Toda esa luz está muerta —dijo Ingeborg—. Toda esa luz fue emitida hace miles y millones de años. Es el pasado, ¿lo entiendes? Cuando la luz de esas estrellas fue emitida nosotros no existíamos, ni existía vida en la tierra, ni siquiera la tierra existía. Esa luz fue emitida hace mucho tiempo ¿lo entiendes?, es el pasado, estamos rodeados por el pasado, lo que ya no existe encima de nosotros, iluminando las montañas y la nieve y no podemos hacer nada para evitarlo.
Roberto Bolaño came to me through Mike Engle and Jordan Taylor. I trust them both to pass me a book in a way that I trust few—bless them. I read Mike’s copy. He recently confessed he has been obsessed with Bolaño for a few years, about the same time I’ve been trying to get him to lend me his Spanish editions of the books. Ever the sadist, he started me off with 2666, by far the sexiest, murderous, baroquest wordfest I’ve read in recent months. Coming off from Sade’s Justine last week, I thought this would be a digestive. Little did I know I was lining up for the real grease. Sadly, though, Mike is leaving for Madrid tomorrow and I won’t be able to unload before he comes back in August. Let’s say this brief commentary is a little burp presaging the real vomit to come.
The stories blink on and off like traffic lights. This is a very common device in telenovelas, and yet I couldn’t remember it ever being used in any of the novels I’ve read, ever. The device sort of caught me off guard. So much so, I didn’t realize I was otherwise familiar with the form until halfway through the novel. Good for me, I guess, because I was able to experience some interesting dislocations while I was switching back and forth between murder reports and the stories of the living in Santa Teresa. In “la parte de Fate” we are adomnished that the wretched of the earth don’t get that much airtime, but we’ve heard it so many times, it doesn’t really click. It was in “la parte de los crimenes,” during one of the clinical reports that I caught myself yearning for the continuation of a story that had just been interrupted halfway, one of the many love affairs in the novel, a titillating, yet ultimately banal story. Mon semblable, mon frere! Boy, I like catching myself in the horror within. There it was though. I understood how this simple narrative device, which actuates the form of oblivion by over-splintering the shards of reality—Plotinus meets Bosch—learns us the dark secret of the novel, in a sense drawing our ship past the limit event (boredom) towards the black hole at the center (horror). Each fragment generating a different kind of desire, unpredictable when confronted with the monadic nature of the game, we can get a glimpse of how systemic evil cannot be divorced from the particular fragmented act. While we try to do the social justice math in our heads, we start intuiting a troubling result: The only way humanity could be whole is by facing death together simultaneously… apocalypse, 2666. And yet, this seems like the perfect prelude for a new kind of humanism, a more wistful, sober, seasoned kind of love. Adjust your now nimbler sight to the criss-crossing shards and you will understand why I refuse to label this a dark novel.