November 17, 2008

"2666" - the first 100 pages of "The Part About The Critics"

I'm nervous of spoilers and - as you will know if you've ever read any of my posts - I'm no literary critic, so I probably have much less to say about this than I should, but there you are. My main observation so far is how different "2666" seems to the rest of Bolaño's work. For one thing, there's no sign of his alter-ego, Arturo Belano. For another, the settings are literary conferences in London, Paris and all parts of Germany, rather than amid drunken avant garde poets in Mexico City and beyond (although having said that, at p110, the characters have just arrived in Sonora, also a kind of Ground Zero in "The Savage Detectives," if I remember rightly).

As you'd expect from any self-respecting writer, Bolaño is suitably acid about the critics, although in a fundamentally sympathetic way: "those eager and insatiable cannibals, their thirtysomething faces bloated with success, their expressions shifting from boredom to madness, their coded stutterings speaking only two words: love me, or maybe two words and a phrase: love me, let me love you, though obviously no one understood." Which, in some ways, sums up the theme of the book so far - people leading empty lives and searching for a meaning.

But really, the first hundred pages, as well as a really funny story of a menage a trois, is a folded together density of dreams, potted biographies, precise, simple prose and the occasional rush of hallucinatory mania. Something about the tone reminds me of Perec a little - there's a playfulness here, but one which doesn't undermine the seriousness or the underlying melancholy of the story.

Incidentally, I enjoyed the guest appearance by Rodrigo Fresan, who turns up at the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens on page 60. The joke is, of course, that Fresan wrote his superb novel "Kensington Gardens," without ever having visited London.

Blah. Enough.

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