enters after sex with Espinoza, as revealed on page 34.
Another curious episode could be construed to be a dream (pp. 35 – 36). Morini apparently wakes up blind one morning. After making his way over to the window he had been gazing out the night before and having a dizzy spell, he goes back to bed and wakes up an hour later with sight, then calmly goes about his morning. The episode is presented matter of factly as if it happened as described, but it’s tempting to suggest that Morini merely dreamed the blindness.
On page 40, we have again not a dream proper, but mention of dreaming: “with her words Norton managed to give substance to a being whom neither Espinoza nor Pelletier had ever seen, as if her ex existed only in their dreams.”
Finally, starting on page 45, we have not just a dream, but a full-fledged nightmare on Morini’s part. The three male scholars are playing cards around a stone table while Norton is diving into a pool situated behind Espinoza and Pelletier, who are absorbed in the game. As he plays, Morini watches people in the area, and they begin to leave. Pelletier seems to be winning the card game. Morini abandons the game and wheels himself to the edge of the pool, which turns out to be huge, with oily patches here and there. He’s looking for Norton. A fog appears, and suddenly the pool empties and turns out to be very deep. He sees a female figure at the bottom, and she starts to make her way to a rock jutting from the edge of the pool. Meanwhile, he senses someone behind him that he believes to be evil and who wants him to turn and look at his/her face. He backs away but finally turns and sees a young Norton’s face. He wonders who’s walking in the bottom of the pool and feels “deeply and inconsolably sad.” He turns to face Norton, and she says “There’s no turning back,” apparently via telepathy. She repeats it in German and turns paradoxically and walks away into a forest giving off a red glow. Note this utterance of Norton’s alongside Morini’s own thought, expressed on page 43, that nothing is ever behind us.

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14 Responses to “Week 1: Dreams”

  • […] it, I’m basically a secretary of sorts and am just keeping an analysis-free log of dreams. My first listing was posted today. I’m a little conflicted regarding whether to cross-post them here or not. […]

  • Comment from Todd Murry

    I’m a bit ahead in the reading (don’t worry, I’ll be behind soon enough… it happened with IJ too) and the dream beginning on page 45 is the first of several times I thought of David Lynch. Specifically, it was the mentioning of the presence of evil that wants you to look in its face. There are several “transfixing faces” of evil in the Lynch canon, including Bob (I’m thinking specifically of scenes where he slowly crawls toward someone, gaze fixed… towards Donna at her house and towards Laura in Fire Walk with Me) and the man behind the Winkie’s in Mulholland Drive. There are more definitive Lynch links later on (especially Twin Peaks), but this was the first I noticed. Maybe this is just the synchronicity of two miners of the unconscious mind.

  • Comment from Daryl

    Todd, I was reading just the other day about Bolaño and Lynch, and I think you’re probably right that there are some legitimate links there (Bolaño mentions him here and there). Substitute movie producers in for literature critics and you’ve got what seems to me a very Lynchian sort of view here of the occasional bizarre (stay tuned) mixed in with the sort of myopic, insider world that Lynch sometimes portrays. Glad you spotted the particular example and brought Lynch up.

  • Comment from brooks

    Daryl – wondering if you have any insight into Morini’s dream? The first part makes some sense, Pelletier and Espinoza are caught up in their own game of chasing Liz Norton. They’re so deep into it that they don’t notice that Morini was never really much into the game or that he’s left the game. Norton diving into the pool… I don’t have much there and I don’t make much sense of the rest of the dream other than I loved the writing and the imagery of it all.

    • Comment from Daryl

      I don’t have a tidy interpretation prepared. I started to sit down and try to suss it out last night but latched onto something else instead and never got back to it. The tricky thing about writing about the dreams is that it’s sometimes hard to know (having read 2666 before) what you can say without tipping off things later in the book. It seems safe enough to say that the dream positions Pelletier and Espinoza in a sort of blind competition, while Morini — who has already been set apart from the two other men in the quadrangle almost as a sort of outsider — is more tuned into or linked up with (and yet also oddly afraid of) Norton. This I think may be part of what the dream is trying to accomplish. There’s another dream (Pelletier’s, also about Norton) in the next section, and I may be better able to write something of an explication then that will tie the two together in some way. Thanks for asking. 🙂

  • Comment from Jimmy

    The last part of the dream could very well mean something, brooks. But maybe it’s not meant to mean something. I mean, how many times have you had a dream that totally makes sense from beginning to end, in that you can understand exactly why you dreamt it, and what it means in real life? If Bolano was going for any kind of verisimilitude, then perhaps he wouldn’t have made the entire dream easily interpretable, but rather just convey a certain unexplainable feeling?

