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Almost too late, but let’s do this – 2666 Diaries, V

2666 Diaries, V

For the sake of formally finishing the first chunkster diary of the year, let me repost some stuff and look back to this magnificent novel. Also included are some conversations with my reading buddy, The Misanthropologist. These notes are selected based on my ability to translate. Some full paragraphs in Filipino, I left them out because I’m not in the mood to translate. And why am I so anal about this?

Anyway, thanks so much for reading this with me!

Day 12:

It’s really a nice break to get away from the crimes. I am tired of reading those police reports and medical examiners’ findings. In fact, I almost gave up on the book.

We now get back to Archimboldi. Readers might have forgotten about him, but not me, because I’m really curious who really is this author that the literary critics from the first part are hunting.

The first part of the last part talks about the childhood of Hans Reiter. I suppose this is Archimboldi. I’ll be damned if he’s not. Reiter is not from an illustrious family, which is not hard to guess. In fact, his parents are what we shallow people would call the misfits. His mother is one-eyed, his father is one-legged, and the kid himself is abnormally tall.

The height of this kid is what made me assume that he is Archimboldi. It would be a huge coincidence if this kid is just an irrelevant character who just happened to be as tall as our elusive writer. And really, what sense is there to keep introducing new and irrelevant characters when we are at the near climax?

Irrelevance, I think, is a technique that the novel uses all throughout the novel. I am not even sure if this can be called a technique. It’s something that I am making up. It is something akin to stream of consciousness and the unreliable narrator, but there are slight differences. It can be argued that the seemingly irrelevant stuff are all necessary. I don’t know. I just have this feeling that there is a lot that can be taken out. Of course, I am just assuming. I guess I just want to finish this novel as soon as possible.

Day 13:

There’s a really graphic scene here. Oops! Is this something to look forward to? An officer and a baroness fucking in one of the bedrooms of Dracula’s castle? With blood and excessive bodily fluids? And oh, there are no rats in this castle, as if that really matters. But it does, just to make a point that Dracula might have been on a rat diet.

The war parts remind me of War and Peace, all the walking and battle scenes and attacking and retreating. Which is fine, probably because I got used to all that kind of stuff with the heavy Tolstoy read.

Tolstoy, speaking of him, is mentioned here, but not as extensively as Gorky. You see, Reiter, after contemplating suicide and evading death thrice, got his hands on this journal by Ansky during his recuperation at a far-flung Jewish town. This journal by Ansky is not really his journal. It’s more of a series of writings about his writer friend, Ivanov, who dreams of being in the ranks of Tolstoy. Which happened for like 15 minutes, and he even got Gorky, a writer that I don’t really know, to write him a fan mail. Which has a lot of ellipses. Not my favorite punctuation, hahaha, but yes, the letter elated Ivanov so much that he had it framed.

For which novel did Gorky write the letter? It’s for the novel Twilight. Not the basis of that Stephanie Meyer novel, but I think it’s better. I actually like that novel, particularly the parallel universe stuff and its ending.

Anyway, Reiter got obsessed with this journal that he started to have dreams of it and of Ansky, whom he has never seen, and that is pretty obvious. He dreamed that the journal was severely damaged while he was drifting through a river. Upon waking up, he decided to return the journal to where he found it.

And yes, finally, the name Archimboldi is mentioned, who is a painter. Not a writer, huh? So probably this is a pen name after all, if Reiter really is the Archimboldi that the literary critics are looking for.

Day 14:

Things are getting better. There are still the distractions. I don’t think we could get rid of these. But really, I don’t mind. Yes, there should be a preparation for a climax, so it’s quite logical to let go of the side stories, which may or may not contribute to the grand scheme, but I was entertained with these. Even that lengthy story of the Jews killer. I even found myself reeling with weird emotions and seething with anger, and at the back of my head, I wished to be a Jew.

Anyway, at this part, we get to know how Hans Reiter transformed to Benno von Archimboldi. It’s not a dramatic metamorphosis. It’s just that, a whimsical instance. Not really out of whim, I believe, although on the surface it seems that way. It’s on one of those pivotal moments in a life, which is an ironic thing to say, having just read in one of the pages that history is not composed of such pivotal, monumental times; it’s just a series of instances clamoring for attention, like a whore working on her next client. Something like that.

There are also a lot of things said about reading and writing and literature. Like who are the real writers? How can we sift them away from the unreal writers? What makes up literature? Is it the masterpieces or the so-called minor works? What are the roles of the two?

And is it possible to abandon writing and still love literature? Of course! What is reading if not the communion of the reader and the writer, who screw each other to plant the seeds of fun and entertainment in the reader’s womb.

So the writer is a gigolo? And we, readers, are whores? And all the fun and entertainment are bastards?

Day 15:

Already, five of Archimboldi’s books were published by a Hamburg publishing house owned by Mr. Bubis, perhaps the only publisher who has faith in Archimboldi’s capabilities. This Mr. Bubis, as fate would have it, is married to the baroness! Archimboldi and the baroness inevitably meet, and they finally let themselves to be consumed by their lusts.

And they talk about penis size. Why is it that almost every Latin American writer that I read puts a special emphasis on the length of one’s member? Oscar Hijuelos, Junot Diaz, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Roberto Bolano didn’t fail to make it a point that endowment is a virtue of sorts. Bolano’s take veers differently, although it is essentially the same. His has a matter-of-fact, defensive air. Should I expect Mario Vargas Llosa and Jorge Luis Borges to bring this up, even in passing, in their respective works?

