Week 5: Deaths

by Michael Cooler

In trying to make a numbered list of deaths in 2666, it quickly became apparent that it was not very apparent which deaths should “count” in a numbered list and which deaths should not.  For example, the first two on the list.  We chose to give numbers one and two to the two women kidnapped on their way out of the club in Santa Teresa where Espinoza and Rebeca later find themselves dancing in The Part About the Critics.  But should they be numbered? They don’t actually “die” in this part of the book, but their story still seems important and worth mentioning.  And what if these same two women turn up later in The Part About the Crimes, maybe with names and more of their story, and we’ve counted them twice? So, we’ve decided to do two separate lists of deaths in the novel, one for the women killed in The Part About the Crimes and one for the rest of the book. The list of people who die or are killed in the rest of the book will be more flexible, looser, not as precise. But hopefully the list for the women killed in The Part About the Crimes will be more precise, since they are all part of a very specific phenomenon in northern Mexico called the feminicidios, or the femicides (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_homicides_in_Ciudad_Ju%C3%A1rez). In the end we can tally the count from both lists or not, whatever seems most useful.

Death # — Page — Name — Age — Date of Discovery — Description — Extra Details

1, 2 — p.151 — Two girls were kidnapped on their way out of the club (at some point in the past) where Espinoza and Rebeca are dancing, their bodies dumped in the desert.
3 — p.202 — While Amalfitano dreams of Lola and dusty philosophy books, “the Santa Teresa police found the body of another teenage girl, half buried in a vacant lot in one of the neighborhoods on the edge of the city.”
4 — p.231 — Edna Miller — Mother of Quincy Williams, or Oscar Fate.  Oscar is 30 years old and thinks his mother is in hell.
5 — p.235 — Jimmy Lowell — 55 or 60 years old — Chief boxing correspondent for Black Dawn, the magazine where Oscar Fate works. He is stabbed to death by black men in Chicago.
6 — p.238 — Edna Miller’s neighbor — Dies presumably from the heart attack on p.231 following the death of Edna Miller. Her daughter Rosalind says with a smile “She was old.”
7 — p.247 — Marius Newell — Killed by a black man in Santa Cruz, supposedly because Newell owed money, but Barry Seaman (friend and fellow co-founder of the Black Panthers) suspects foul play.
8 — p.251 — Lin Piao — A Chinese Communist military leader, killed in a plane crash.
9, 10, 11 — p.266 — A knife sharpener kills his wife and elderly mother in 1871 during the Paris Commune, and is himself shot and killed by police. The story is big news while the thousands killed in the Commune are mostly ignored. The white-haired man in the restaurant says “The ones killed in the Commune weren’t part of society, the dark-skinned people who died on the ship weren’t part of society.” Likewise the women who will turn up dead in The Part About the Crimes are dark-skinned, often immigrants to Mexico themselves, and are arguably not part of society.

Other mentions of death in pages 231-290:

p.245 — “Seaman said he didn’t like rap because the only out it offered was suicide. But not even meaningful suicide. I know, I know, he said. It’s hard to imagine meaningful suicide. It isn’t a common thing. Although I’ve seen or been near two meaningful suicides. At least I think I have. I could be wrong, he said.” Anyone have any thoughts on meaningful suicide?

p.251 — Barry Seaman recounts how his sister helps him write down recipes for a cookbook and then refers to her as his late sister.  Says of her (on p.250) “my sister, who was the world’s most good-hearted human being.”

p.253 — The starfish that Marius Newell finds on a beach in California dies.  He brings it home and cares for it and tries to steal a pump for the tank he keeps it in, but to no avail.  It ends up in the trash. But I get the feeling that this was one important starfish.

p.258 — A girl from a town in Arizona disappears (is not necessarily dead) in Santa Teresa, as told by the TV reporter Dick Medina. Fate is asleep while the segment runs, like Amalfitano who dreams while police discover bodies in Santa Teresa.

p.260 — Oscar Fate dreams of a man he’d interviewed once named Antonio Ulises Jones, who tells the tale of the diminishing number of communists in Brooklyn, saying “During the eighties, two of the four who were left died of cancer and one vanished without saying anything to anyone.”

p.263 — Oscar Fate mentions that Antonio Jones has “been dead for several years now.”  He guesses he might have died from old age. “One day, walking down some street in Brooklyn, Antonio Jones had felt tired, sat down on the sidewalk, and a second later stopped existing.”

