The Part About The Crimes – 2666 by Roberto Bolano


2666 by Roberto  Bolano

translated by Natasha Wimmer

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2008

No one pays attention to these killings, but the secret of the world is hidden in them…

From The Part About Fate

Hell,  an idea that runs through human  history from the Greek Tartarus to Dante’s Inferno, depicted in images from the Buddhist realm of rebirth to Goya and Bosch.  In 2666Roberto Bolano has given us another mythic vision, but this vision is based in reality.  Santa Teresa is Bolano’s portrayal of Ciudad Juarez, a city in northern Mexico where in 1993 someone began killing women.  The killing continues.

My response to this section of 2666 was intense, I would even call it physical.  For me, and I’m sure for many others, The Part About The Crimes is the heart of  2666, surrounded by The Part About Critics, Amalfitano, Fate and Archimboldi like a Russian nesting doll.  It is very compelling.   I was drawn into it , falling as if sliding down a very steep hill.  That’s what it felt like.  I wanted to stop, but couldn’t.  Here Bolano is relentless, the language is visceral.

Midway through February, in an alley in the center of the city, some garbage-men found another dead women. She was about thirty and dressed in a black skirt and a low-cut white blouse.  She had been stabbed to death, although contusions from multiple blows were visible about her face and abdomen.  In her purse was a ticket for the nine a.m. bus to Tucson, a bus she would never catch.  Also found were a lipstick, powder, eyeliner, Kleenex, a half empty pack of cigarettes, and a package of condoms.  There was no passport or appointment book  or anything that might identify her.  Nor was she carrying a lighter or matches.  Page 355

I read each passage, the descriptions of the woman,  as a blow to the body.  A litany that becomes more and more grueling,  and layered with these descriptions are the stories of people investigating the crimes or perhaps even involved in the crimes.  Sometimes there is no way to tell, it is all just a mash-up.  The police seem helpless,  controlled by management that does not want these crimes solved.  A reporter is gunned down in the street.  A sheriff from Huntville, Texas, searching for the murderer of a young women from his town, disappears. There is the constant poverty surrounding the maquiladoras as more and more people travel to Santa Teresa to find work.   There is a psychic healer who must speak of these murders.  A congresswomen’s friend disappears and the search for her leads to parties given by a banker connected with a drug cartel and his political cronies.  And on and on, more and more murders..

Bolano weaves threads together beautifully, tighter and tighter.  When there is a loose end it leads nowhere, the whole thing unravels in your hands.  Few people seem to care.  These murdered women are invisible. As I read I became angry, then furious.  The spare, cold language carries with it  Bolano’s disgust over the lack of  serious investigation into these murders.      Never directly, never blatantly, but I could feel his anger, could feel it with every keystroke of every letter in every word.  Maybe that is my anger.  I can not imagine what it must be like living in Ciudad Juarez, or what it is like for the people searching for answers to these crimes.

I am amazed by this novel, by Bolano’s ability to present a world that is so twisted and so mundane with such clarity.  If these killings have the secret of the world hidden in them I don’t think I want to know what that secret  is.

Thank you to Steph and Claire for organizing this read along.  Richard at Caravana de recuerdos has an amazing analysis of The Part About The Crimes here, here, here, here, and here.  Please visit kiss a cloud and check out the links to others who are reading along with us.



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

7 responses to “The Part About The Crimes – 2666 by Roberto Bolano

  1. Gavin, I so feel your pain. This has been an eye-opener, really. You just put into words what I felt, which I couldn’t earlier articulate: “The spare, cold language carries with it Bolano’s disgust over the lack of serious investigation into these murders. Never directly, never blatantly, but I could feel his anger, could feel it with every keystroke of every letter in every word.” Wonderful insight.

    • Claire – Thanks for your kind comments. It’s pain and anger. I really have no idea where 2666 is going to go after this..

  2. You’re quite right that Bolano’s disgust it there in the language, and it’s conveyed rather insidiously to the reader. Oh, that frustration that nobody will do anything!

    The detail that had me ranting to anyone who would listen: that the city has 0% female unemployment. Well, sure, if you just kill them all.

  3. Anger is my reaction as well, but really intense sadness as well. The “spare, cold language” you describe so well carries an intense sense of injustice that is only amplified by images of women murdered and left in another’s clothes, women never claimed or identified, a policeman nonchalantly picking up and identifying some random vegetation by a corpse’s head, the loss of the sperm samples lost on their way to the lab and never pursued… The list could go on far longer than this comment should. Thanks for sharing your well-worded insights here.

  4. That’s really interesting that you brought up Hell and Dante’s Inferno (which I took a whole class on). Now that I think of it, 2666 really is a kind of Heart of Darkness-like descent from “civilization” (or what passes for it) into a very dark place.

  5. Thanks so much for the kind words, Gavin, and thanks for an excellent review in your own right! I loved your description of Bolaño’s prose as “visceral” and “relentless,” two adjectives that are right on the money here, and (like Claire) I also loved the part where you talk about noting anger and disgust in every keystroke in this chapter. Very vivid. I was also moved by your finale (“If these killings have the secret of the world hidden in them, I don’t think I want to know what that secret is”), but I have to confess that I’m more anxious than ever to see how Archimboldi’s story relates to this part. Another blogger friend who’s read the book has told me that the concluding chapter gets even more hallucinatory, if you can imagine that. Anyway, thanks again!

  6. I found that “loose ends unraveling” technique to be very effective in adding to the chaotic and disorienting feeling of this part. I also really liked your designation of Bolaño’s world as “twisted and mundane.” Thanks for another thought-provoking write-up.

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