2666 – The Part About Fate – Roberto Bolano – Chile

26662666 by Roberto  Bolano

Translated by Natasha Wimmer

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2008

This is a group read organized by Claire and Steph.  Thanks to both of them and to the other participants for inspiring me to read and really think about this massive work.

Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it was Bolano.  I’m having a hard time getting my thoughts together. I feel like I’ve gotten on a train heading one way and ended up somewhere else.  With The Part About Fate Bolano takes on journalism, North American history and race as well as ongoing themes of violence and madness, all in a style that is quiet, very quiet.  It reads like noir.

Quincy Williams is known as Oscar Fate. He a black political reporter from New York who writes for a publication called “Black Dawn”.   He seems lost, as if he is sleepwalking.   Through his mother’s death and her  funeral, the death of her neighbor, the death of a colleague, Oscar is in a fog.  I found him somewhat empty, no reactions, no emotions, just his need to take things in.  He is quite the observer.  After a while I began to miss Almafitano, the professor on the edge of madness from the second section of 2666.

Fate flies to Detroit to interview Barry Seaman, one of the founders of the Black Panthers.  Seaman is based on  Bobby Seale,  and has even become somewhat famous for writing a cookbook.  Fate listens as Seaman speaks at a church.  Seaman has a lot to say.  Fate takes notes.  Fate dreams.  As he is about to head back to New York he gets a new assignment, the magazine’s sports writer has died, Fate needs to cover a boxing match, in Mexico, in Santa Teresa.

This is where Oscar Fate seems to come alive.  He looks and listens, he overhears conversations,  and as he is following the events leading up to the boxing  match,  he hears bits and pieces about the murders.  He realizes that the big story is the missing girls, their murders.  He meets Amalfitano’s daughter, Rosa, and is very attracted to her.  They become friends.  He meets a reporter named Guadalupe Roncal who asks him if he is interested  in the Santa Teresa killings.  She talks to him,  tells him things.

“Like I said already, I’m a reporter,” said Guadalupe Roncal.  “I work for one of the big Mexico City newspapers.  And I am staying in this hotel out of fear.”

“Fear of what?” asked Fate.

“Fear of everything.  When you work on something that involves the killings of women in Santa Teresa you end up  scared of everything.  Scared of being beaten up.  Scared of being kidnapped.  Scared of torture.  Of course, the fear lessens with experience.  But I don’t have experience.  No experience whatsoever.  I’m cursed by a lack of experience.  You might even say I’m here undercover, as an undercover reporter, if there is such a thing.  I know everything about the killings.  But I’m not really an expert on the subject.  What I mean is, until a week ago, this wasn’t my subject.  I wasn’t up on it, I hadn’t written anything about it, and suddenly, out of the blue, the file landed on my desk and I was in charge of the investegation.  Do you know why?”

Fate nodded.

“Because I’m a woman and women can’t turn down assignments.  Of course I already knew what happened to my predecessor.  Everybody at the paper knew it.  The case got a lot of attention.  You might have heard about it.”  Fate shook his head.  “He was killed of course.  He got in to deep and they killed him…” Pages 296/297

Guadalupe asks Fate if he will accompany her to visit the accused killer in jail.  He goes with her.  The end of The Part About Fate is like a dream.

As I said, maybe it was the heat.  I will read The Part About Fate again, before moving on to The Part About The Crimes.  I need to get a better hold on it.   Thanks again to all who are taking part in this read-along.

I have reviewed The Part About The Critics here and The Part About Almafitano here.


Filed under Challenges, Lost In Translation 2009, Orbis Terrarum 2009, Read-Along

11 responses to “2666 – The Part About Fate – Roberto Bolano – Chile

  1. I didn’t find Fate empty at all, Gavin, but I like your sleepwalking analogy because I do think his character was searching to fill a void in his life (be it grief, a search for meaning, or whatever) in a way that was different from the critics. And although I wouldn’t want to read too much into he and Amalfitano sharing the same first name and a relationship with Rosa, I find it interesting that both he and Amalfitano, perhaps alone among the major characters up to this point, are so visibly haunted by their respective pasts. Of course, his last name and the Melvillean overtones of the Seaman speech make me wonder whether he’ll be an agent of change, a harbinger of doom, or a simple witness to the forces of evil at work in Santa Teresa…but that’s a question for another day. Anyway, thanks for the post–I enjoyed reading it!

    • Richard – I think “empty” is not the right word f. or Fate. Sad or depressed is closer to what I meant. I do agree that Fate and Amalfitano are haunted by their pasts, but I think in very different ways. It will be interesting to see if Fate fits into the rest of the story. Thanks for your kind comments. I am finally getting around to reading other peoples posts.

  2. It really is interesting how differently each reader sees things. I didn’t think Fate empty at all, too. I felt more a sadness in him, but a lot of substance. He’s in fact my favourite character so far. I hope you get the chance to figure things out, or maybe it’s okay that things are foggy for you at the moment. Hopefully they become clearer in the next section? :D Loved hearing your thoughts.

    • Claire – I think sadness is closer to what I meant then emptiness. I blame it on the heat! I will be reading this section again to see if I get a different take on things.

  3. It’s so intriguing to me how for some people this section was like “Ah-ha! I’m starting to understand the appeal of the book at last!” and other people were left kind of nonplussed. I didn’t find Fate empty, exactly, but I definitely thought he was kind of alienated from the people and conventions that surround him. Interesting post!

    • Emily – Sad and alienated fit much better then empty. I really wanted to like Fate but felt very distanced from him. I’m going to read the section again. Thanks for your comments!

  4. Pingback: 2666 – The Part About Fate « Regular Rumination

  5. Lu

    I think the heat got to me, too! I might reread it as well. Everyone else seems so blown away by it, I’m wondering what exactly I’m missing, haha.

  6. Just echoing everyone else’s thoughts about how interesting it is that we all have had such different reading experiences with the different sections. This third part was my favorite so far as Fate struggles to find an authentic voice. Can’t wait to read what you think on a second go-round. The heat is having wuite an effect on my reading life as well right now! :)

  7. Hi! I didn’t much like this part either, or at least it didn’t engage me in the same way the previous sections had. But! I’ve been re-skimming it in order to be able to write a bit about it (and hopefully I’ll post something in the next couple days). I have to say it makes a lot more sense on a second go round, after reading part 4 — I better see in it hints of things to come that really do strengthen the themes of this book.

    I actually agree with your characterization of Fate as empty — I’ve called it blank. He takes everything in but doesn’t project his thoughts or his presence much on anything else. I might attribute it to grief, or exhaustion is mentioned a couple times. And what’s with all the vomiting? — he’s literally empty.

    With regard to Richard’s comment, I’d say Fate is poised to be witness — he’s too passive, too much an empty vessel, to be an agent of change.

    • Isabella – Thanks for the comment. I finished The Part About the Crimes a few days ago and will skim Fate again after I write my initial response.

      I just feel like I never got a grasp on Part 3, unlike the Part 1 and Part 2, and now Part 4. I can’t wait to see what everyone thinks about “Crimes”.

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