Monday, March 29, 2010

Reading 2666 by Robert Bolaño Week 10

This post is really about Weeks 8, 9 and 10  in the Group Read of Robert Bolaño’s novel 2666 because I took my birthday hiatus and didn’t post about it the last two weeks.  This is unfortunate because I’ve pretty much lost my thoughts for week 8 and 9, at least as separate thoughts. 

But here goes:

1.  It is also unfortunate that I haven’t been posting because this section, The Part About the Crimes, has been my favorite section so far even though … nothing has happened.  I think that by telling the story as a chronological summary of the women who died and the status of the investigation Bolaño creates a sense of narrative flow, even though there really is none.  Reading this, I still have no sense if this novel has a narrative or not.  In other words, at the end will I be able to see a beginning, a middle and an end to some story (maybe not the story I even think I might be reading)?  I have no idea what to expect. 

2.  This false sense of narrative flow seems appropriate for this section.  The police of Santa Teresa are not solving the crimes, they don’t seem to be working very hard to solve the crimes and yet they give the impression of moving forward with investigations.

3.  Bolaño created a compelling character in Klaus Haas.  Not a likeable character (not remotely a likeable character) but a character that compels me to read on and find out more about him.  The fact that he is mostly unmoved by the violence in the prison around him makes him a dangerous character, one who certainly could have committed the murders.  On the other hand, the murders have continued since Haas was imprisoned and so he either isn’t the murderer or isn’t the only murderer. 

4.  In other parts of this novel Bolaño creates characters who are aware of the murders but don’t really focus on them, in this part he has characters who are aware of the drug trade but don’t really focus on it.  Certainly the serial killing might not be by anyone connected with the drug trade, but you would think the police would look into it.  They don’t.   And the little hints that have been thrown that the top police are connected with the drug lords might mean that Klaus Haas was set up to be put in prison for all the murders to take the heat off of whoever is doing it.   It doesn’t seem that the women are connected with the drug trade but someone connected with a drug lord might be a serial killer   A family member perhaps?  Haas certainly seemed guilty of the murder he was investigated for (although a good lawyer might have been able to raise reasonable doubt) but he almost certainly isn’t the actual serial killer.  But he makes a good fall guy to take the heat off of someone else, at least for a while.  I’m interested in the periods during which there are no killings.  Is there someone connected with a powerful person who is out of town during those times?  Or “grounded” and forced to stay inside?  Ah, but I am falling into the trap of thinking this novel is a police procedural and we will find the murderer.  It isn’t.  We might not.  In fact, right now I’d bet that we won’t.

5.  I think one of the reasons I like this part better than the others is because there are so few women in it.   Sounds odd, doesn’t it?  An entire part about the killings of hundreds of women that  doesn’t have women in it?  But the women who are killed are corpses so I don’t count them. Their stores are written in such a procedural style that I can’t think of them as characters.  The family members left behind (if they are known) have some women but we don’t get to know them; we just witness their grief from the outside.  That leaves the insane asylum doctor as the only real women character (although at the end of this week’s reading another woman has been introduced but it isn’t clear if she’ll stay in the story yet).  And the doctor is an enigma.  I continue to think that Bolaño can’t (or won’t) write women.   We never really understand them the way he tries to make us understand his male characters.  And since I find that so frustrating, I find this part, which has no women, a relief.

6.  Still a lot of questions.   Does the fact that Klaus Haas is a tall German mean he is at all connected to Archimboldi?   He is too young to be Archimboldi himself.  But we seem to have lost sight of Archimboldi since The Part About the Critics.  The Part About Amalfitano seemed to take place during a period before Archimboldi allegedly came to Santa Teresa.  It is unclear when The Part About Fate took place but there is no mention of Archimboldi.  This part takes place  before the critic’s visit to Santa Teresa.  But perhaps Klaus Haas will provide an answer to why Archimboldi came to Santa Teresa (I looked at the table of contents, the next part is The Part About Archimboldi). 

7.  Toward the end of this week’s reading we really start getting hit with what a terrible place this is for women.  The sexist jokes told by the police that go on for pages.  The history of Lalo’s family in which almost every birth was the result of rape (although the women seem completely indifferent to the rapes.  Is this because they are strong women or is this because he can’t write women?).  The statistics given my Yolanda (the new woman character) about the number of rapes in Santa Teresa.  It’s astounding.

That’s about it.

Except for a little bit of humor.  Darryl over at Infinite Zombies says we should stick with the book because it gets really good after this section is over:

I don’t remember a whole lot about the final section from when I read it a year ago, but I do remember that it was during that final part that I began to see why people thought this was a good book. Hold on for two more weeks, my friends, and things will get better. The best writing, if I remember correctly, is yet to come.

In other words, once you finish the first 636 pages it’s really great!.