Thursday, January 15, 2009


I have been reading Roberto Bolano’s 2666, translated by the inestimable Natasha Wimmer, and just finished the second part, about Amalfitano, which was not as enjoyable as the first part, about the critics, yet it is where I draw my quotes from, because they seem to be getting to heart of the matter of the book and are also very much about Bolano’s striving for a mighty, sprawling, terrible -- in its first sense, first as in historical, etymologically speaking, of being full of terror -- book like the messy epics he evidently adored, like Moby Dick, which I adore too, and have read thrice and intend to read again, which is not something I can say about 2666 because the second volume (I am borrowing the three volume version) is all about the crimes, one after another, and I won’t want to read that again, since a whale may just be a whale, but the 400 murdered women in Ciudad Juarez are 400 murdered women.

“They turned the pain of others into memories of one’s own. They turned pain, which is natural, enduring, and eternally triumphant, into personal memory, which is human, brief, and eternally elusive. They turned a brutal story of injustice and abuse, an incoherent howl with no beginning or end, into a neatly structured story in which suicide was always held out as a possibility. They turned flight into freedom, even if freedom meant no more than the perpetuation of flight. They turned chaos into order, even if it was at the cost of what is commonly known as sanity.”

“Now even bookish pharmacists are afraid to take on the great, imperfect, torrential works, books that blaze paths into the unknown. They choose the perfect exercises of the great masters. Or what amounts to the same thing: they want to watch the great masters spar, but they have no interest in real combat, when the great masters struggle against that something, that something that terrifies us all, that something that cows us and spurs us on, amid blood and mortal wounds and stench.”

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