On The Part About Fate (2666)

03Feb09

In which The Gay Recluse reads Roberto Bolaño in stages.

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In the third book of Roberto Bolaño’s epic 2666, we leave behind the maybe-psychotic descent into madness of Professor Amalfitano for a broader type of madness known as the fringes of modern/capitalistic civilization. Bolaño does this by way of a Harlem-based reporter who goes by the name — for reasons never fully explained — of Oscar Fate. His mother has just died, and we follow him on an assignment that takes him first to Detroit — to interview a former Black Panther — and then to Santa Teresa, the fictional Mexican border city where hundreds of women have turned up murdered in the desert over the past decade or so.

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Initially sent to cover a boxing match, Fate becomes at first intrigued and then enmeshed in the local “culture,” a bizarre and thuggish (and macho and obvs homophobic) netherworld. Bolaño’s prose takes an appropriate turn toward the noir; if Fate is not a detective per se, he uncovers tantalizing facts in his adventures in Santa Teresa that may or may not shed light on the outstanding questions of who the mysterious author from the first book is, whether he too is in this Mexican city, and what this may or may not have to do with the murders. Whatever the case may be, there are few people Fate meets who don’t seem to be guilty of something.

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So it happens that we become the true detectives; we read with a cool detachment that perfectly captures the sense of unreality we associate with trips to a foreign country, most obviously, but also in our daily lives. Bolaño captures that stunned moment when we ask “wtf are we doing here?” before we spend a few more seconds looking for clues in the deluge of senseless details with which we are all confronted. That there is never a clear answer to this question does not always prevent us from asking; then we stumble forward, perhaps with some recognition (or hope or fear) that this in fact is our Fate.

The 2666 Review Roundup:
The Part About the Critics
The Part About Amalfitano
The Part About the Crimes
The Part About Archimboldi

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