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2018 Book Discussions > 2666 - (4) The Part About The Crimes (spoilers allowed) (Mar 2018)

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Hugh (bodachliath) | 2624 comments Mod
I am opening this before finishing the section because it has so many potential talking points. I found it hard work - especially the catalogue of killings but some of the digressions are wonderful and arcane. Loved the list of phobias...


Hugh (bodachliath) | 2624 comments Mod
This is the only one of the five parts that is entirely set in Santa Teresa. It also seems to be the most self-contained, but note that one of the characters here also appears in Part Five.


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2316 comments This part quickly captured me. First was the endless parade of murdered women. For some, we got the background, while for others, it was never determined and the bodies were just buried or given to the medical school. The cases of the unknown woman were described without emotion. Second were the detectives, many of whom appeared to be helping to cover the murders up, leading me to believe the mayor and the other "mafia" guys were well aware of who was doing the killing. It was my supposition that some of the women had been used to make the movies that were so profitable.


Hugh (bodachliath) | 2624 comments Mod
I found this section by far the toughest to read - I liked the fact that Bolaño gave each of the victims their own space, but it soon started to feel relentless and repetitive, and I was grateful for the many digressions, subplots and tangential stories. I enjoyed the list of phobias so much that I started reading it out to entertain the friends who were sitting in the same room.


Nikos | 1 comments I think the repetitiveness is exactly what bolano wants to achieve, reading continuously about murdered women, those killed by the serial killer(s) juxtaposed with ‘normal’ murders by lovers, husbands, etc, you are shocked but gradually the details of each unique case are lost and what remains is a desert of dead bodies, the murdered persons are just like statistics, its an overdose of shock and horror and the only option for the mind to cope is turn to apathy.


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2316 comments I see how something happening again and again loses its ability to shock, but I'm not sure the only option for an overdose of shock and horror is apathy. I think Bolaño showed us characters whose response was different than apathy -- for one, the detective who was sure that not all the confessions were true.


Hugh (bodachliath) | 2624 comments Mod
I agree that the repetition was a deliberate artistic choice, but it didn't induce apathy in me - in fact I thought the sheer number of descriptions gave them extra power, as each individual victim was allowed a few paragraphs in a way that emphasised their common humanity.


message 8: by Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (last edited Apr 06, 2018 06:59AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 245 comments I think someone could spend several years trying to unpack this 'part' for meaning, or teasing out all the connecting threads.

I keep thinking back to my previous experience with Bolaño--a short book called Monsieur Pain. In that book, there were a few internal references which were never explained, nor really pointed out--some I only discovered by accident. But even when I became aware of those links, I couldn't see that they augmented the original story much, one I was ambivalent about. I think there are several of those types of links in this section, but it was more of a feeling than anything I could point to. This is one of the few books that I thought would have been beneficial to read on a kindle device for the ability to search back and forth. It's a pain to search through a 900 page book for a dimly remembered reference.

But I'm not sure any of that would make a difference. One of the things that attracts me to this writing is Bolaño's refusal to superimpose a meaning on something that is essentially meaningless, either by symbolism or metaphysics. The connecting threads that are there, to me, seem to function as a support, something merely to tie the whole thing down, to keep it from flying off into space, to keep it from being completely absurd. Bolaño's writing here reminds more than a little of Cormac McCarthy--less for the violence than for the insignificance of the human being in a world that is quite distinct from his understanding. In the sections previous to this, I mentioned that Bolaño's writing has a way of suggesting patterns to me--dimly glimpsed points of an overarching scheme of (life? the universe? a creator?) some blueprint which happens to break through the mundane events of daily life and attract our attention for a moment. But in this 'part', it seems almost the exact opposite--although there are whispers of an underlying pattern, it only points to the ultimate meaningless of events. Not to be misunderstood--the deaths that Bolaño writes about, based on the horrific statistics of Cuidad Juarez, have tremendous meaning in and of themselves. The 'meaningless' I'm referring to is that of the inability to impose a larger pattern or insight regarding them. Here, in 2666 at least, Bolaño seems to be a direct successor to Blood Meridian and The Plague, although each generation is bleaker than the last.


Hugh (bodachliath) | 2624 comments Mod
Thanks Bryan.


message 10: by Neil (new) - rated it 5 stars

Neil | 306 comments To me, this part felt like the reason the Bolano estate decided not to publish the work in separate volumes. I cannot see this working as a separate novel - who would want to read this without having read Parts 1-3 and knowing that there is a Part 5 to follow? This is the part that seems to say "keep it as one work, one volume".

Bryan, I agree with your comments. Parts 1-3 really did seem suggestive of connections, whereas this part seems to descend into chaos. But even then, it is a chaos that, as you say, hints at a pattern.

