Ulysses Diaries, I

In which disinterest called for a hiatus – Ulysses Diaries, I

I am concurrently reading Ulysses with Jane Eyre, but since I got so absorbed with the story of the headstrong lady protagonist of the latter, I deprioritized the reading of the former. At least I got myself to episode 5, which is a measly 70 or so pages. I will definitely go back to this after Jane Eyre. I just think that it needs my undivided attention.

So far, it’s not as promising as the people behind Modern Library’s Top 100 Books make it appear. Yes, they hailed this as the No. 1 novel of their list, probably its difficulty being the foremost reason. But yes, let’s still give it the benefit of the doubt, however doubtful one’s comprehension may get.

Note: I am reading this with the blogger of The Misanthropologist.


Episode 1, Telemachus:

I’ve been bombarded with too much information by the lengthy introduction that I decided not to finish it and get a start on the novel’s text. I was quite bored, mostly because I am expecting to get bored.

We read about the morning rituals of Stephen Dedalus, the protagonist of A Portrait whom I hate with such intensity. He eats breakfast with a cantankerous guy and a guy who annoys him. He thinks about his mother’s recent death. He is asked of his theories on Hamlet. I haven’t read Hamlet.

I’ve only read a digest of Odysseus. Edith Hamilton’s. I barely remember it. Good grief, I think this will be a hard reading.

Episode 2, Nestor:

Here’s a novel that talks of anti-Semitism. Like I care about that. Forgive me, but I just can’t understand why there’s so much hatred toward the Jews. Should I blame myself or should I blame the absence of Jewish culture in this country?

There’s also something about misogyny here. The contrast of Stephen’s thoughts about his mother, and a mother’s love in general, and the schoolmaster’s prejudice against women is presented here. There’s also some talk about history, about teaching and learning, and what else?

About saving money. I think I should start working seriously on that. I have paid my own way. Will I ever be able to say that, especially in this country where reciprocity, or debt of gratitude, is an unshakable virtue?

Episode 3, Proteus:

Gawd. Gawd. I have to admit that I largely depend on the dialogues to understand what’s going on, but with the scarcity of talking in this part, I didn’t get anything. I think I hear something melodious here and there, but I fail to catch what it’s trying to say.

All I know is that Stephen is thinking of random things, looking at random things, and what else? Watching a dog smell the carcass of another dog, contemplating of going to the dentist, picking his nose, and looking at a passing ship.

So far, in the three hours of the novel, Stephen shaves, eats breakfast, goes to work at school, gets his salary from the schoolmaster, visits his uncle, stares off to the sea. This ends the first part of the novel, and there’s nothing promising about it. Novels that deliberately make the text hard to understand just for the sake of being hard to understand do not garner my respect.

Episode 4, Calypso:

I like Leopold Bloom better than Stephen Dedalus. I usually like moody, depressing characters, but reading a difficult book makes me want to see something positive in it. And Bloom acts as that one who would also counterbalance the traits of Stephen.

The opening of Part II is more promising than that of Part I. Perhaps this is due to my hatred for A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Stephen is the protagonist there, and I think Ulysses picks up around two to five years after the events of the former novel.

Both Bloom and Stephen are eating breakfast, so I guess it is right to assume that this episode and the first episode occurred at the same time. Instead of the wife preparing the breakfast, Bloom does it all, even the shopping and picking of letters. And oh, I quite cringed at that part about Bloom defecating. Is it necessary to count the number of attempts to get the turd out of your bowels?

Episode 5, Lotus Eaters:

I sort of appreciated that part where Bloom is nursing thoughts of his pen pal while inside the church. That seems to me yet another proof of religion as an opium, either an addictive or mind-numbing substance. Or both. I am not too sure if the church service is for the funeral of poor Dignam. Everyone seems to call him that, and what is so poor about him? Is he literally poor or is he poor because he’s already robbed of his earthly existence?

Another thing that I liked is the flower language, where parts of the letter that Bloom received from his pen pal are replaced with names of flowers. The type of flower that you give someone speaks a lot of your motives, whether intentionally or not. I just don’t know yet what the pressed dried flower, smelling nothing, symbolizes. Probably a relationship that would never prosper?