Anyway, there’s a lovely part here about us being consumed by the past. It’s that scene where Ingeborg talks about the light of the stars being dead and yet existing. I imagined her dying on that freezing night while coughing blood on the snow. The blood on the snow is influenced by my reading of Halldor Laxness’s Independent People, his supposed masterpiece.

Really, I am as always being incoherent. I can’t help it. I’m excited to finish this tonight.

Day 16:

This is just to formally finish my reading. But not the discussion (if there are still things you wish to rant about).

For people who love closures and who are not comfortable with cliffhangers, I suggest that you do not read this book. Wait. I change my mind just now. I strongly suggest that you stop wishing for clean, happy endings. It’s better for our mental health to have questions boggling us than to have those answers. They clog our thinking. They kill our limited neurons.

Still, I found a sense of… an ending. I found the Lotte side story acting like an epilogue, something that would loop the whole thing to the first part. Although this book is not part of a series, I think it screams at the reader to get a copy of Amulet and The Savage Detectives (another brick), other Bolano works that are akin to 2666.

But I’m good. I won’t rush to the book store to buy those two ASAP. Probably when I finish reading my hoarded books I will consider.

For Ivanov, a real writer, a real artist and creator, was basically a responsible person with a certain level of maturity. A real writer had to know when to listen and when to act. He had to be reasonably enterprising and reasonably learned. Excessive learning aroused jealousy and resentment. Excessive enterprise aroused suspicion. A real writer had to be someone relatively cool-headed, a man with common sense. Someone who didn’t talk too loud or start polemics. He had to be reasonably pleasant and he had to know how not to make gratuitous enemies. Above all, he had to keep his voice down, unless everyone else was raising his. A real writer had to be aware that behind him he had the Writers Association, the Artists Syndicate, the Confederation of Literary Workers, Poets House. What’s the first thing a man does when he comes into a church? Efraim Ivanov asked himself. He takes off his hat. Maybe he doesn’t cross himself. All right, that’s allowed. We’re modern. But the least he can do is bare his head! Adolescent writers, meanwhile, come into a church and don’t take off their hats even when they’re beaten with sticks, which is, regrettably, what happens in the end. And not only do they not take off their hats: they laugh, yawn, play the fool, pass gas. Some even applaud.

Buddy Notes:

…So far Archimboldi is still Hans Reiter, a boy frequently described as seaweed-like, of all things! He has a one-legged father, and a one-eyed mother, and a so-far normal sister…

…He befriends the nephew of a baron and a Japanese man, gets drafted in the war and almost gets himself killed thrice…

…Sometime during the war he gets stationed at Dracula’s castle…

…While searching through abandoned houses, he finds some hidden manuscripts behind a fireplace of some guy named Ansky…

…The manuscript, which is supposedly about Ansky isn’t really about him (surprise, surprise) but about his friend, Ivanov, who is a fantasy/sci-fi writer…

…Now I’m on the part where Hans is reading about a book that Ivanov wrote, “Twilight,” which seems just as bad as Stephenie Meyer’s version…

…This book is just getting crazier and crazier. And why do I have a feeling that the author is going to tie up the 5 separate parts in the end…

…Honestly, I don’t really understand the other parts, or maybe it would be more truthful to say, I am not making an effort to understand, hehehe (the story of Ansky and Ivanov)…

…I feel that it’s not about me not able to understand, but it’s really incoherent. It’s like what Amalfitano was saying to Norton that was so long, and in the end, it was just nonsense. That’s what I feel about Part 5…

…Regarding Part 5, I’m pissed off because a big part of it is about the war. And for me, it’s not that interesting because he just described the places that they’ve been to…

…Of Ansky and Ivanov and Twilight? There are a lot of side stories in Part 5, the significance of which eludes me. Are the side stories important in knowing the “real” Archimboldi, or are the stories important in understanding the author’s philosophies in life, or are the stories important in understanding the novel as a whole?

…I liked the side stories from the earlier parts of the books, but for some reason I didn’t find the side stories in Part 5 very interesting…

…Or my patience has run out because I’m almost about to finish the book? Hahaha…

…The Aztec thing was interesting though. But Twilight, that I didn’t like, and the later ones which you may not have read yet, I didn’t really like them…

…Don’t you find it weird that bits of Mexican culture are incorporated into Hans’s life? Like that Aztec story? Where would a crazy German girl read about the Aztecs during WW2?

…A wonderful, but crazy – insane(!) book…

…By the time I finished, I was left with more questions than answers…

…Now, I want to go out and read all of Bolano’s novels, starting with The Savage Detectives, then Amulet…

…Actually, I did enjoy some of the side stories in Part 5, like the story of the Jew killer. And the part about Hans’s life is pretty interesting…

…It’s strange how they show Archimboldi as a writer who just writes because he wants to – without much thought to his work or stories. And then we read earlier how the critics are so obsessed with his work and how they analyze it to death, injecting his novels with different meanings, philosophies, etc…

…It seems like such a contrast from Archimboldi’s life at the time he was writing the novels, which seemed so real (as opposed to the scholars’ abstract ideas and meaning)…

…Is there sense in what I’m saying?

…I think the ending was ok, not much of an ending, but good enough?


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