2666: The Part About the Crimes, pages 353-404

And so here we are.

What on earth does someone say? Which, I think, is the point.

How does one discuss the graphic, horrible depiction of these awful, essentially true things? How does one take a literary approach to the stark, matter-of-fact description of a series of rapes and murders? The Part About the Critics is rendered absurd, and we are rendered null as critics rights along with them.

What can one possibly say? As reader? As critic? As novelist?

I also feel like Bolaño is basically daring us to enjoy the sections of this part NOT about the crimes. He dares us to want to escape into the spare romance between the policeman and the asylum director. He taunts us for our interest in the lurid (but presumable wholly fictional) depredations of the Penitent. He mocks our interest in Lalo Cura's foiling of the assassination attempt, with its follow-up plotline that veers dangerously close to implicating Cura in Crime-like activities himself. The Crimes continue, steadily persisting, in the background of this and all other Parts. "You want to turn away," he says, "but these other things are feints and distractions from what you know you should be seeing."

And what we are seeing is awful. Just like we knew it would be. And what, finally, is there to say?


  1. What is there to say? I'll say it; why waste your precious span of hours on graphic, horrible depictions of awful things? Art, including literature, should, in the end, elevate the human soul. If it does not accomplish this, it is Bad Art. Good Art is really, really hard to create, but it can address Reality without compromise. it is just that our society has become adjusted to forth rate 'art' by fifth rate minds. IMVVHO, YMMV, FFTDWMIWHMF.

  2. While I will agree that art should elevate the soul, it can also shine a light on that which we wish to avoid. While I am still undecided on 2666, and won't make up my mind until I'm done, it is not fourth-rate. Bolaño's prose is beautiful much of the time, and the landscape of his novel is simultaneously surreal and terribly real.

  3. Dan, what struck me about the opening of the Crimes section is the inbalance in attention, which is clearly intentional: I counted the number of pages dedicated to murder, toss, barely investigate, forget, repeat to the number of pages on the Church defacings and realized there are three main points: one, incompetence and corruption abounds in law enforcement in Santa Teresa; two, people in the town care more about churches than about humans' lives; and three, if misogyny was given the attention blasphemy is, there would be an obvious link to the not at all serial serial killings. Total devaluation of women as people and overvaluation of fictional Creators play like a rhythm in the first block of the Part about the Crimes and I found it enormously well constructed, distasteful, and bit too obvious.
    I'll write on it later. Sorry to blather here.

  4. I'm not reading 2666, so I can't use my freshly calibrated Art-O-Meter to judge the writing. I'm reading some Auchincloss shorts, and while the prose is quite good, the story arcs themselves aren't striking home for me. Elegant prose in and of itself is not Art, just as deft brushstrokes in and of themselves are not Art. At some point, it is better to abandon hope all ye who turn pages here than to persist for the sake of persistence.

    As far as illuminating that which we wish to avoid, unless something in the creation calls to our better angels, so to speak, why bother?

  5. Hey, Dan, I've been going over old reviews of the novel, from when it was first translated and became a phenomenon in the States, and the critics almost all agree with us that Fate is the weakest section. So at least we know we don't go backward from here.