I recently finished the second book in Bolaño's 2666. The blurb on the back cover mentions a formal element of this novel that I've noticed as I continue into the third book:
"It ends up being impossible to even suggest the enormity and the depths of a book that is constructed like a novel built into another novel likewise built into another novel...and which opens itself thus on the road to the unknown..."
As far as I can tell, Bolaño is interested in narrating the growing weight of evil in our lives and dreams, its overpowering and ubiquitous presence in even the most innocent of situations. He has organized this novel in such a way that there are at least 5 simultaneous narratives that often overlap, while leading in just as many disparate directions.
The protagonist of the second book, Amalfitano, is an exiled Chilean professor who is living with his daughter in northern Mexico. At one point, he begins hearing a voice that speaks to him at night. At first, he feels as though he's losing his mind but he eventually starts to listen to this voice, which is telling him to not panic, to listen carefully. What I find so ingenious about Bolaño's prose is that the voice Amalfitano hears is never fully explained but it remains connected somehow to the ominous dreams that many of the novel's characters continue to experience. All of them premonitions of evil.
As Amalfitano and his daughter settle into their new home in Ciudad Juárez (arriving from Spain), he continues to notice a sense of evil or dread around him. Undoubtedly, this is directly related to the series of gruesome murders of women that the city has been afflicted with during the last few years. But I get the sense that Bolaño is also identifying a global phenomenon: the sense many of us have recently that "This time is out of joint," beyond any type of tragedy or catastrophe humans have ever encountered before. This is impossible to measure but I feel as though Bolaño is trying to wrestle with certain psychic transformations that the world is currently undergoing.
In one of his dreams, Amalfitano meets a woman who talks to him about "decomposed history," or, "history taken apart and put back together again":
"Soñó con la voz de una mujer que no era la voz de la profesora Pérez sino la de una francesa, que le hablaba de signos y de números y de algo que Amalfitano no entendía y que la voz de su sueño llamaba <<historia descompuesta>> o <<historia desarmada y vuelta a armar>>, aunque evidentemente la historia vuelta a armar se convertiría en otra cosa, en un comentario al margen, en una nota sesuda, en una carcajada que tardaba en apagarse y saltaba de una roca andesita a una riolita y luego a una toba, y de ese conjunto de rocas prehistóricas surgía una especie de azogue, el espejo americano, decía la voz, el triste espejo americano de la riqueza y la pobreza y de las continuas metamorfosis inútiles, el espejo que navega y cuyas velas son el dolor." (264)
The Salvadoran writer Jacinta Escudos recently opened a blog and has been posting frequently from her new home in Costa Rica. Escudos's latest novel, A-B-Sudario (Alfaguara, 2003) was awarded the first Premio Centroamericano de Novela Mario Monteforte Toledo. The jury for this prize included Nicaraguan novelist Sergio Ramírez, who blurbed the book, saying A-B-Sudario is:
"...a splendid novel which enters into the helplessness of the human condition with an intensely lucid virtue, from a voice that is many voices, but which is most of all the voice of Cayetana, the protagonist who sews all threads, like Ariadne, in order to guide herself within her own labyrinth, where she, and not Theseus, will find the minotaur."
"Cayetana is Cortázar's La Maga as seen by La Maga herself, and not through Oliveira's unreliable eyes. She composes herself as a character, and she secretes her weaver's spiderweb in order to trap everything that moves around her in her solitude..."
C. recently finished reading A-B-Sudario and has commented that the novel at times reads like poetry, with a wide range of rich voices and scenarios. The book is next on my list of things to read.
Hermanastra Lejana recently posted "A Letter to the London Review of Books," responding to a review they published of Francisco Goldman's new novel, The Divine Husband (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2004). While I do love the LRB, they hardly ever review Latin American books, much less U.S. Latino books. And when they do, as in this case, their writers tend to exhibit astoundingly poor knowledge of the literary traditions and historical contexts of Latin American and U.S. Latino literature.
Hermanastra Lejana's first blog entry (Feb. 23) is a beautiful essay on returning to San Salvador for the first time in nearly 2 decades.