Bloom and his wife are in a kind of infidelity game. The husband is entertaining an unseen pen pal while the wife is, or was, flirting with her manager of sorts. That I only gathered from the introduction of my edition.

2666 Diaries, V

Almost too late, but let’s do this – 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?

2666 Diaries, IV

Translating the thoughts about the killings – 2666 Diaries, IV

The Part about the Crimes

Yes, this time, I took my time to translate my buddy’s thoughts from Filipino or Taglish to English. Quite an effort since I do not wish to sound like I’m translating the inputs literally. Like “Wala lang,” a phrase that literally means “Nothing much.” Actually, that cannot even pass as a literal translation if we adhere to the strict literal sense because “lang” seems to be an exclusive Filipino thing.

Anyway, I’m just going to note again that these thoughts are from The Misanthropologist.

Day 7:

We read all about the women who were abducted, raped, strangled, staked, and thrown everywhere. The descriptions are delivered matter-of-factly, much like a police report. Well, these are mostly police reports, and autopsy reports, and such reports.

And since there are police reports, there are also inspectors. We are introduced to a number of them, but I remember mostly Juan de Dios Martinez. He seems to be the most capable and levelheaded among them, the inspectors and police men. But despite this, he can’t crack the cases assigned to him yet.

The cases, which are not only about the killings, include one about a church desecrator, which is more of a side story, unless this desecrator is somehow related to the more serious crimes. I’m quoting someone when I say that, I think it’s the police chief who said that.

There is another side story about a young bodyguard who turned to be a real police thanks to the fearless execution of his duty. Actually, there are a lot of side stories. The descriptions of the crimes are all side stories, some to be endured, some to be relished.

I sometimes think that these relaying of the crimes is saturating this part. We get the point: the murders appear random, they are violent, they are crawling at a significant number. Is this the intention of the author, to make us flinch at each page?

There are some crimes which I find less interesting than the background. Like the murder of one woman where the body is found by an El Salvadorean, who was imprisoned and released a broken man. He then wandered around, lost in that city, and he died. That’s me cutting the short story shorter.

And then there’s also the family of the eleven-year old victim. A picture of a squalid, striving family. Very poignant. And there’s something really terrible about young girls being raped.

And there is, too, the case of the American. Not really striking, but it sort of left me hanging because that’s where I stopped reading last night.

Day 8:

I don’t think the writer is trying to shock the readers with the crimes. Probably he’s trying to say that murder can be as mundane as taking a stroll in the park if people who are supposed to investigate the crimes aren’t really fit for it.

The appearance of Florita Almada is such a delight! It’s a nice break from the reportage of the crimes. Florita, or La Santa, has a beautiful background. Beautiful not because she’s a princess but because it is thought-provoking. Besides, it’s hard not to be drawn to a character who reads a lot and who is somehow nerdy and who has a tendency to be incoherent.

Florita, I should say, is officially my favorite 2666 character. Anyway, the novel wouldn’t revolve around her, so let’s get back. Where is the novel leading to? I only have a vague feeling of what this is all about.

Is it about justice, which is only that, a lofty ideal that is forever out of reach? Is it about the slumbering society, who needs a hundred crimes to wake up and do something? Is it about the fear of women, as pointed out earlier?

Day 9:

Cause of death: Strangulation. Vaginally and anally raped. No source of identification. Multiple stab wounds. Hair is shoulder level. Wearing gray sweatshirt, black leggings, and white tennis shoes.

At least at this part, there is development as far as the crimes are concerned. Epifanio does his best to solve one of the cases assigned to him. He ended up with the arrest of a computer store owner, Klaus Haas, but even if this man is in prison, the murders go on.

Haas may have a history of sexual assaults, but I don’t think he has anything to do with the murders on a large scale. Really, I don’t know what to think of.

I was told by a college colleague that one of the safest places here on earth is the prison. That is, if you are not an inmate. I think it is better to assume that nowhere is safe. There’s always the danger of the AC exploding right in front of my face while typing these words.

Maybe that’s not being unsafe. It’s being unlucky. Haas must have been unlucky to get tangled in this murder business. But I don’t think he’s unlucky at all. Being able to call a press conference while you are at jail is not bad. It’s annoying if you imagine that happening in real life, but if we only consider luck here, it’s not bad at all.

