2666 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?”
“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.