Week 4: The Part About Amalfitano

It’s President’s Day here in the US and I have the day off from work and so I haven’t fully prepared our overview of the Part About Amalfitano yet. It’s all coming later today or tomorrow. BUT one of our excellent followers has this great recap (and a beautiful image). I encourage you all to check it out:


And I encourage you to post your thoughts about Amalfitano and Lola & Rosa in the forums.

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10 Responses to “Week 4: The Part About Amalfitano”

  • Comment from Dan Summers

    For any interested parties, my thoughts on the Part About Amalfitano here:

  • Comment from maryb

    I’ve been reading along and blogging. This is actually the first section I’ve enjoyed very much. Anyone interested here is link to my posts.

  • Comment from Steve

    Allotting one week to The Part About Amalfitano because it is the shortest part was an innocent mistake. It may be the shortest part, but it is by far the densest part.

    For one addicted to the use of a Hi-Liter® as I am and speaking from my own experience, I suggest that one immediately highlight the whole thing, each and every word, and get that out of the way. Then throw the Hi-Liter® aside, and go back and read the thing all in yellow.

    There are many who consider The Part About Amalfitano to be so much angst-ridden tripe. I am in no position to dispute that. I have read Dan’s blunt appraisal of it, and I appreciated its honesty. I have read an initial reaction set out at iloveyousomething.com, wherein clearly, some of the right questions are asked.

    Upon completion of the The Part About Amalfitano, a reader may have come to realize that this is not a novel that was written to entertain. Not in any sense of the word “entertain.” One feels a foreboding that it is going to get less and less entertaining for every single person who reads it, male or female, parent or child, of every race, creed, or sexual orientation. For this reason the end of The Part About Amalfitano is the perfect place to make a thoughtful decision as to whether one truly wishes to press on.

    The book constitutes an aggressive attack on each of our identities as human beings. That is the only thing there is to “get” about it.

    I do hope there can be an unguarded discussion of The Part About Amalfitano. I am obviously a complete fool for this part but would love to read the honest thoughts of others whatever they may be.

    Marco Antonio Guerra, the young prophet, is my favorite character in the novel thus far. There is an honest thought for starters.

  • I posted a comment on Dan’s blog. This is just the stuff I want to be talking about, absolutely.

    There are some little errors in my recent post but my gosh I have got a hell of a lot of questions etc. to get off my chest about Lola, here, so I’m going to press on with the next one.

    Also: awesome post, wild man. Yes! Guerra! He’s like Ares, I think.

    I read a few articles about the real murders in Juarez (there is an excellent one in Salon.) If this novel hadn’t achieved one single other thing, to raise awareness about this was a great achievement, I think, all by itself.

  • Comment from Dan Summers

    No way I’m throwing in the towel. For one thing, I’m too damn stubborn. Also I’m enjoying this discussion immensely, and that alone would make reading the book worthwhile. And I’m not hating 2666, I’m just not seeing what Bolaño would have me see. Yet. I think.

    On that note, could people elaborate more on what they really got from this section? What I mainly took away from it was a sense of desolation and foreboding. I feel the novel building toward something, and I think most of us are aware of what that Something is, at least to a certain degree. (We know the Crimes are coming.) I have a difficult time understanding The Part About Amalfitano on its own, which makes me all the more confounded when I consider the possibility that these Parts might have been published separately from each other.

  • Comment from Oregon Michael

    Dan, I certainly do not “belong to the coterie of enlightened readers” and I get the feeling that most of the other commenters don’t either. This is absolutely a difficult book and I can think of no better way to read it than this, with everyone pulling together and lending a helping hand in deciphering this titanic work.

    Señor Steve, in my mind you are spot on when you say “Upon completion of the The Part About Amalfitano, a reader may have come to realize that this is not a novel that was written to entertain.” This book is scary. It’s fun to laugh when you read a funny part, but mostly I just feel dread every time Bolaño directs us closer and closer to the torture and killings in Santa Teresa. But luckily, the Part about Amalfitano is not too much about death, I don’t think, because Amalfitano is a saint in the vortex. And you’re right, we should spend weeks and weeks fleshing out the details in this part, cause it’s just too jam-packed.

