This is week 2 of the 2666 read-a-long. See Leeswammes blog for the central discussion points for this section.
Pages 80-159 (79 pages)
The second part of meeting the critics seems to continue with the theme of introducing the characters and helps set the scene for whatever horrors come next.
The story tells about the last vestiges of normality and it feels like Bolaño is placing the characters in their final positions like chess pieces ready to do battle. Norton has the most action with a central part in the story which references the abyss.
My favourite scene is the dream where Norton is looking at the reflection of herself in the mirrors in the hotel room. It’s her, but dead. A literal death or a reference to a transition? The apocalypse that’s coming perhaps?
I noticed that the characters are referred to by their surnames except when in dialogue or thought thinks of them. Then they are more intimately referenced by their first names (116). Even though Norton seems to be the ‘whore’ as mentioned in the first part, it is the men who are crass and turn quickly to prostitutes.
Espinoza turns an ordinary girl into a prostitute – see the lingerie he bought for her. A thong and garters and black tights and a black teddy and black spike heeled shoes. Then there’s the crude way the author refers to sex in those scenes (154).
The gentle Morini and Norton finally find love which we discover in a letter interspersed throughout the derelict end of the world in Santa Teresa. This makes the love sentiment even more poignant for the abandoned two critics. Pelletier spends his time reading Archimboldi, who writes about pain delicately (143), and drinking. Espinoza seduces a young local girl only to turn her into a cheap sex object in the back of his car and his hotel room.
Archimboldi is meant to have appeared in the town they all visit as perhaps trying to escape his destiny. Amalfitano can see what’s coming up and tells them of exile “as a natural movement, something that, in its way, helps to abolish fate, or what is generally thought of as fate.” (117)
Edwin Johns, the painter who cut off his arm for money is one of the first, we are told about, who fell into the abyss. He is fascinating and his actions rather chilling. When I first read about his mutilation I thought it might be due to some profound thought such as a part of him as actual self expression. Instead he tells Morini that it was about, the basest of desires, money. This seems so hollow and empty to me and he is one of the first lost to the abyss because he has lost all hope perhaps? The abyss seems to be a living metaphor for desperation and hopelessness. We see it in Liz’s eyes when looking down at the two men.
when [Espinoza] woke his stomach hurt and he wanted to die. Is this because he had a fleeting glimpse of reality? Has he lost everything that makes him a little human, that gives him some hope?
The final part is Pelletier’s dream of water. There’s also the reminder of the people waiting at the beach (see previous week). Water can also represent emotions and the strangest part of the dream was that the water was alive. Is the abyss feeding on people’s emotions? Is the apocalypse representative of a lost sense of happiness? a monster of sorts that feeds off emotions? It reminds me of the dementors in Harry Potter, that same draining of all hope. The loss of serotonin that leads to depression and the effects that can be felt in hangovers and come downs.
And so the scene is set.
Next is Section II The Part About Amalfitano (1 week)
3. Pages 163-228 (65 pages) March 19th