2666 – The Part About Fate


Finally!  I’m way behind on putting this post together, sorry!  This is the 3rd installment of the 2666 read-along hosted by Steph and Claire.  I’m going to do like I did before – write up my post, then address the other people participating in the read-along and what they thought.  I’m in the process of moving and can’t find the notebook I wrote all my notes for this section in, so I apologize!  This one is not going to be nearly as detailed as the previous two installments.

First thoughts:

This section was, for some reason, much harder for me to read than the others were.  I found myself much more offended this time around by the nonchalant homophobia, racism and sexism that has run rampant in this novel so far.  I’m not sure why, but I guess in this section it seemed overly pointless, whereas in others it felt more like it was addressing a specific character flaw.

I am intrigued by the way things are coming together.  I liked the little cameo of the geometry book!

I actually liked the ramblings of Seaman.  I thought they were really interesting and they contained some of my favorite quotes.  I know a lot of folks thought he was out-of-place, but maybe that’s why I like him so much!

I have read several reviews that have said that the 3rd section should have been completely left out of the book, that it was pointless.  So I think I went into reading this section, desperately hoping to prove them wrong, only to realize I agree with them to a certain extent.  I’m not sure how it’s going to hold up against the other sections, but I know I really didn’t feel like much happened, I didn’t think we really saw Bolaño’s style develop like in the Part About Amalfitano.   I don’t know, I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it as much as I loved other sections.  It felt too short, like the action was not paced correctly, or something. I just can’t put my finger on it!

The best thing about this whole section, was the very last part.  WHO IS THE MAN IN THE JAIL?  IS IT ARCHIMBOLDI???  Please say yes!  Overall, I’m hopeful that this will find its place among the other sections.

Favorite quotes:

FOOD.  As you all know, said Seaman, pork chops saved my life.  […] The boook put me back in the public eye.  I learned to combine cooking with history.  I learned to combine cooking with the thankfulness and confusion I felt at the kindness of so many people, from my late sister to countless others.  When I say confusion, I also mean awe.  In other words, the sense of wonderment at a marvelous thing, like the lilies that bloom and die in a single day, or azaleas, or forget-me-nots.  But I also realzied this wasn’t enough.  I couldn’t live forever on my recipes for ribs, my famous recipes.  Ribs were not the answer.  You have to change.  You have to turn yourself around and change.  You have to know how to look even if you don’t know what you’re looking for.   (pg 241)

That part about FOOD really had me laughing.  I don’t know, it just seemed so absurd.  I hope that was the point.

What’s sacred to me? thought Fate.  The vague pain I feel at the passing of my mother?  An understanding of what can’t be fixed?  Or the kind of pang in my stomach I feel when I look at this womn?  And why do I feel that pang, if that’s what it is, when she looks at me and not when her friend looks at me?  Because her friend is nowhere near as beautiful, thought Fate.  Which seems to suggest that what’s sacred to me is beauty, a pretty girl with perfect features.  And what if all of a sudden the most beautiful actress in Hollywood appeared in the middle of this big, repulsive restaurant, would I still feel a pang each time my eyes surreptitiously met this girl’s or would the sudden appearance of a superior beauty, a beauty enhanced by recognition, relieve the pang, diminish her beauty to ordinary levels, the beauty of a slightly odd girl out to have a good time with three slightly peculiar men and a woman who basically seems like a hooker?  […] I like to watch videos, thought Fate.  I also like to go to the movies.   I like to sleep with women.  Right now I don’t have a steady girlfriend, but I know what it’s like to have one.  Do I see the sacred anywhere?  All I register is practical experiences, thought Fate.  An emptiness to be filled, a hunger to be satisfied, people to talk to so I can finish my article and get paid.  (pg. 316)

This quote really summed up for me what this section was about, in a good way.  Fate, rather than being pulled along by just fate, instead basically creates this dangerous situation for himself.  Well, on the other hand, I think you could argue both ways.  But for me, this quote really points to the idea that he’s making things more exciting, creating the sacred in his life, by being with Rosa and attempting to visit the killer.

“The problem is bad luck,” said Rosa.
Fate didn’t hear her.  (346)

I feel like I’m picking at some kind of symbolism here with his name being Fate and him being dragged along, or not dragged along, by fate.  But I’m just scratching the surface and can’t really get a good grasp on it.  So I’m going to see what you other readers think:

Emily @ Evening All Afternoon

Man, you brought up some stellar points!  I really didn’t think about Amalfitano’s familiarity with the driver.  I love everything you said about the style, and definitely sense some Nabokov.  I’ve never read Lynch, so I’ll have to to see the similarities.  Though I didn’t enjoy this section as much (maybe for that lack of humor you noted), I did appreciate the foreboding and other aspects of this section that made it part of the whole.

Richard @ Caravana de recuerdos:

I really liked the section with Seaman, too.  And I loved what you said about Bolaño’s style and the connection with journalism here.  I love the way Bolaño plays with style, that’s for sure.

Claire @ Kiss A Cloud:

I thought the concept of race in this section was very interesting.  I was very intrigued by Fate’s thoughts on being American versus African-American depending on what country he is in.  I also thought it was interesting that Fate eventually abandons his other American journalists, after accusing some of them of being in the Klan for some of the racist comments they made, in order to join the group of local men and women.  I’m not entirely sure what to make of all of it, but it’s definitely something I’m pondering!

Frances @ Nonsuch Book:

Wow, I really really loved what you said about Fate’s disorientation stems from his inability to find a voice.  That is such an awesome observation!  It also relates back to Bolaño’s use of different tones and voices throughout the novel.