    Perhaps meaningless question: Is Amalfitano gay? Lola sets off to convince a gay poet that he is actually straight and should want to run away with her. Is this some sort of substitute quest? If Amalfitano is gay, maybe Lola develops a fascination with a gay poet that Amalfitano has told her about, and slowly it becomes her task to seek out this poet and make him straight, as she would also like to do with Amalfitano.

    Passage from Roberto Bolaño: The Last Interview & Other Conversations

    p. 72 – Roberto Bolaño: “My father was a courier. He was also a professional heavyweight boxing champion in southern Chile. The only thing fit to do before that man was to be stronger than him – otherwise it was to opt for homosexuality. If he had depended on me, I would have opted for homosexuality, which seems to me a magnificent aesthetic escape, but it wouldn’t have been natural. I’m heterosexual.” The full text can be found here: http://mcandsc.smugmug.com/2010/2666/11257737_Ja4hK#789690808_9vVf8-A-LB

    This passage seems relevant to our discussion on the Part about Amalfitano. I don’t know quite what to make of it. I think Dan’s reaction to the homophobic language in this section is important, and I myself do not know what Bolano is getting at. Is the quote from Bolaño offensive? Is it profound? I think Bolaño knew homosexual poets (see his poem Visit to the Convalescent; http://www.ralphmag.org/FI/bolano.html), and I get the general impression that he was not a hater.

    Shared traits РRoberto Bola̱o and Amalfitano

    Father was a boxer
    Both are from Chile

    If anything, Amalfitano appears almost asexual to me in this section. And what’s wrong with that? Not all of life is full of sexual romance, as the critics from the last section wanted it to be.

    Some have asked for the reaction of individual readers to this section: I had a great time reading this section, an entertaining time, I think because Amalfitano is a good person. In the last part, none of the critics stood out as really likeable people, but they all had their moments. But what’s not to like about Amalfitano? He is kind when he offers Lola large portions of his savings, and understands her, plus he cares about the safety of his daughter, he subjects a book to the elements for the noble purpose of observing the whole process, he endures suffocating parties of academia, he is a good guy. He submits to the whims of life and allows the wind to carry him from each experience to the next. And, he accepts the voice in his head. At first he tries to recall the medical definition of auditory hallucinations (Paracusia), but then just decides what the hell, if a voice is talking to me I might as well listen.

    To me this section is an antidote to the unconvincing characteristics of the critics. Amalfitano is a decent dude, and I think Bolano likes this guy when he writes about him.

    • Comment from Oregon Michael

      Here’s the right link:

      I think Bolaño knew homosexual poets (see his poem Visit to the Convalescent; http://www.ralphmag.org/FI/bolano.html

    • Comment from Steve

      Somehow I missed this longer one of yours before, Michael. I adamantly agree. What is not to like about Amalfitano? And here we have a man dislocated from one of the most cultured cities in Europe, an academic, a professor of philosophy for god’s sake, to a place where culture and civilization itself are melting down or coming unglued or disintegrating. None of his intellectual underpinnings hold up here. He is losing his moorings, and when we look at it that way, I do not think that is too hard to understand.

      The whole subject of homosexuality as it is addressed here is fascinating, although I do not think that it makes much difference whether Amalfitano is gay or not. I think I will try to take that up in the Forum in the context of a discussion of Marco Antonio Guerra, the kid who seems to thrive in this place.

  • Comment from Steve

    Great news, Dan, and you are not alone. I am quite serious about that business of our identities being attacked. One aspect of our identities that starts to erode is our identification of ourselves as competent readers.

    Bolaño baits us with little things like that quick reference to Cortázar’s active reader. Of course, we all feature ourselves as active readers. What a sly way for him to try to keep us going, on what he himself had to know is a difficult trip.

    My view is that if we all stick together and refrain from turning on each other, we can go anywhere with him. I am interested in exploring along with this novelist what he wishes to explore, which is not light-hearted stuff, although it is peppered with some defiant laughter here and there. It appears to me that we are exploring the very bleak prospects for human beings at this point in history.

    With that I am off to Oregon Michael’s link and then to the Forums. I guess that is where I am supposed to go.

  • Michael THANK YOU for this. Really crucial passage about homosexuality being ‘a magnificent aesthetic escape’ from the confines of machismo. WHOA. I wonder if he originally said “if it had depended on me” rather than “if he had depended on me”? (Or is this deliberate and self-sufficiency in a parent can absolve children of this kind of crisis? Nah, I’m inclined to think it is a typo.)

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