The Part about Amalfitano
Whoops! This is a bit delayed for a part that’s not even over a hundred pages. You have to understand though that I have a life and I have a job and I can’t fight my urge to oversleep and my computer’s monitor is acting up.
Enough of that. There aren’t many notes here because it’s really short and because three out of five participants are way behind the reading. I suspect that they aren’t even done with Part I, hahaha. I was waiting for their inputs, but if it would take them a month, I can no longer postpone this.
Notes: These are originally posted on a discussion thread at GoodReads-TFG. I am currently reading this with the bloggers of The Misanthropologist and Kikay Reader, and our bookish friends Emir and Doc Ranee. Their inputs, although copy-pasted from their original sources, have minor translations and edits. Also, there are spoilers! And please don’t expect to understand the novel’s entirety based on these ramblings. It’s fundamentally a logbook not intended to make light out of things for the would-be reader.
Or is it really about him? First part is mostly about his wife Lola. It came as a surprise to me because I imagined him just as old or slightly older than our literary critics. And he has a daughter.
The part about Amalfitano’s wife is more of a distraction to me. However, I am somehow drawn to the woman’s self-destructive story, notwithstanding my irritation. Sort of a love-hate relationship?
And the next part is about… Amalfitano’s schizophrenia? Or is it the mystical history of Chile? Gawd, I don’t know what to make out of those parts, but I think that this could be a deeper layer of the story. Note that our critics were not mentioned, not even once. At least I don’t remember any reading anything about them in this part, not even Archimboldi.
I like the hanging book thing, so that a book of principles might learn something about life. Or something like that. But I don’t get the drawings because I do not know most of the names that Amalfitano is doodling.
I can’t say I understood this part, but it doesn’t make me feel bad or unprepared for the next part.
The mention of Trakl made Amalfitano think, as he went through the motions of teaching a class, about a drugstore near where he lived in Barcelona, a place he used to go when he needed medicine for Rosa. One of the employees was a young pharmacist, barely out of his teens, extremely thin and with big glasses, who would sit up at night reading a book when the pharmacy was open twenty-four hours. One night, while the kid was scanning the shelves, Amalfitano asked him what books he liked and what book he was reading, just to make conversation. Without turning, the pharmacist answered that he liked books like The Metamorphosis, Bartleby, A Simple Heart, A Christmas Carol. And then he said that he was reading Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Leaving aside the fact that A Simple Heart and A Christmas Carol were stories, not books, there was something revelatory about the taste of this bookish young pharmacist, who in another life might have been Trakl or who in this life might still be writing poems as desperate as those of his distant Austrian counterpart, and who clearly and inarguably preferred minor works to major ones. He chose The Metamorphosis over The Trial, he chose Bartleby over Moby-Dick, he chose A Simple Heart over Bouvard and Pecuchet, and A Christmas Carol over A Tale of Two Cities or The Pickwick Papers. What a sad paradox, thought Amalfitano. 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.
…I feel that there is a deeper meaning to all that or that it has some historical relevance, but I have no idea what it is. That book about the Araucanian is especially bizaare…
…Amalfitano’s ghost or whatever it is is interesting, though I don’t know what it has to do with anything, other than typing up the character of Amalfitano with the story so far….
…So from Part 1 and Part 2, a connection has been established between the critics and Amalfitano and Archimboldi…
…So I guess the reason the critics found him strange sometimes (blood-red eyes, etc.). was because Amalfitano has been struggling with the voices in his head…
…I know I’m way, way late into the reading, but I wanted to note the plethora of dreams, dreams galore! Is the author blurring the boundaries of “fictional reality” and fictional dream? Reading about Amalfitano hearing The Voice reminds me of Sidney Sheldon and his novel wherein the main character suffers from multiple identity disorder or dissociative identity disorder. Amalfitano is looking like a mental case–could he be the murderer? Hmmn…