Week 6: Dreams

by Daryl L.L. Houston

299: Guadalupe Roncal describes the Santa Teresa prison as being like a bad dream.

300: Guadalupe Roncal says the suspect in the Santa Teresa murders has the face of a dreamer. “He has the face of a dreamer, but of a dreamer who’s dreaming at great speed. A dreamer whose dreams are far out ahead of our dreams.” Recall Espinoza’s dream back on 114, in which figures in the painting in his hotel room are moving almost imperceptibly, “as if they were living in a world different from ours, where speed was different.”

308: The song that plays over the loudspeakers after the boxing match has a tone whose defiant tone includes a hint of “corrosive humor, a humor that existed only in relation to itself and in dreams, no matter whether the dreams were long or short.”

313: Some of the teenage girls working at El Rey del Taco have tears in their eyes, “and they seemed unreal, faces glimpsed in a dream.”

342: When Fate takes Rosa back home after their misadventure, a look the father and daughter give one another strikes him as a look given “as if they were asleep and their dreams had converged on common ground, a place where sound was alien.”

347: Guadalupe Roncal stands next to Fate and Rosa with her eyes very wide, “as if her worst nightmares had come true.”

347: After fleeing with Rosa and crossing the border, Oscar observes a few people and thinks that the experience is like somebody else’s dream.

349: About to confront the murder suspect in jail, Fate wonders if he might be dreaming.

Week 5: Dreams

by Daryl L.L. Houston

231: Fate mentions something about a nightmare and a “dark, vaguely familiar Aztec lake.”

234: Fate thinks he’s dreamed (he doesn’t know it?) about a movie he had recently seen, but with everything switched. The dream was like a negative of the real movie he had seen because the characters were black rather than (one presumes) white. During the dream, with its differences, he realizes that the differences might render the dream a “reasoned critique” of the movie he had actually seen.

248: Seaman tells of Marius Newell’s dream in which he was breathing the Pacific beach air, which he loved.

250: Seaman describes the landscape he discovered after getting out of prison as “the smoldering remains of a nightmare we had plunged into as youths and that as grown men we were leaving behind.”

252: Seaman says that stars are semblances in the same way dreams are semblances.

263: Fate dreams of Antonio Jones. It’s not clear from the text what the dream was actually about, though since Fate is contemplating at the time the (unknown to him) circumstances of Jones’s death and the probability that he died of old age, perhaps we can conclude that the dream pertained to that topic.

270: Driving into Mexico, Fate recalls a dream, from when he was between childhood and adolescence, of a landscape similar to the one before him. He was on a bus with his mother and aunt watching an unchanging city landscape until they finally get to the country. There he sees a man walking along the edge of a wood in what for Fate at the time of the dream is distressing loneliness.

Week 4: Dreams

by Daryl L. L. Houston

185: Amalfitano dreams of Lola walking down the side of a mostly deserted highway, fearless, bearing the weight of her suitcase.

187: Never, even in dreams, has Amalfitano been to Santiago de Compostela.
201: The first time Amalfitano hears the voice in his head, he wonders if it’s part of a nightmare.
202: Lola appears in Amalfitano’s dreams along with two old friends, waving from behind a fenced park and (somehow) a room full of dusty philosophy books.
206: Amalfitano dreams of a woman’s voice talking about signs and numbers and history broken down and the American mirror. He then switches to a dream in which he’s moving toward a woman who was only a pair of legs at the end of a dark hallway.
217: “Maybe [Amalfitano] dreamed something. Something short. Maybe he dreamed about his childhood. Maybe not.”
227: Amalfitano dreams about the last Communist philosopher of the 20th century, who turns out to be a drunken Boris Yeltsin singing a sad song of a Volga boatman who commiserates with the moon about the human condition. Yeltsin explains to Amalfitano what the the third leg of the human table is (apparently magic, the first two legs being supply and demand). He then shows Yeltsin his missing fingers (or their void), drinks some more, talks about his childhood, resumes singing (“if possible with even more brio”!), and disappears into a streaked crater/latrine.

Week 3: Dreams

by Daryl L.L. Houston

114: Pelletier dreams of his hotel toilet, 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: Bolano 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 2: Dreams

by Daryl L.L. Houston

76: In the aftermath of beating the Pakistani cab driver, Pelletier and Espinoza discover that there was a sort of almost sexual feeling for them during the beating, not as if they wanted to have sex with the cab driver but rather more masturbatory. The experience is described has having taken place during a dreamlike state.

78: Pelletier is married to Norton and living near a cliff overlooking a beach. People are always on the beach, usually doing frivolous, meaningless things and apparently waiting for something. Sometimes he can soar over the beach like a seagull. Norton is something of a background presence in the house, sometimes making noise or speaking, but declining to enter a room he’s in. Pelletier loses any sense of time and tries to sleep sitting in his chair but keeps his eyes on the beach, looking for a glimmer of light. He discovers that the Archimboldi papers before him are in fact written in French rather than German. One day, the beach folk leave the beach, so that all that’s left is a “dark form projecting from a yellow pit.” He wonders if he should go bury it but thinks about how far he’d have to walk to get to the beach (compare to Morini’s observations of distance in his own recent dream). He sees a tremor in the sea and hears a hum of bees, and then silence. He calls Norton’s name but she doesn’t answer. He weeps and watches the remains of a simultaneously horrific and beautiful statue (formless stone, remnants of a hand, wrist, and forearm) emerge from the bottom of a metallic sea. This statue recalls Morini’s dream of a female figure making her way to a rock jutting from the edge of the pool.

85: Having slept with a Mexican prostitute (among many others of late), Espinoza dreams one night that he remembers some indecipherable words she had said to him. Within the dream, he knows he’s dreaming and fears he’ll lose the words and resolves to remember them before he wakes up. The sky is spinning and he tries to shout to wake himself up but all he hears is a distant moan as of an animal or child. The bulbs in the house seem to have burned out. All he remembers of the dream after waking up is watching the woman standing in a dim hallway. She’s reading something written on the wall and spelling it out as if she doesn’t know how to read.
94: After meeting with Edwin Johns, Morini disappears, and Espinoza and Pelletier spend a lot of time worrying about him and trying to find him. One day, he suddenly appears as if he had never been gone. Bolaño describes Pelletier’s first talk with Morini afterward as having been like waking from a bad, baffling dream.

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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