Read a book as many times as you please, it is never the same book twice. We see new things, we bring different versions of ourselves to the book each time we pick it up. For instance, it took me years to see how irritating Sam-I-Am might be to the nameless, long-suffering creature he pleaded with to just eat the green eggs and ham. And the first time I read "The Part About the Critics," I was completely focused upon the humor of Bolano's wonderful satiric treatment of academics. Not fully realizing what was coming, I misinterpreted the vague but mounting sense of unease, the appearance of small then larger violent indulgences as some type of revelatory movement through which the critics release themselves from their bloated and mythologized professional roles.
But now on my second read, I have attached myself to an idea I found on page 76. "They thought of Anthony Perkins, who claimed he wouldn't hurt a fly, and look what happened." The thought of Norman Bates in that holding cell at the end of Psycho. Looking like himself but thinking in his mother's voice. Unwilling to even swat the fly to show those watching how incapable of even the smallest act of violence he was. No one is simply what they appear to be.
So even before a single murdered woman is mentioned or the mirror in Mexico or the orgasmic brutal beating of a cab driver or the self-mutilation of the artist, I began looking for the seeds of violence.
- Espinoza's dealings with the Jungerians (pp. 7-8) - "He also discovered that he was bitter and full of resentment, that he oozed resentment, and that he might easily kill someone, anyone, if it would provide a respite from the loneliness and rain and cold of Madrid, but this was a discovery that he preferred to conceal."
- The depiction of Liz Norton destroying the counterattack at the Bremen German literature conference "like a Desaix, like a Lannes, a blond Amazon who spoke excellent German." Not as an acdemic but as a warrior, excecuting increasingly "ruthless attacks." (pp. 12-13)
- The reactions of the other academics that the "four-cornered figure formed by the Archimboldians was inviolable and also liable to react violently to any outside interference at that hour of the night." (p.15)
- Espinoza's reaction to the horror movie he watches with Pelletier, and Pelletier's acceptance of his misogynistic anger. (pp. 30-31)
- Norton's refers to her ex-husband "as a lurking threat, ascribed to him the vices and defects of a monster, a horribly violent monster but one who never materialized, a monster all evocation and no action..." (p. 40)
- The snake seen in Kensington Gardens, a threat in a place where it is not expected and does not belong.
- And of course, the dreams of the critics.
Violence is pervasive but not always obvious. Often intentionally hidden. And comes from unexpected quarters.
My second reading of 2666 was prompted by Richard and this group read. I'm woefully off schedule as usual, but will be reading and posting through February. Check Richard's updates to link to other readers' thoughts on the book.