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2018 Book Discussions > 2666 - (1) The Part About the Critics (spoilers allowed) (Mar 2018)

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message 1: by Hugh (last edited Mar 14, 2018 11:55PM) (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2593 comments Mod
This topic is for free discussion of the first book. Spoilers are fine but should not refer to events in the later parts.

What were your initial impressions? Did you relate to any if the characters? Did you get a sense of why the critics are so obsessed with Archimboldi? Given that the author considered the project as 5 linked novels, did you sense any resolution?


message 2: by Dianne (last edited Mar 18, 2018 09:58AM) (new)

Dianne | 204 comments My initial impression was that this might be dry, but it most certainly did not end up that way! This section really can stand on its own so it will be interesting to see how it relates to the other parts of the book. I can definitely relate to the bookishness of the characters, but probably not much else! They are far more free spirited and, shall we say, open-minded in their tendencies! I have to confess that I googled Archimboldi to see if he was a real author and was relieved to find he was not. (if he had been, I would have wondered - why have I not heard of this person?) I couldn't quite tell why everyone was so obsessed with A - perhaps because he relayed human emotions in a 'delicate' way? I can't imagine reading a book numerous times, even if I loved it, the way that the main characters do.

It was interesting to read how the characters connected with each other and how their friendship evolves - it was great how it was that element that they all valued the most throughout. I found the ending to be rather unexpected! This section seemed to have its own resolution so I am curious to read about what happens next - the only part that seemed to be left hanging was the reference to the 'consequences' of the philandering ways of Espinoza and Pelletier. Did anyone else find it bizarre that these men solicited whores in part out of some sense of loyalty to Norton? Bizarre.


message 3: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2306 comments This was my least favorite of the five parts. I was not drawn to any of the critics as individuals - they were a messy lot - but I was intrigued by the stories of how they became obsessed with Archimboldi and how their obsessions led to successful careers (and to their friendship(?). I learned absolutely nothing about Archimboldi's work other than the titles of his books.


Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 241 comments I sat down to read a few pages of this today, and didn't get up until I'd finished this first 'novel' (except for coffee). I'm not sure I can say why I was so enthralled just yet--and though Archimboldi might (probably does, I don't know) become important later on, in this section his writing seems almost like a McGuffin device; his writing is simply the narrative center about which these characters revolve.

I was very happy to find that I enjoyed this section as much as I did. My previous experience with Bolaño (plus the snippets I'd heard about the book) had me expecting something a lot less interesting. I don't know how the rest of the book will stack up, but I'm surprised and glad it turned out the way it did.


message 5: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2593 comments Mod
I am enjoying the comments. For me this section was entertaining as the academic world is familiar and an easy target for satire.


message 6: by Nadine (new)

Nadine (nadinekc) | 411 comments My first Bolano and I had no idea what to expect. And I still don't, but so far I'm really enjoying the way Bolano satirizes the oddly passionless passions of academics. Bryan, I agree with your McGuffin idea - I get the feeling that this book might be full of them. Although we'll have to see about Archimboldi as McGuffin - the title of the last part is about him (judging by the title anyway....I wouldn't put anything past Bolano!)

A few of my favorite bits......
Describing Pelletier and Espinoza, he writes:

"But in practice, neither believed in friendship or loyalty. They believed in passion, they believed in a hybrid form of social or public happiness (both voted Socialist, albeit with the occasional abstention), they believed in the possibility of self-realization".

The farcical way P & E ask Norton (and I love that he refers to them by last name) to choose between them:

Pelletier and Espinoza took pains however, to make it clear there in front of each other, that the ideal thing for them, and they imagined for Norton too, was that she ultimately, and in a nontraumatic way (try to make it a soft landing, said Pelletier), choose one of them, or neither of them, said Espinoza, either way the decision was in her hands, Norton's hands, and it was a decision she could make whenever she wanted, whenever was the most convenient for her, or never make, put off, defer, postpone, draw out, delay, adjourn until her death bed, they didn't care.....

The farce gets suddenly vicious though, when these paragons of enlightenment nearly beat a cabbie to death for calling Norton a slut and themselves whoremongers.