Day 10:

I am so tired of reading about the crimes. It’s becoming a drag, like pulling a blanket cast out of the sea. I am no longer interested whatever it is that is behind the crimes. I just wish for this part to end.

I insist that all those descriptions about the crimes are unnecessary to the development of the novel’s core plot. Speaking of development, I don’t know whether the unresolved cases will have further development or they will just stagnate there, on the shelves. Cliffhangers, maybe?

As I try to connect this part with the previous ones, I wonder if there is anything solid to make it all cohesive. I am always waiting for characters from the previous parts to be mentioned, particularly Guadalupe, the reporter that Fate assisted and who was about to interview the prime suspect of the killings. But no, she was not mentioned, yet. Other reporters are mentioned though, but is that enough to link the two parts together? Is it even necessary to have a link?

Will Haas be able to redeem himself in such a rotten system, one that is filled with corruption and negligence? Everything is being lost, like blood samples, DNA results, and others. And if Haas were truly innocent, this would have sucked a lot. It is screaming injustice. But if he really were involved with the crimes, is justice really served?

Why, Haas is a perpetrator of injustice himself. Remember that the end does not justify the means? He is trying to investigate the matter by resorting to under the table tricks, like obtaining a cell phone while in prison. That is not allowed anywhere, right? I mean ideally? Really, I do not know what I am talking about.

Day 11:

I cannot fully express my joy and sense of achievement when I got to the last page of this part. It seemed to go on and on forever, and just as I predicted, it ended with no closure. There was a sense of development, but we are now moving to a different part, which hopefully will tie up all the loose ends.

We are introduced to the congresswoman Azucena. I didn’t really get what her role is in the near-end phase of this part. I thought she was the art writer’s lover. Until the last couple of pages, I realized that she wants the writer to follow-up the case of her missing best friend.

It could be that this art writer, Sergio, is that guy whom Guadalupe from Part 3 succeeded. In a novel like this, one can never be too sure.

And there are more investigations being started instead of being wrapped up. No, Guadalupe was not mentioned, and I don’t understand why I keep on expecting her to be a part of this. Anyway, the new investigations, particularly the one by Mary-Sue, are quite promising, but again, I feel that all efforts are doomed.

I think I understand now why the five parts of this novel were not published individually as the author requested on his last will. They can barely stand alone. Each novel, or part, will leave the reader gritting with both suspense and disappointment, which is both a good and bad thing. The first part is good enough. The second part is too short. The third part is a mix of the first too: quite good and quite short. The fourth is a mess.

And now, we are on the last part. I do not know what to expect anymore. Rather, I do not wish to set any expectations.

Inside that book with a yellow cover everything was expressed so clearly that sometimes Florita Almada thought the author must have been a friend of Benito Juarez and that Benito Juarez had confided all his childhood experiences in the man’s ear. If such a thing were possible. If it were possible to convey what one feels when night falls and the stars come out and one is alone in the vastness, and life’s truths (night truths) begin to march past one by one, somehow swooning or as if the person out in the open were swooning or as if a strange sickness were circulating in the blood unnoticed. What are you doing, moon, up in the sky? asks the little shepherd in the poem. What are you doing, tell me, silent moon? Aren’t you tired of plying the eternal byways? The shepherd’s life is like your life. He rises at first light and moves his flock across the field. Then, weary, he rests at evening and hopes for nothing more. What good is the shepherd’s life to him or yours to you? Tell me, the shepherd muses, said Florita Almada in a transported voice, where is it heading, my brief wandering, your immortal journey? Man is born into pain, and being born itself means risking death, said the poem. And also: But why bring to light, why educate someone we’ll console for living later? And also: If life is misery, why do we endure it? And also: This, unblemished moon, is the mortal condition. But you’re not mortal, and what I say may matter little to you. And also, and on the contrary: You, eternal solitary wanderer, you who are so pensive, it may be you understand this life on earth, what our suffering and sighing is, what this death is, this last paling of the face, and leaving Earth behind, abandoning all familiar, loving company. And also: What does the endless air do, and that deep eternal blue? What does this enormous solitude portend? And what am I? And also: This is what I know and feel: that from the eternal motions, from my fragile being, others may derive some good or happiness. And also: But life for me is wrong. And also: Old, white haired, weak, barefoot, bearing an enormous burden, up mountain and down valley, over sharp rocks, across deep sands and bracken, through wind and storm, when it’s hot and later when it freezes, running on, running faster, crossing rivers, swamps, falling and rising and hurrying faster, no rest or relief, battered and bloody, at last coming to where the way and all effort has led: terrible, immense abyss into which, upon falling, all is forgotten. And also: This, O virgin moon, is human life. And also: O resting flock, who don’t, I think, know your own misery! How I envy you! Not just because you travel as if trouble free and soon forget each need, each hurt, each deathly fear, but more because you’re never bored. And also: When you lie in the shade, on the grass, you’re calm and happy, and you spend the great part of the year this way and feel no boredom. And also: I sit on the grass, too, in the shade, but an anxiousness invades my mind as if a thorn is pricking me. And also: Yet I desire nothing, and till now I have no reason for complaint. And at this point, after sighing deeply, Florita Almada would say that several conclusions could be drawn: (1) that the thoughts that seize a shepherd can easily gallop away with him because it’s human nature; (2) that facing boredom head-on was an act of bravery and Benito Juarez had done it and she had done it too and both had seen terrible things in the face of boredom, things she would rather not recall; (3) that the poem, now she remembered, was about an Asian shepherd, not a Mexican shepherd, but it made no difference, since shepherds are the same everywhere; (4) that if it was true that all effort led to a vast abyss, she had two recommendations to begin with, first, not to cheat people, and, second, to treat them properly.

