New Story: William Burns

The New Yorker has posted a new Bolaño story called “William Burns.”

It’s unclear (right now, there to me) if this is part of some other draft of 2666 or just tangentially related, website like this but it sure reads like an excerpt from a later section of the novel. Note that it is translated by Chris Andrews and not Natasha Wimmer.

William Burns, viagra from Ventura, California, told this story to my friend Pancho Monge, a policeman in Santa Teresa, Sonora, who passed it on to me. According to Monge, the North American was a laid-back guy who never lost his cool, a description that seems to be at odds with the following account of the events. In Burns’s own words:

It was a dreary time in my life. I was going through a rough patch at work. I was supremely bored, though up till then I’d always been immune to boredom.

Week 2: The White Hind

by Maria Bustillos

So this morning I came across my loveliest find in the book so far. Pelletier and Espinoza are finally forced to discuss their joint and several loss of Norton at the symposium in Mainz. Everybody has left the bar, cure and Pelletier finally brings up the subject of Norton. How is she? Espinoza confesses that he does not know. The white phone in her apartment “floated in their conversation.” Then:

Oh white hind, little hind, white hind, murmured Espinoza.

(What a strange, pretty phrase!)

“Pelletier assumed he was quoting a classic […]”

Since I am attuned to the subject of quotation/rewriting in this book (see my earlier post,) I made haste to source this quote. My first instinct was to look up what I remembered of the phrase, “the white hind,” in English. On a Wiccan site I read that “According to Celtic myth, Otherworld deities sent a white hind or stag to guide chosen humans into their realm.” (

And then, the White Hind is an old image of purity and immortality; an image of the pursued beast, eternally pursued, as in Dryden’s “The Hind and the Panther” (okay so the Hind also symbolizes the Catholic church, here, but still):

A milk-white Hind, immortal and unchang’d,

Fed on the lawns, and in the forest rang’d;

Without unspotted, innocent within,

She fear’d no danger, for she knew no sin.

Yet had she oft been chas’d with horns and hounds

And Scythian shafts; and many winged wounds

Aim’d at her heart; was often forc’d to fly,

And doom’d to death, though fated not to die.

Then I thought I’d better check the Spanish for this phrase, and it turns out that “La Cierva Blanca” is a freaking beautiful poem by Borges—a poem that came to him in a dream! A poem transcribed from the dream of a beautiful, fleeting, “one-sided” English hind. No, seriously. I am so blown away by beauty and complexity of this book, for I could quite easily have swept past this phrase without pausing; what else am I missing? (I haven’t even begun to unpack the Borges poem, really. What is the Persian reference, here?)

Here is the poem, in the original and in translation, and I promise you that it will knock your socks off.


¿De qué agreste balada de la verde Inglaterra,
De qué lámina persa, de qué región arcana
De las noches y días que nuestro ayer encierra,
Vino la cierva blanca que soñé esta mañana?
Duraría un segundo. La vi cruzar el prado
Y perderse en el oro de una tarde ilusoria,
Leve criatura hecha de un poco de memoria
Y de un poco de olvido, cierva de un solo lado.
Los númenes que rigen este curioso mundo
Me dejaron soñarte pero no ser tu dueño;
Tal vez en un recodo del porvenir profundo
Te encontraré de nuevo, cierva blanca de un sueño.
Yo también soy un sueño fugitivo que dura
unos días más que el sueño del prado y la blancura.

In English:


From what rustic ballad out of green England,
from what Persian picture, from what secret zone
of nights and days that our yesterday encloses,
came the white hind I dreamed this morning?
It lasted only a second. I saw it cross the meadow
and lose itself in the gold of an illusive evening,
a slight creature made from a pinch of memory
and a pinch of forgetfulness, a one-sided hind.
The gods that govern this peculiar world
let me dream you but not be your master;
perhaps at a bend in the deep time to come
I’ll find you again, white hind of a dream.
I too am a fleeting dream that lasts
a few days longer than dreams of meadows and whiteness.


Week 2: pages 51-102

When we left off at the end of week 1, what is ed Morini was sitting in more about +Italian+Gardens&sll=51.506178,-0.207367&sspn=0.200873,0.408554&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Buckingham+Palace+Gardens&ll=51.508208,-0.160203&spn=0.006611,0.012767&t=h&z=16&layer=c&cbll=51.51013,-0.157141&panoid=D96-RJWRNaCmc6kloBm_Uw&cbp=12,212.42,,0,-7.25″>Hyde Park reading Sor Juana’s recipes aloud to a stranger. The next day, Liz Norton tells Morini the story of the tortured artist Edwin Johns, who cut off his own hand and then went mad. Clearly Johns’ story is a metaphor for an idea about the role of the artist, but what do we make of the role of the critic in relation to the artist? Why are these literary critics suddenly talking about painters?

We also learn about the article a Serbian critic published in Pelletier’s academic journal. The Serb’s article details the life of Archimboldi, mainly to confirm Archimboldi’s human, worldly existence. The four critics search for tiny clues in this article and offer their own interpretations of what those clues might mean in terms of where Archimboldi might be located at this very moment and even what Archimboldi might look like.

Liz Norton feels a need to change her life and effectively breaks up with both Pelletier and Espinoza. Despite some awkwardness at subsequent conferences, the two cannot be enemies and remain good friends. Three months later, they decide to pay a visit to Norton in London and then they meet Alex Pritchard. There is some name-calling and tension, but Pritchard leaves them alone. On a later visit, Pritchard tells Pelletier that Norton is The Medusa.

Pelletier and Espinoza continue to worry about the role of love and sex in their lives and what future the pursuit of either brings. In the midst of this, things take a turn toward the dark side. Pelletier and Espinoza get into an argument with a Pakistani cab driver in London and beat the man within an inch of his life. The two critics never felt more alive. Pelletier and Espinoza turn to prostitutes. Pelletier becomes involved with a prostitute named Vanessa. When Pelletier tells Espinoza about this involvement, Espinoza responds: “Whores are there to be fucked—not psychoanalyzed.”

The critics (minus Morini) unite in London and Espinoza tells Norton about the time that the three of them, oh yeah, went to Switzerland to see Edwin Johns. Morini asked Johns why he (Johns) cut off his own hand. Johns leans over and whispers in Morini’s ear and walks away. The next day, Morini has disappeared, fled back home to Italy without saying goodbye. Pelletier and Espinoza cannot reach him by phone for days. Norton tells them that during that time Morini has been in London. Morini tells Norton that Johns cut off his hand “for money.”

During a seminar in Toulouse, the critics meet a Mexican scholar named Rodolfo Alatorre. Alatorre tells Morini that one of his friends in Mexico City saw Archimboldi just the other day. Alatorre tells the story of El Cerdo (the poet Almendro) being called to Archimboldi’s hotel room, to rescue the old German. In the brief glimpse we have of El Cerdo and Archimboldi together, El Cerdo seems like the more charismatic and interesting person because the narration is from his point of view only. Bolaño does not give us access to any of Archimboldi’s thoughts or motivations. Go figure.

Nicole reports that there are no deaths to count this week. However, the gallery owner on page 97 mentions the death of his grandmother, who left him the gallery and may now be haunting it.

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