For a few days, Pelletier and Espinoza were, quite independently, filled with remorse by the business with the Pakistani driver...Espinoza wondered whether his behavior didn't reveal what he truly was, in other words, a violent, xenophobic reactionary. Pelletier's guilt, on the other hand, was driven by having kicked he Pakistani when he was already on the ground, which was frankly unsportsmanlike.....One night the two of them talked on the phone for a long time. They comforted each other. But after a few minutes they were again lamenting what had happened, even though deep inside they were convinced that it was the Pakistani that was the real reactionary and misogynist, the violent one, the intolerant and offensive one, that the Pakistani had asked for it a thousand times over."


message 7: by Jacob (new)

Jacob | 7 comments This is my second Bolano - I read The Savage Detectives years ago, and to be honest struggled with it. I saw, as others did, the academic satire, which was punctured by Amolfitano's long speech on the "function of intellectuals" in Latin America (of course, then undercut by Amalfitano's "Really, I've just been talking nonsense" conclusion). I was also struck by the stories-within-stories that recur in this section and the narrative unreliability. Also, I enjoyed Bolano playing with style in these retold stories, the most obvious being the Swabian's five page story on Archimboldi, told in a single five-page sentence starting on page 18.

Finally, the creeping violence, whether on- or off-screen, is clearly foreshadowing for upcoming sections. Not only the Pelletier and Espinoza beating of the cab driver, as Nadine helpfully described, but that another cab driver beating takes place in Mexico, this time observed by Pelletier and Espinoza. Add to this the description at the party of the murders of local women, which seems to have little impact on Espinoza ("that implies I was upset, and why should I have been upset?"). The combination of violence with underreaction or flatness to the violence taking place certainly left me unsettled.


message 8: by Hugh (last edited Apr 09, 2018 01:33AM) (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2593 comments Mod
Carissa, I hope you can face reading at least two of the parts before quitting (view spoiler). As to what Bolano's point was, that is the sort of question you could write a degree thesis on...


message 9: by Hugh (last edited Apr 04, 2018 04:49AM) (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2593 comments Mod
Sunita wrote: "I have no idea why I'm reading what I'm reading"
Yes, this wasn't the only Part where I felt that!


message 10: by Neil (new)

Neil | 306 comments Well, this is quite an adventure, even having only read this first part so having no idea about how future parts will develop.

(Hugh - minor bone to pick with you - you said not to refer to events in later parts and then you told us that the critics don't re-appear after this part - I know strictly speaking you are telling us what DOESN'T happen in subsequent parts, but...)

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. I read the whole of this part today, partly because it has rained all day but mostly because it was such good fun to read. To me, it really feels like it has set things up and I am not sure that it would work on its own. It has told us bits about Archimboldi, it has hinted about the deaths of lots of women, it has suggested hidden layers of violence. I don't know how the remaining parts will develop, but, from what I have heard I don't expect a sort of linear narrative that just continues to develop a story.

I am really looking forward to reading on.


message 11: by Hugh (last edited Apr 09, 2018 02:15AM) (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2593 comments Mod
Sorry Neil - that comment was really meant just to encourage those who were flagging not to give up at this stage. I have put it inside spoiler tags


message 12: by Neil (new)

Neil | 306 comments I know ;-)

It’s not a problem, although I didn’t know we would lose them, so it was a surprise. In some ways, it heightens my expectations for future parts as it makes me wonder where it is going.


message 13: by Neil (new)

Neil | 306 comments I am not really sure how to comment on this part without knowing how it relates to other parts. When I started it, I assumed it was serious, but I quickly realised when there were some ridiculous plot developments, that it was more comic than I had thought it would be. In truth, the whole story is rather far-fetched, but it was great fun to read. I found the writing (and therefore the translation, I assume) very readable. The characters seem to be parodies. And, within that mix, there are hints of darker things developing. If it carries on being as clever as I think it is, this is going to be a wonderful book.


message 14: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2593 comments Mod
Thanks for your thoughts Neil and Sunita - I look forward to seeing how you get on with the rest of the book.


message 15: by Suki (last edited May 11, 2018 02:26AM) (new)

Suki St Charles (goodreadscomsuki_stcharles) | 23 comments I just finished the first section, and I really enjoyed it. I wasn't sure what to expect, because I read a number of reviews that really bashed the book, but since there were also a lot of reviews praising it, I decided to give it a try. At first, I really didn't know what was going on-- I found that it was kind of like stepping on to a moving sidewalk, you just have to relax and let it carry you along. I didn't really like or emphasize with any of the critics because they really seem to have elevated opinions of themselves, so I wasn't sorry to read in the above comments that
(view spoiler) The part where Pelletier and Espinoza beat the cabdriver really startled me, it seemed to be so out of character for them. It took them a little while to react-- I wonder if the scene was at least in part a macho display to impress Norton.

I am really enjoying Bolano's writing style.


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