Buddy Notes:

…The crimes in Part 4 are interesting – some very detailed, some mentioned just in passing. And the side stories are interesting too, especially the one about the Penitent…

…I think the author is trying to saturate the readers with his violent descriptions, trying to desensitize them…

…It’s strange because though there are lots of killings, they don’t seem to be done by the same guy or people. A lot of them are caused by domestic problems and a lot of the girls are killed by their boyfriends/husbands…

…I think it maybe have something to do with what the Asylum Director was saying about how Mexican Men have a fear of women…

…I am starting to notice that there are a lot of whores, pimps, and drug addicts in Santa Teresa, hehehe…

…I wish that instead of just listing down all the dead women, that the author would elaborate more on the events and kind of gel together the narration. For now, it’s still just a list of individual victims…

…As of yesterday’s readings, I counted 46 dead women…

…I was just curious because they mentioned in the earlier part of the book that hundreds of women died, and since Part 4 is really long, I was wondering if the author would actually list all 100 or 200+ incidents, hehehe…

…Well yeah, Mexico is classified as a 3rd world country (right?). I don’t know, but most of the deaths are whores, and there’s just too many whores for one town…

…I don’t think the sex trade is directly related to poverty, but poverty is a definite cause. I think whores and pimps are not prevalent in India, could be because of the caste system too and religion. Who knows, hahaha…

…After day 3 of The Part About the Crimes – body count so far = 76, hehehe…

…I actually like the layout of the this book because even though it’s thick and even though it has a lot of lines per page, it’s divided into chunks separated by the big dots. That’s why it seems to make it easier to read. I also feel that I can read this faster. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, hehehe…

…I think one of the things the author is doing is (exposing) and criticizing South American/Mexican culture – the prevalence of corruption, police brutality, drug-use, sex crimes, the general ideas of men towards women, etc…

…The prison in Santa Teresa doesn’t seem like a very safe place. LOL…

…I’m also waiting for a connection between the characters from Part about the Crimes with the characters from the previous parts, but I don’t think there were any, except that Haas was the guy that Guadalupe (?) from The Part About Fate interviewed in prison. But other than that, there doesn’t seem to be any connection…

2666 Diaries, III

And then there were two – 2666 Diaries, III

I don’t know what happened to our other buddies, but I’m glad that The Misanthropologist, yes, our still unnamed, elusive, not-so-anonymous friend, is still on. Who, by the way, does not sound as misanthropological as the name denotes.

Okay, I’ll stop pretending. Actually, we’re both done with this. I know, the posts are delayed. A lot of things to do. Here we go.

Notes: These are originally posted on a discussion thread at GoodReads-TFG. I was originally reading this with the bloggers of The Misanthropologist and Kikay Reader, and our bookish friends Emir and Doc Ranee. I don’t know what happened to the other three, but I can’t keep holding back for them. 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.

