November 26, 2008
Roberto Bolaño - "2666," "Part 3 - The Part About Fate"
Jesus Christ, I'm out of my depth. First up, as I've said before, I'm not a literary critic, or even a book review drone. Second up, this is a remarkable book, something which people better qualified than me will spend years unpicking. The ending of "Part 3" is one of those rare reading moments when your hair stands on end and you feel the cold creep up your back. Or maybe that's just too much cough mixture. No, I'm reasonably certain that it genuinely is amazing.
So, the plot. Part 3 concerns Oscar Fate, an American reporter dealing with political and social issues for a small Harlem magazine. When the magazine's boxing correspondent dies, he is asked to go and cover a fight in... Santa Teresa, Sonora. Once there he hears about the abduction and murder of over two hundred women (based, I presume, on the real situation in Ciudad Juárez) and decides this would make a more interesting story. His editor refuses to cover it. He goes to the fight, where the Mexican boxer is easily beaten. Whilst there he bumps into a Mexican reporter he has been hanging out with and a very beautiful girl: Rosa Amaltifano, the daughter of Oscar Amaltifano, the central character of the previous section. I won't tell you what happens after that. I don't want to ruin any of it.
There's some pretty clunky plotting in this section and some stuff which I'm sure an editor would have advised removing if there had been time before Bolaño's death (why introduce a character as Quincy Williams, only to say that everyone at his magazine calls him Oscar Fate and refer to him like that through the rest of the book? Though I may be missing something...). But the sheer, disconcerting brilliance of his prose and imagination renders all that besides the point. People talk about books being "haunting" far too easily. "2666" makes you feel as if you are being haunted.