I am sure I am not the only one who found that the murders gradually merged into a mass of killings where it is hard to see individuals. At the start, it is tempting to try to remember the details of each person, but that gradually fades as you realise it is impossible: there are just too many with too many similarities. So, you end up with a background of horror against which the other narrative threads in this part play out.

I think it is a remarkable piece of writing, although, as I say, I don't think I would want to read it standalone.


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2316 comments Neil,
I'm not sure that it could not be read as a standalone, but certainly the first three parts provide a warning that it will likely be a lengthy list of killings. It is sort of like walking through the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, or visiting Auschwitz or Malhausen concentration camps -- it is exhausting and numbing and a reminder of man's inhumanity to man.


message 12: by Neil (new) - rated it 5 stars

Neil | 306 comments I was trying to remember if Parts 1-3 gave much in the way of clues about the sheer volume of killings. Certainly, I was expecting from the title of this part to be reading about a lot of murders, but I am not sure I was expecting quite so many. With a book this long, it isn’t always easy to remember all the clues that have been inserted along the way.

Also, I think every part so far has culminated in a narrative that has interleaved several different story lines, jumping from one to another without warning until you get into the rhythm of it.


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2316 comments Ah yes -- "jumping from one to another without" is so true and Part 5 will highlight that!


message 14: by Neil (new) - rated it 5 stars

Neil | 306 comments Parts 1-3 felt like being in a David Lynch movie. I was reminded again and again of Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway, for example. And what drove this comparison was the feeling that something wrong was happening somewhere. As a reader you sort of feel it must be all the murders that are causing that feeling of wrongness. But then, part 4 comes along and tells you about that wrongness and it’s so matter of fact, police procedural, that it really takes you by surprise. That’s a master stroke of some kind, I think.


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2316 comments Now I am thinking I am going to have to watch a David Lynch movie.


message 16: by Neil (new) - rated it 5 stars

Neil | 306 comments Do it! But be prepared for weirdness!


message 17: by Marc (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marc (monkeelino) | 2632 comments Mod
I definitely agree with Neil that this part would not stand alone, and while some of the others might, I certainly wouldn't have really wanted to read them as separate from the whole.


message 18: by Hugh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2624 comments Mod
On its own it might not be a popular read, but in some ways this section was the most interesting - it is a fascinating mixture of brilliance and monotony!


message 19: by Neil (new) - rated it 5 stars

Neil | 306 comments I agree. It is, I think, what makes this work as a single volume.


message 20: by Suki (last edited May 14, 2018 03:45PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Suki St Charles (goodreadscomsuki_stcharles) | 23 comments This part was hard to read-- I had to take several breaks from the relentless catalog of murder. After a while, it started to get very numbing, but the part that really was shocking was the very young age of some of the girls that were tortured, raped, and murdered. The police were incredible-- and not in a good way. In so many of the cases, they came up with a half-baked theory, couldn't fit the facts to the theory, and CLOSED the case! I thought cases were only closed when they had been solved. The scene with the police telling those awful misogynistic jokes was unspeakably horrid, in the face of what was happening in the city. It seemed that some of the police were almost condoning the murders.

I had high hopes for Lalo Cura, because he seemed to be genuinely interested in learning forensic and police investigative technique, but he got swept away by the immensity of it all. The same thing happened with Harry Magana/Henderson, Albert Kessler (FBI), and the congresswoman with her private investigator Loya. They all just faded away. I wonder if they might have had better luck finding the truth behind the murders if they had all been able to work together.

It also shocked me how very young some of the girls working in the factories were.

The description of the hotel room where the congresswoman stayed in Santa Teresa was eerie. "I paced the room. I noticed there were two mirrors. One at one end and the other by the door, and they didn't reflect each other. But if you stood in a certain place, you could see one mirror in the other. What you couldn't see was me. [...] The more I studied the mirrors, the more uneasy I felt." Was this the same room that the critic Norton had in Part 1? The mirrors seem to symbolize the entire murder situation in Santa Teresa-- they reflect, but they don't ever show anything other than the person looking into them. One mirror reflecting another is a vision of eternity-- perhaps symbolizing that the murders of the women will never be solved, and will never end.


message 21: by Suki (new) - rated it 4 stars

Suki St Charles (goodreadscomsuki_stcharles) | 23 comments Hugh wrote: "I am opening this before finishing the section because it has so many potential talking points. I found it hard work - especially the catalogue of killings but some of the digressions are wonderful..."

The list of phobias was great fun!


message 22: by Hugh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2624 comments Mod
Thanks Suki - some very interesting thoughts there.


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