January 31, 2014

Roberto Bolano's 2666: The Part About Fate

"All right, then," said the white-haired man. "I'll tell you three things I'm sure of: (a) everyone living in that city is outside of society, and everyone, I mean everyone, is like the ancient Christians in the Roman circus; (b) the crimes have different signatures; (c) the city seems to be booming, it seems to be moving ahead in some ineffable way, but the best thing would be for every last one of the people there to head out into the desert some night and cross the border." p. 267

Quincy Williams is called Oscar Fate. He is a political journalist from New York sent by his editor to cover the Pickett-Fernandez fight in Santa Teresa. But, he'd rather write about the women being killed. He proposes "a sketch of the industrial landscape in the third world, a piece of reportage about the current situation in Mexico, a panorama of the border, a serious crime story, for fuck's sake."   p. 295 His editor isn't interested.

Fate meets several people in this section; one of them is Guadalupe Roncal, a Mexican reporter. The others include Rosa Amalfitano, daughter of Amalfitano from Part 2, and her boyfriend, Chucho Flores.

Chucho Flores is, to me, a terrifying person. The whole encounter he has with Rosa, after he sees her kissing goodbye to a classmate with whom she's had a soda, absolutely chilled me.

"Suddenly someone she hadn't heart approach her said: you whore. The voice startled her and she looked up, thinking it was a bad joke or that she'd been mistaken for someone else. Standing there was Chucho Flores. Flustered, all she could do was tell him to sit down, but Chucho Flores, his lips barely moving, told her to get up and follow him. She asked him where he planned to go. Home, said Chucho Flores. He was sweating and his face was flushed. Rosa told him she wasn't going anywhere. Then Chucho Flores asked her who the boy was who had kissed her.
"A classmate," said Rosa, and she noticed that Chucho Flores's hands were shaking. "You whore," he said again. 
And then he began to mutter something that Rosa couldn't understand at first, but after a moment she realized he was repeating the same words over and over again: you whore, uttered with teeth clenched, as if saying it cost him a huge effort." p. 335-6
Maybe there is more than one way some men kill women, using their words or attitude or power as much as violence. Fortunately, Rosa leaves Chucho for Fate, and I leave this part with one final thought:

"No one pays attention to these killings, but the secret of the world is hidden in them." p. 348

The secret of the world...no wonder this novel is almost 900 pages long. It's a rather large topic to uncover, but I wonder if the core of it doesn't lie somewhere in respect for one another.

In late February, The Part About the Crimes and The Part About Archimboldi, where I hope, as a Russian professor of mine once said, "All shall be revealed."


  1. Hi Bellezza, watch out for part 4, but give yourself breathing space, as this part
    covers the killing of countless women, over decades in Santa Teresa (based on the actual events in Juarez). My summing up of it was

    How sour the knowledge travellers bring away!
    The world’s monotonous and small; we see
    ourselves today, tomorrow, yesterday,
    an oasis of horror in a desert of ennui!
    Charles Baudelaire

  2. "The secret of the world..." starts with- "The first time" and there it goes. "And so farewell." until I have my time.

    Thank you for the encouragement.

  3. I already want to reread the book - this section alone deserves much more study. Fate's encounter with Seaman alone...!

    I like Bolaño's sweeping gestures - Fate rescuing Rosa, the critic that Liz ends up falling in love with...

    Ugh, dreading the next part.

  4. Your thoughts about misogyny seem spot on to me and they've helped me appreciate this part of the novel more.

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  6. I have read the news reports about this true to life tragic situation for Mexican women on the border towns. I hope it has been stopped as I have not seen any recent incidents. Looks like a revealing book.
    Book Dilettante

  7. This section is much more disturbing than it appears to be at first. Have you reread how it opens? What must've happened?

    1. Isabella, I know that Oscar's mother has died. But somehow I assumed it was a heart attack or something "natural". I never thought she was murdered, which is now (upon rereading) what I'm wondering has happened.

    2. Or it may be about Rosa? I don't have the book now, but the first part may be the continuation of the 'ending' of the part about Fate.

    3. I wish we could all be in the same room to discuss this! There's so much going on and much to puzzle through.