Tuesday, May 18, 2010
2666 - Roberto Bolano
I started reading Bolano's first opus 'the savage detectives' around Hannukah time (fuck Xmas) 2008 and finished it around Purim time. I started 2666 around the same time and didn't finish it until Shavoo-us (May) 2010. I found out about Bolano just after I arrived home from a 2 month trek around Europe and America, being totally oblivious of his presence whilst in Barcelona and New York, the Global Financial Crisis, arriving back in Melbourne to discover the hype about him via the Internet in a New York Times article writen by a rapturous Jonathan Lethem. I am now a victim of the GFC, being 6 months and counting unemployed, so I had time to slog through Bolano's magnum opus and what most critics on the planet seem to agree is the first literary masterpiece of this new century. While I don't think it's a masterpiece, it will be hard work to beat in wake of the death of literature as we know it as fucking Internet retardedness takes over fucking everything and I throw this fucking computer down the toilet.....
What appealed to me initially about 2666 is it's title. it sounds like the title of a crazy sci-fi novel discussing a future world that is more than likely taken over by Satan. It presents itself as apocalyptic and modern, and to my depressive, dysthemic mind, sounds like a good time! Bolano himself is a fascinating character. Defintely a South American Kerouac, his nomadic, outsider life and tragic shortened lifespan, coupled with his apparent 'radical' Dadaist attitude seem to automatically put him the the line of literary 'legend'. But we may never know because he's dead. And like all 'the legends' he apparently created a 'movement' of writers called the 'visceral realists'. I'm not sure if it was a real movement, as the announcement of the movement kicks off the 'On-the-road-x10' that is Bolano's 'the savage detectives'. The 'visceral realists' concept is interesting to me as it evokes a South American version of the 'grunge' literature that became trendy in the 90s brought in by the likes of Charles Bukowski, Hubert Selby Jnr, Irvine Welsh et. al and while Bolano's literature isn't unlike those writers, his sheer density of storytelling nous takes that style into a totally different realm.
So back to 2666. It's a massive book told in 5 parts that all intersect into a giant pan European-South American-American epic:
1. 'The part about the critics' – talks about four fuckhead critics/academics who are brought together in search of an obscure 'Italian' poet called Archimboldi and end up into a love quadrangle before leading into..
2.'The Part about Amalfitano' – who is some some Chilean guy that had a baby daughter Rosa with a crazy woman called Lola who went off to screw some schizo gay poets, then Amalfitano goes crazy himself.
3.'The part about Fate' - concerns an afro-American journo Oscar Fate who interviews a legendary black boxer, then goes to the Mexico border to report on a boxing fight and learn about some murder in a town called Santa Teresa, where things go really dark..
4.'The part about the crimes' – well someone had to out CormacMcCarthy Cormac McCarthy
5.'The part about Archimboldi' – goes to Germany where we learn about the mysterious poet who started the whole journey off..
So what can I say about all this? Well it took me a slow 5 months to read, and it's definitely an ambitious work, and I guess it's a masterpiece of some sort, simply because of the nerve Bolano had to write such a sprawling work. It reminds me of Sonic Youth's 'Daydream Nation' or the Beatles 'white album' or the Velvet Undergrounds' 'sister ray' - long, intricate, fractal (repeating myself) works that have to be absorbed in their entirety to at least get some idea of what they're trying to do. In the case of 2666 it's to ultimately tell this big saga that seems to invert back to a town called Santa Teresa in Mexico, that could quite simply be the true portal of hell. (NOTE: It's too literal and large to be compared to Burroughs, and also too intellectual, as it doesn't have the canny pulp coolness of Burroughs or Boris Vian, and I guess thats why I didn't perceive it to be as such a masterpiece as some thought it to be)
One of the the sad things about reading a book like 2666 is the awareness that literature is dying a slow death, that there will be no renaissance, that the bogans are going to take over fucking everything while Rupert Murdoch, Exxon, Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook fuck everybody into infinity. Shit I'm contributing by posting this on this here blog. Bolano was totally into the pretentious, elitist nature of literature, and his books teems with an academic/critics knowledge of cultural minutiae, not unlike British author Stuart Home. It's like an awareness that the only people that read this shit are intellectuals that know and are learned in the art/literature movements in history, and I guess this is part of the challenge that Bolano tried to confront in order to keep literature alive. He must have been aware that readers of 'Twilight' and 'Lord of the Rings' would never read 2666, but then again, there's no reason they shouldn't. I really like how it's too massive to be a 'trendy' book, and I still only know one person who's read it, and I suggested it to her!
2666 was ultimately a book written by a guy knowing his time is running out, knowing that our time is running out, knowing that this is the sort of book that should be read when you are doing time, whatever that may be.