Roberto Bolaño’s novel 2666 is immediately interesting and powerful. One element that stands out in the novel is Bolaño’s love and devotion to his characters and his method of letting them be and letting them go where their natures take them. That’s a pretty sweeping way of talking about Pelletier, Morini, Amalfitano and Faith (as if they were out of Bolaño’s control, that’s not really what I mean). After the first few parts, beyond the devotion to Pelletier’s and Faith’s obsessions or drives or world views, there’s also an important devotion to geographic and linguistic spaces. Europe, for example, as a place that Pelletier, Morini, Espinoza, and Norton move across as they attend conferences or visit each other, is treated as a collection of points. London is mentioned, as are other cities, but without Norton in London, or Pelletier in Paris, London and Paris mean nothing. Norton, in 2666, in a sense, is London, for without her, London would be meaningless to Pelletier. This spatial element in the novel makes Pelletier relative to London as Norton is relative to Paris. This spatial relationship makes their love stories that much more powerful.
This is a significant idea in the novel, especially in The Part About the Crimes, where, in Santa Teresa, a fictional city in the state of Sonora, which borders Arizona, numerous women are being murdered, which immediately calls to mind the feminicidios in Ciudad Juarez, just across the border from my home town of El Paso. For Bolaño it’s the women that matter and Santa Teresa just happens to be the place where the murders are occurring, and Santa Teresa just happens to be a common point where all the characters must converge. Which brings me back to the first point: because place becomes a backdrop, the characters, and this means every character, from criminals, college professors, and prostitutes, are all given human respect in the novel and, at least in my mind, just the right amount of detail, as if the narratives inside 2666 develop from explosive, nuanced, elegant, and almost distinct parts. This doesn’t mean Paris means nothing or that places are placeless, it means that the people of The Part About the Critics, which is a fabulous love story, are given every ounce of energy and attention.
Examples coming. Because they’re fun.