--2 Blogging Bolaño: The Part About Amalfitano and The Part About Fate
Aug. 24, 2017

Blogging Bolaño: The Part About Amalfitano and The Part About Fate

March 31, 2009, 12:00 am
By Patricia Sauthoff
Two weeks ago I made a promise to update my literary adventure through Roberto Bolaño's 2666 each week. But every time I sat down last week to write about part two, "The Part about Amalfitano" something happened and I couldn't write.

"Amalfitano" is the dreamlike exploration of the women in Professor Amalfitano's life who have shaped him the most: his wife Lola and his daughter Rosa.

What makes Bolaño's investigation of these stories so interesting is his telling. Though a glance at the page finds Amalfitano's name over and over again it is through his experience of the women that we learn of them. Because they are his focus they are the readers,' though filtered through Amalfitano's memories.

Deconstructing these layers shows their intricacy, through reading them it is clear. Amalfitano watches Rosa as she gets ready for school, he remembers a letter Lola sent him when she abandoned him and Rosa. We, as readers, are left with the impression these women left on a man who we know only through a series of nonsensical actions. His emotions, and theirs, are left to conjecture.

So, why was it so difficult to write about that? Because when "Amalfitano" came to an end there was no closure, there was some mystery left that caused a friend to tell me that he might be stuck, that he wanted to go back and reread part two. I understand the desire but must advise that going back will not yield answers. One must press on to solve the riddle of Rosa Amalfitano, a woman who seen through the eyes of another man is so different she brings to mind Luis Buñel's Conchita.

As "The Part About Fate" begins the elegance of language that drove "The Part About the Critics" and the surrealism of "The Part About Amalfitano" slide from the memory. The plot lines of "Fate" are written with a clunky voice that lumbers along in a straightforward, yet compelling, tale until the journalist, whom is at the center of the story, travels to Mexico. When he is thrust out of the familiar world, the readers, who at this point have stuck with Bolaño for 300 of his 900 pages, return to comfortable and strange one of the previous two acts. As the journalist's experiences in Mexico spiral out of his understanding 2666 gains momentum and the story thrusts forward into the much discussed fourth, "The Part About The Crimes."

Though March is through I found, today, the Tournament of Books, a sweet 16 March Madness tourney for book nerds, in which Bolaño's opus has fared quite well.


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