Jackie @ Farm Lane Books:

Even though I didn’t enjoy this section as much, I’m certainly excited to see where it’s going!  I still enjoyed reading it, even if it wasn’t my favorite.  I also really liked the sun passages.  You chose great quotes!

Gavin @ Page 247:

Ooh, great comparison to noir.  It does sort of have the feeling, with the potential femme fatales and all!  I think I missed Amalfitano, too.

EL Fay @ This Book And I Could Be Friends:

We seem to have had similar reactions!  I’ve heard as many critics who have said that The Part About Fate was the one section that should be left out!

Thanks again to Steph and Claire for hosting this, I really feel like I’m getting so much more out of this book than I normally would.  I promise next time I won’t be quite so late!

16 thoughts on “2666 – The Part About Fate

  1. I thought it was interesting that you found this part more offensive than the previous two. I didn’t feel that at all. I think I found the first part much more offensive and am worried that perhaps I am just becoming used to it now.

  2. Ha! You think you’re late to the party? I’m hosting, and haven’t even made it to this part yet! 😉 Hopefully soon! I blame wedding stuff for getting in the way…

    So far it looks like this section has just continued most people’s journey on the 2666 love train, but seeing as I was let down by Book 2, I think it will be interesting to see where I fall. I wonder if this will start to bring things together for me, or if I will feel it is a bit pointless as you did!

  3. Interesting! I was most bothered by the sexism/homophobia in the second part (and maybe in the fourth, upcoming, part), and I actually felt like Part 3 made up for some of that a little bit, what with the text addressing the multiple levels of fear that Guadalupe has to deal with in order to get her story (or even make it as a female journalist), and comparing that to Fate’s race-related struggles with his editor over whether or not he can cover the story of the murders. For me the whole book kind of walked the line between acknowledging/calling out sexism/homophobia, and perpetuating it. I think sometimes it veered one way and other times the other, but it’s interesting to know that different people see those veerings happening at different moments. Intriguing!

  4. Actually, now that I’ve read others’ reactions to it, I think I may need to go back and re-read this book. I don’t think it should be left out at all, even if it isn’t as “strong” as the other sections. Strangely enough, I read that some negative critics felt that “Fate” was the only book worth reading!

    I can’t say I really noticed any gratuitous racism/sexism/homophobia. I think Bolano was simply depicting the world as it is. After all, it’s sexism, classism, and racism (they’re Mexican – who cares!) which allows “the crimes” to happen, so I think it was important for Bolano to demonstrate the dynamics of these various “isms” even among normal people. The murders didn’t happen in a vacuum.

    I hope you find your notebook! That’s some dedication – taking notes on a book you’re reading for fun.

    1. I agree that it shouldn’t be left out, I realize that in my post it kind of sounded like that. I think it helped the story along, but was not as good as the other sections. I saw that you found those other reviews, that’s so interesting!

      I really like your analysis of the relationship between the sexism etc. to the crimes. I totally agree with that! Like I told Richard, I’m so not offended by Bolaño’s use of those tactics, there just didn’t seem to be as much of a balance in this section.

      Fortunately, I did find my notebook!

  5. Lu, even though you didn’t like this section anywhere near as much as I did, you touched on two details I loved in your post: “pork chops saved my life” and the cliffhanger at the end when it looks like there might be an Archimboldi sighting! As for all the “nonchalant homophobia, racism and sexism” that you (and some others) have touched on in the work, I’d be curious to hear whether you believe Bolaño himself to have been homophobic, sexist and racist or just too accepting of that in his characters. It’s an interesting topic. Thanks for the review!

  6. Oh! It didn’t really cross my mind that the suspect in the prison could be Archimboldi! I really hope not!

    I thought this section was the best so far and don’t think it could ever be left out at all. It builds the connection from Part 1 to Part 2 to Part 4.

    I’m with E. L. Fay in that I didn’t think the homophobia/racism/sexism offensive anywhere in this book, as he IS only depicting the world as it is. And truthfully at that. I guess, being a minority, I’m very used to these things in life and almost never notice them. In fact, I think that the non-minority are more aware of it than we are sometimes. 🙂

  7. P.S. Just want to say that even if you didn’t enjoy this section as much, I’m happy that you’re still reading along. Hope the rest of the book gets better for you.

    1. It was not the kind of non-enjoyment that would ever make me quit reading! It just was my least favorite so far, that’s all.

  8. Sorry to clutter up your inbox, but Claire’s comment above makes me realize I didn’t make my own position clear re:the alleged “offensiveness” of the politically incorrect trifecta mentioned above. I haven’t been bothered at all by anything Bolaño has written, and I don’t think he had a hidden agenda to propagate a homophobic, racist or sexist agenda in 2666 (or elsewhere that I’ve seen). I do find it interesting that people seem to keep bringing up their concerns about these issues, though, and I would love to hear specifics of what people find so troubling so that I can understand that concern.

    1. I think I’m going to revisit this section and really really really explain my thoughts, because I think people misunderstood what I meant. I am not offended by the fact that Bolaño wrote offensive characters, not in the least. There are offensive people in the world, this is true. I don’t think he has a hidden agenda. I don’t even really have a concern – all I meant was that I didn’t find reading this section pleasant in that there was not a balance between the negative and the positive. Maybe that is just me, as a reader. I feel like I’m having a hard time explaining it. Maybe I did not give this section, or Fate, the attention they deserved because this balance seemed apparent to other readers.

  9. Lu, thanks for the explanation. Others in the group (inc. one person who might have dropped out earlier on) have expressed similar concerns about 2666‘s “sexism,” so it was interesting to see what you meant (i.e. the balance between the positive and the negative) rather than what I thought you meant! Anyway, I appreciate the clarification.

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