  • Comment from matt mc

    Interesting that you bring up Lynch. The very first thing that came to my mind when Morini felt that the person behind him wanted him to look at his/her face was the man behind Winkie’s in Mulholland Drive. It’s even more interesting now that I know Bolano was apparently aware of Lynch’s work.

  • Comment from rise

    Possible too that Bolaño was influenced by Borges’s ideas on dreams, derived from Groussac and Coleridge and other poets. In the lecure of Borges on ‘Nightmares’ (from the book Seven Nights), Borges mentioned that, although we might wish otherwise, in dreams what is important is not the images but the impressions produced by them: “The images are minor; they are effects.” And also two ideas: first, dreams are part of waking; and the other idea, the splendid one, the belief of the poets: that all of waking is a dream. And then Borges mentioned that there is no difference between these two ideas. He gave some brilliant examples from literature, then ended with a speculation about the particular horror of nightmares, which is beyond the horror of the waking life, and which can be expressed by any story, a horror that has something more to it (the “flavor” of the nightmare). I may not be communicating this well by culling ideas from the lecture, best to read it in whole. Anyway, Borges’s theological/supernatural speculation at the end is also scary: “What if nightmares were cries from hell? What if nightmares literally took place in hell? Why not? Everything is so strange that even this is possible.”

    • Comment from Susan Zenger

      Thanks for pointing this out about Borges and dreams. Sounds like a very interesting lecture and one worth digging up. I like that concept of the “flavor” of dreams as opposed to the specific imagery that needs to be explained and labeled. I got that feeling about Liz Norton’s “peyote tea” vision/experience description: it was the feeling he evoked with it; normalcy– sliding into a hyper surreal dialectic of the senses:sight and sound. I felt like I was an ant on the ground witnessing, hearing the drops of rain and the ground conversing. Then, poof, the peyote comments snaps you back into reality.
      I’m reading the book in Spanish and I keep getting a Borges “flavor” even if their styles are utterly different.

      • Comment from Terrell Williamson

        Funny you should say their styles are so different. I’m limited to reading both of them (Bolano and Borges) in translation. The tone seems quite similar in translation. This is quite subjective, but I have the same feeling as I read both of them. I would certainly be interested in others thoughts in this vain. I would especially be interested in comments from those reading in the original language.

  • Comment from Jimmy

    Very interesting points about Borges and Lynch. It reminded me that just recently I read a Bolano short story that is entirely a dream. It might bear further study in the future if we want to talk about Bolano’s concept of dreams. It’s available here, and is a quick read: Meeting with Enrique Lihn

  • Comment from marc nash

    I finished the novel yesterday and so I hope the generality expressed about dreams throughout the book won’t be regarded as a ‘spoiler’. But I just do not get Bolano’s use of dreams here. They are offered up ungarnished, uncommented on (By the author /characters) and just left hanging. One’s tendency in literature is to interpret. The same goes double for dreams with all the theories on where they derive from and what their symbology means. But Bolano does not clue us in and because of the subverted logic of dreams, they stand as little isolated roadblocks in the text for a reader to navigate around to rejoin the narrative. Please illuminate me as to what Bolano’s intention might have been?

    • Comment from Daryl

      Yes, the dreams do seem sometimes to just hang out there. I’m developing an impression that they’re sort of forward-looking, and I hope that by tracking them explicitly and eventually looking at them all together at the end, I’ll be able to make some sense of them. I do know that Bolaño is considered to be something of a symbolist, and we know from the epigraph if nothing else that he’s tuned into the work of Baudelaire (another symbolist). We also know that dreams in literature tend to be symbolic. So I think there’s something there; we just have to work a little to pull anything comprehensible out of it. And if it turns out not to be altogether comprehensible, well, I guess we’ll chalk it up to mimesis, as dreams often work that way.

  • Comment from reply

    i get the impression that the dreams don’t have meaning but they give an idea of what the mood is like in that character’s head. confused or inspired or terrified. the clash of contexts in the dreams help give the book its mysteriousness and strange elusive feel. say i.

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