p.265-267 — A white-haired man in the restaurant (Professor Kessler) is speaking to a young man, and the white-haired man says some very interesting things about death. “We didn’t want death in the home, or in our dreams and fantasies, and yet it was a fact that terrible crimes were committed, mutilations, all kinds of rape, even serial killings.” He goes on to say how twenty percent of the slaves died in ships en route to their destination, and how that didn’t much bother anyone. I think we could kind of say the same thing about the women being killed in Mexico. In some way we accept or ignore the horrible truth of the situation, because we don’t have an answer for it.  If only there were just one serial killer, and we could imagine an end to the murders coming with the serial killer being caught. But if the murders are part of a larger system — an inescapable new system of globalization and fluid borders, where drugs and wealth and weapons change hands rapidly, where police and politicians and narcotraficantes are all implicated, and ourselves too — things get murky. No easy answers. I think this is the abyss that Bolano is asking us to stare into, or dive into.

p.271 — “A voice in Spanish began to tell the story of a singer from Gómez Palacio who had returned to his city in the state of Durango just to commit suicide.”

p.287 — Fate is talking to Chucho Flores and asks how many women have been killed. Chucho says “Lots, more than two hundred.” Fate comments that it seems like one person could not have killed that many, and Chucho agrees, but it doesn’t appear that he has given it much thought. When I read this I think I’m struck by the fact that maybe I haven’t thought much about it either. Of course, Santa Teresa (Ciudad Juarez) is a little ways from Oregon, but if the crimes were being committed in my hometown, would I think about them then? Or would I become a cinephile like Charly Cruz, or bury myself in a book? This reminds me of a feeling I had while watching a movie called City of God, about a slum in Rio de Janeiro. I couldn’t believe this was based on a real place, which felt so different from my known universe. Santa Teresa feels like this too.

p.289 — Hercules Carreno, who is a Mexican heavyweight boxer, is beat to hell in Los Angeles by a boxer named Arthur Ashley. He was a sensation in Mexico until he lost this fight, could no longer hold jobs due to the severity of his injuries, and was forgotten. “They say he started to beg on the streets and that one day he died under a bridge.”

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3 Responses to “Week 5: Deaths”

  • Comment from David Savarese aka Savvysav99

    That count sounds like a good approach.

    Regarding the white haired man and the abyss: I think it is pretty safe to assume that they will not solve the feminicidios in the novel. The question I have been asking myself lately is if the murders, as depicted in the book (through Bolano’s eyes) are truly something that can be solved at all or at least stopped. It is my belief that these murders are the result of a culture of violence against women, but the suggestion that they are a historically resonant epidemic against the disenfranchised (is that the word? maybe ‘othered’/ dehumanized) seems true enough. Either way, I don’t think the murders will amount to consequence alone or even a confluence of factors. What I mean is that when I mentioned them at work, everyone seemed to think that the murders are the result of cartel violence. Maybe this is true, but I think the “professor” and you urge it is something more and I agree.

    A side thought: For both the readers who experience the novel alongside characters that are less and less periphery to the crimes, and the characters themselves, I think the question of “what would I do if this were my town” is inevitable. It is connected to what I believe to be the most critical issue thusfar, even more than extrapolating “meaning”: knowing. How we react, how society reacts, to this crime against our humanity defines us. I think Bolano as a postnationalist (more on this some other time) would say that it distance from the crime, or feelings of powerlessness against it, are no excuse. The crimes, and others in our violent history, continue to be ignored or unresolved. This is a statement to our disregard of anything that fails to deprive us of – dare I say it – bourgeois comforts. It reminds me of City of God as well, and a quote by some Native American activist whose name I forget Trudeau maybe “the greatest lie is that they call it civilization. It is not civilized.”

    • Comment from Oregon Michael

      Yes, very good thoughts. I think I’m inclined to mostly blame ‘cartel violence’ like your workmates, but it’s too easy just to blame them exclusively, since they are part of a much larger system in society, that somewhere down the line in this hyper-connected globalized realm must pull me in too. For instance, I wonder what kind of goods the workers make in those maquiladoras, and how much of those goods I’ve purchased. Not to say that buying those goods would be all bad, because of course “unemployment is almost non-existent”, it’s just not black and white. In my own life I experience an urge to return to a more local, simple existence. But although I can take steps toward this desire I just can’t fully remove myself from the system, if that would even be appropriate. Maybe that’s sort of cowardly. I think easy answers to this violence in Mexico and violence around the world are probably not likely, and for now maybe it’s alright just to feel disillusionment, I sure do like those bourgeois comforts.

  • Comment from Eliot Eid

    p.253 — It is one important starfish! Let’s not forget that Seaman, Newell and little Nelson Sanchez risk their lives to save it: “Don’t shoot’ don’t shoot, it’s for my starfish.” What’s going through the shotgun-toting shopkeeper’s head as he allows them to flee with the stolen pump?

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