2666: pages 466-513

I suppose there is much one might admire about bullfighters. They are certainly brave, in a particular kind of way. From what I understand (never having seen a bullfight myself), especially skilled matadors dispatch the bull with grace and artistry. Doubtless bullfighting aficionados can list favorite bullfighters, and their various attributes and admirable qualities.

I do not, however, admire bullfighters. When one strips away all the pageantry and history and romance, what one is left with is the ritual torture and slaughter of an animal for the titillation of a bloodthirsty crowd.

I have a sneaking suspicion that I am going to end up hating this book. Not merely failure to enjoy or dislike, but outright hatred. For all I may admire about BolaƱo's undeniable skill as a writer, for all his facility with prose and wry observation, I am coming to detest what I see emerging as the central theme.

I had a lengthy diatribe all composed in my head, and I've decided to shelve it for now. We are still only just past the halfway point, and I'll withhold my final opinion until the very end. All I will say is that I think Steve is probably right:
It appears to me that we are being presented with a particular vision of the nature of human existence by a man who takes pride in portraying the most troubling aspects of that existence with nary a flinch. That’s all. There is not a lick of redemption here nor is there held out the hope of any because that is the way he sees the truth of the matter.

If, at the end of the book, I have found nothing to dissuade me from this interpretation, then I'll say exactly what I think of this particular vision of humanity.

As for this bit of the Part About the Crimes, I find myself weary of trying to find something about which to comment. The mutilations of the bodies have become more horrific, like something out of a remarkably gruesome Thomas Harris novel. We are treated to brief musings about the relative appeal of prison rape as compared to the rape and murder of women. Some crimes are solved, and more are not.

At this point, I almost feel as though I should apologize to the other people participating in the group read. I have a nagging feeling that my comments are going to become increasingly disapproving and uncomplimentary, at least until we're done with the crimes. I'll continue to post weekly comments, and I'm always glad to have people stop by to add their thoughts, but I fear I'm adding little to the conversation at this point.


  1. It gets better in part 5. That doesn't make part 4 any easier to get through, but it was in part 5 that I began to figure that this was a good book. I'll be curious to see what I think this second time around, with a closer reading.

  2. I am holding out hope for the last Part, which is why I decided to shelve the screed for now.

  3. Damn! I saw your comment at Naptime and was all fired up to see you eviscerate the eviscerator, only to find that Bolano had gotten a reprieve, and the bloody deed was put off until another day. Oh well. I can wait.

    I’m nowhere near as down on the book as you are, but for what it's worth I find it very useful to compare notes with an insightful commentator who loathes the book. It keeps me from becoming complacent about the book’s flaws.

    One thing I will say regarding your screed, which I’ll have to imagine for now—of the first five people who spring to mind when I think “moral hero”, none are novelists.