Week 3: Dreams

by Daryl L.L. Houston

114: Pelletier dreams of his hotel toilet, viagra 40mg which has a large chunk missing (which can only be seen to be missing when you lift the seat). The toilet is in fact broken (outside the dream). In the dream, a muffled noise wakes Pelletier and he gets up naked and sees from under the door that someone has turned on the bathroom light. At first he thought it was Norton or Espinoza, but somehow he figures that it can’t have been either of them. When he opens the door, the bathroom is empty, and there’s blood smeared on the floor and shit crusted on the bathtub and shower curtain. The shit bothers him more than the blood does, and he wakes up as he begins to retch.

114: Espinoza dreams a desert painting in his hotel room. The people on horseback in the painting are moving almost imperceptibly, “as if they were living in a world different from ours, where speed was different.” There were also barely audible voices, and he recognized just a few stray words (“quickness,” “urgency,” “speed,” “agility”), which “tunneled through the rarefied air of the room like virulent roots through dead flesh.” One of the voices says “Our culture. Our freedom,” and Espinoza wakes in a sweat.

115: Norton dreams of herself reflected in dim light between two mirrors across from one another in her hotel room. She was dressed in a retro suit of the like she hardly ever wore in real life. She hears a noise in the hall and thinks someone may have tried to open her door. She suddenly realizes that the woman reflected in the mirror isn’t her, though she looks just like her. The woman has a swollen, pulsing vein in her neck. Norton tries to figure out where in the room the woman is standing but can’t. She notices that the woman’s head is turning almost imperceptibly and reasons that if her head keeps turning, they’ll eventually see each other’s faces (compare to Morini’s dream much earlier in the book). As she waits, watching the woman’s head turn slowly, she thinks of her comrades and of Morini, of whom the only image she can conjure is an empty wheelchair and a huge forest that she finally recognizes as Hyde Park. When she opens her eyes, they meet the gaze of the reflected woman at an indeterminate point in the room. Norton begins to cry in sorrow or fear and realizes that the reflected woman is just like her but is dead. The woman smiles and then displays a grimace of fear, causing Norton to look behind her and find no one there. A sequence of “expressions of madness” begin to appear on the woman’s face, and Norton begins taking notes in a notebook “as if her fate or her share of happiness on earth depended on it” until she wakes up.

118: Bolaño teases us by wondering what might have happened had the three not been met by Amalfitano the next morning and had shared their nightmares instead. It lends a particular significance to this series of nightmares, which do seem oddly linked and disturbing. Yet the notion that something of real significance might come to light out of their discussing the dreams seems curious.

130: All three have nightmares again attributed in a vague way, as if not really with any conviction, to the barbecue they had eaten, reminding me of Scrooge’s gob of mustard or whatever before his trio of nightmares. Individual dreams described below.

131: Pelletier dreams of an indecipherable page.

131: Norton dreams of an English oak that she picks up and moves from place to place in the countryside. Sometimes the oak had no roots and at other times “it trailed long roots like snakes or the locks of a Gorgon.”

131: Espinoza dreams about a girl who sells rugs and whom he wishes to tell something important and to rescue from St. Teresa, but her ever-moving arms prevent him from doing so.

146: In her long letter to Pelletier and Espinoza, Norton makes reference (without mentioning the dream) to the mirrors in her hotel room. She then says that on the night of her arrival home, she had no dreams at all, which statement suggests that the lack of dreams was an oddity or that dreams and nightmares had become a common enough thing that their absence was worth noting.

155: Espinoza is worried about Pelletier and has his hotel room broken into. Pelletier is sleeping deeply. It turns out he was having a dream about being on vacation in the Greek islands. He rents a boat and meets a boy who dives all day in water that was alive.

155: Norton has joined Morini in Turin, sleeping in his guest room. A thunderclap wakes her up, whether real or in her dream she doesn’t know. She thinks she sees Morini and his wheelchair silhouetted at the end of the hallway, but then she realizes that she actually sees Morini in the sitting room with his back to her and his wheelchair in the hallway. She wakes and goes to Morini’s room to find him sleeping. She’s very upset and insists that what she had seen in her dream was real. She seems especially upset that his back was to her (recall Morini’s very early dream, in which he’s afraid to turn around to face the woman looking at him from behind). After hashing the dream out with Morini, she finally lets it go and laughs it off. This dream, with its components of uncertainty as to what actually took place and how much of it took place within the dream and how much without (the thunderclap), reminds me of Morini’s blind spell earlier in the book that I recorded as somewhat dreamlike and as possibly in fact (though not explicitly described as) a dream.

EDIT: I highly recommend you read Daryl’s catalog of dream motifs and concepts over at Infinite Zombies.–Matt

Week 3: Pages 102–159

This week brings us to the end of The Part About the Critics. I’ll be a little sad to see them go. We pick up with the end of El Cerdo’s story about meeting Archimboldi in the Mexico City hotel. Archimboldi tells El Cerdo that he’s flying to Hermosillo, seek Sonora, and going to Santa Teresa. The state of Sonora shares most of its US border with the state of Arizona. Even though we know that Santa Teresa is a fictionalized version of Ciudad Juárez, Bolaño has relocated the city from the state of Chihuahua (just across the border from El Paso, Texas) to Sonora.

Ciudad Juárez / Santa Teresa is the location of the series of murders profiled later in The Part About the Crimes, but the real Juárez is still wracked by violence and death. Just this past weekend, the state government moved from the city of Chihuahua to Juárez to try to better combat the near-constant crime. Last fall, Juárez’s high murder rate gave it the distinction of being The Deadliest City in the World.

Morini decides not to make the trip to Mexico. He regularly travels around Europe, so his disability is not the issue. He compares his ill health to that of Marcel Schwob, who traveled to the grave of Robert Louis Stevenson in 1901. Schwob was a French writer who idolized the Scottish Stevenson. But:

When he got to Samoa, after many hardships, he didn’t visit Stevenson’s grave. Partly because he was too sick, and partly because what’s the point of visiting the grave of someone who hasn’t died? Stevenson—and Schwob owed this simple revelation to his trip—lived inside him.

Morini’s decision proves to be wise. Just as Schwob did not see Stevenson’s grave in Samoa, the critics do not see any trace of Archimboldi in Mexico. Morini has had this same revelation about Archimboldi without having to physically seek it out.

Shortly after the critics meet Amalfitano, they learn that he translated an Archimboldi novel (The Endless Rose) into Spanish for an Argentinian publisher in 1974 (p. 116). When the critics ask him what he was doing in Argentina in 1974, Amalfitano said it was “because of the coup in Chile, which had obliged him to choose the path of exile.” Bolaño himself had been born in Chile, moved to Mexico as a teenager, and then moved back to Chile in 1973 to participate in Allende’s revolution. On September 11, 1973, Agosto Pinochet led a coup d’etat against Allende and the Chilean government. Almost all political dissidents, including Bolaño, were rounded up and arrested. The coup of September 11 is the defining event of Roberto Bolaño’s life. Like Amalfitano, he leads a life of exile from that time forward.

“Exile must be a terrible thing, said Norton sympathetically.
“Actually,” said Amalfitano, “now I see it as a natural movement, something that, in its way, helps to abolish fate, or what is generally thought of as fate.”

Next week we discuss The Part About Amalfitano. The whole Part is one 65-page chunk so we’ll try to cover it all in one week. Thanks for sticking around this far.

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