Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Reading 2666 by Roberto Bolaño – Weeks 13 and 14

We are up to week 14, and have finished through page 830, in the Group Read of 2666.  Only one more week and 62 pages to go.  That’s good because if, for instance, there were another 300 pages I would be giving up.  That’s partly why I’m cheating and doing two weeks at once – last week’s and this week’s.   Because I’ve grown tired of this novel and am having a hard time forcing myself to think about it.

A few thoughts.

1.  Hans Reiter changes his name to Benno von Archimboldi in this section.  It occurred to me to wonder if the name Reiter is pronounced “Writer” or “reeter”.   In any event, Hans Reiter has written a novel and found a publisher and taken a nom de plume.  His girlfriend speculates that it is because he expects to be famous some day.   He says it is because he escaped from an American POW camp after the war and he is still eluding them.  He then ponders the fact that the people he knows are famous are people like Hitler. 

2.  Reiter has been fighting for Germany in the East during the war and for a while finds shelter in a strange town that is deserted.  The original residents were Jews and now they are gone.  At first Reiter seems indifferent to this.  But then he finds a notebook of one of the residents who had been a big believer in the communist revolution but gradually became disillusioned and then returned to the village where he was probably taken away to be killed.  This affects Reiter.   Later, in a POW camp Reiter meets a man named Sammer who had been responsible for arranging the mass murder of hundreds of Jews, but who seems to feel no real responsibility for it.  Reiter killed no one during the war.  But he murders Sammer.  That’s another reason he thinks he’d better change his name.

3.  Reiter seems to have been deeply affected by the atrocities committed by Germany.  When he hears a story about a German who killed himself because of some slander perpetrated by Hermann Goring against him Reiter says: '”  So he didn’t kill himself because of the death camps or the slaughter on the front lines or the cities in flames, but because Goring called him an incompetent?”  He goes on to say: “Maybe Goring was right.”    Reiter’s publisher, Mr.  Bubbis also is deeply affected by the actions of the Germans.  He is appalled that so many writers whom he published before the war joined the Nazis.  Escaping to London, he watched the Blitz from his window without even bothering to take shelter.  It seems to me that Bolaño is comparing the horror and the sense of responsibility that Reiter and Mr. Bubbis feel for what happened in their country with not only the other Germans but with the people who hear about the murders of the women in Santa Theresa and do nothing.

4. There was one part of this reading that I enjoyed.  Reiter needs to rent a typewriter to type his manuscript and he pays a man who says he used to be a writer.  This man gives him advice about writing and he says (I hope I get this right) that the difference between a good book and a masterpiece is that the masterpiece is written by the writer and the good book is written by someone else even though they are written by the same person.  In other words, the masterpiece is the truth that comes out of the writer but the good book is not a masterpiece because it is avoiding the truth in some way or obscuring the truth.   He says:   “Jesus is the masterpiece.  The thieves are minor works.  Why are they there?  Not to frame the crucifixion, as some innocent souls believe, but to hide it.”    Maybe this is why I liked The Part about the Crimes.  The brutal laying out of the crimes for page after page after page – Bolaño was trying something new as a way to get to the truth.  Not the truth about who did it.  But the truth that most people don’t care and it’s easy to become numb to it.

And that’s about it.   Next week = The End.