I ended the last post promising one more on 2666 but after thinking about it I’m not sure I have much left to say that makes for some sort of grand exit. Here are some scatter-shot departing thoughts.
1) As I said before, I found the ending a little too neat and satisfying, but perhaps one way in which that is not true is the overall portrait of Reiter/Archimbolde. He does not exactly turn out to be the heroic writer figure some may have wanted him to be earlier. He is as mired in day-to-day reality as everyone else. Yet, I was also left unsure as to how culpable he is supposed to be, and I remain unsure of how far overall we can take the connection of the final section to the previous one. As I commented at David’s blog, what do we make of his murder of Sammer? Vigilante justice seems fairly easy and without consequence here as opposed to Santa Teresa.
2) Ok, here’s the anticlimax. I mentioned when the conversation about homophobia was getting started that there was one later instance where the book seemed to show a different kind of reaction to same-sex innuendo. It comes when Archimbolde reacquaints himself with the baroness and, in post-coital conversation, she jokes that “it was clear Archimbolde had never fucked Entrescu” (814), and if he had then his viewpoint on destiny would be changed. It is not notable because homosexuality is embraced (I really can’t imagine that happening in this book), but because the allusion to same-sex sex doesn’t spark a panicked, defensive machismo. Archimbolde simply keeps on with the conversation. Of course there is not much here, but in some ways that is the point—even given that she is saying he obviously hadn’t fucked Entrescu, in the context of this novel it is nearly miraculous he doesn’t freak out or react with disgust at the idea that he might. Maybe this is just because, since he is fucking her, he knows he doesn’t have to “justify” himself to her. In any case, the novel’s treatment of homosexuality has certainly been the most disappointing, and maddening, part about it. I grant I’m not an expert on Mexico, but I found the arguments that the fourth section was registering some culturally specific use of the terms “faggot” and “maricón” to be unconvincing; indeed, much of the reasoning meant to support that argument seemed to me to end up undermining it (Jeff suggests this as well with further explanation in his follow-up comment to his original post, which I highly recommend).
3) Can I just say I’m glad I found a copy of the three-volume edition of 2666 before they went out of print? It was nice not to have to haul around the whole thing. Plus the individual covers were a nice touch.
4) I wonder if the issue of excessive closure in the final part isn’t related to what David has discussed in terms of the possible biographical reading of the novel as an extended reflection on death. But then, having not read most of Bolaño’s work, I don’t have much earlier in his career with which I can compare it.
5) One thing I found remarkable about the final section was the representation of WWII from the perspective of a German soldier. As much as anything, this remarkability is due to my still far too limited reading of literature in translation, but the descriptions of the war, particularly Reiter’s attempts at getting shot, reminded me both of the English and American literary response to WWI and the response in American fiction to WWII. Vonnegut and Heller were especially useful points of comparison regarding the overall tragic absurdity. Yet, since Reiter is fighting for the Germans, it also has a different valence.
6) Participating in the group read was a great way to start book blogging. Thanks to those who ran it and who participated in it in various ways. It has been a great conversation to follow.
7) Enough is enough, though! It is time for this blog to comment on something besides 2666.