Day 5:

I thought this is going to be a real drag, but the opening paragraph proved otherwise. Something about death. And then immediately, we are introduced to a Quincy Williams. Like who is this guy and how will he contribute to the grand scheme of things? And why is this even about fate?

Rather Fate? I honestly thought it’s about fate fate, about destiny, coincidence, etc. Philosophical musings, existentialism, et al. But not really. We are presented with a guy called Oscar Fate. Why? I don’t know. It was never mentioned why. We probably always don’t need the why’s. There could be a celebrity with the same name, but I don’t know for sure. If not, it’s a bit of a puzzle, but as I mentioned, let’s not brood over it. It could be just a whim.

I enjoyed this part better than the previous part. Probably because there are interesting touches, like Seaman’s (?) talk about Danger, Money, Food, Stars, and Usefulness. I can’t say I fully understood them, but they are worth a reread. They can even stand apart from the book.

This novel is structured similarly to David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, differing only in timeline. The parts of Bolano’s novel are moving concurrently while the chapters of Mitchell’s novel are connected in layers. 2666, however, somehow also works in layers, just because there’s a feeling that you are getting deeper into things, hahaha.

Day 6:

I think the events took a sharp turn here. A preparation for the next part, I think, since there is more talk about the crimes than before. We are introduced to Guadalupe, a reporter assigned to investigate the heinous crimes.

And look, Rosa Amalfitano is here. I didn’t expect her to have a lot of exposure on this part. Well, what can I say? She’s your typical American teenager. Well, she’s not American, but booze and drugs while slacking your college years away is something I find all too familiar. Not that I’ve been a college derelict, but hey, you get the drift. I think?

At the last few pages of Part III, there’s a sense of mounting action. We are excited to know who the prime suspect is. And we want to find out what will happen to Fate and Rosa. Is someone really after them? Will Guadalupe be able to pop the first question? Judging by the remaining number of pages, those questions will not be answered.

I also think that Fate’s character lost its flavor at the near end. He turned out to be someone who had less gall. I still give him credit for some of the things that he exhibited, like his interest to cover the crimes. But after seeing the beauty of Rosa, he crippled down and settled to a fetal position. That’s what I imagines, at least. He stopped caring for that.

Does this say that men’s principles are at the mercy of women?

When did it all begin? he thought. When did I go under? A dark, vaguely familiar Aztec lake. The nightmare. How do I get away? How do I take control? And the questions kept coming: Was getting away what he really wanted? Did he really want to leave it all behind? And he also thought: the pain doesn’t matter anymore. And also: maybe it all began with my mother’s death. And also: the pain doesn’t matter, as long as it doesn’t get any worse, as long as it isn’t unbearable. And also: fuck, it hurts, fuck, it hurts. Pay it no mind, pay it no mind. And all around him, ghosts.

Buddy Notes:

…I think I mentioned earlier that of all the parts so far, this one is the most “concrete,” in a sense that it’s about real issues, real problems, and real people. As opposed to scholars with their philosophical and intellectual troubles…

…For me, if there is a part that could stand by itself, I think it’s the Part About the Critics, because though I’m starting to get an idea how Amalfitano, Fate and Rosa tie into the whole story, I don’t know what the critics have to do with it other than being Archimboldi scholars…

…I think Part 3 jives with the existing theme that, in the end, it all boils down to sex…

…Anyway, I thought the ending of Part 3 was strange, with Fate hitting that guy at the other guy’s house, then Amalfitano telling Fate to take his daughter, Rosa to the US, then Guadalupe meeting Rosa and the three of them meeting the suspect and prisoner…

…When I read that, I had to re-read it a few times to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I just found Amalfitano’s actions toward Fate and Rosa so strange…

…To me the ending of Part 3 just seemed disjointed and out of character (for Amalfitano). I don’t know…

…Well I’m interested on your feedback about the events at The Part About the Crimes, hehehe. Personally I like it, though I wish it were more… cohesive? Maybe that’s not the right word for it…

2666 Diaries, II

Hey guys, where are you? – 2666 Diaries, II

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.

Day 4:

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.

Buddy Notes:

…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…