Monday, March 2, 2009

2666: The Part about Amalfitano

The possibility of literature is never in question for Bolaño. Literature is, in fact, inevitable, at times even foregone. The writer of literature, like the poor of the gospels, you will always have with you.

What is in question for Bolaño, what is always in question, is the condition of literature. It exists—in fact, one might be forgiven for thinking that, in Bolaño, all books exist, all books are not only possible, but actual, though the condition of their actuality may vary. Some books are so existentially thin or translucent or hidden that their actuality is in doubt, is challenged, but no book is ever wholly imaginary, not even the books Bolaño or his characters dream about.

This is, at least to me, what the internet feels like—even more, what Wikipedia feels like. In Wikipedia, the existence of anything is never impossible, although the condition of that existence—challenged, deleted, uncreated, verified—is not uniform.

In both cases, search is king, as they say in internet marketing. All books, all literature exists in Bolaño because any book, even ones which may or probably do not have a physical existence, can be searched for, and the act of searching creates something which is equivalent to the weight of existence. The ability to search for anything on the internet means that everything is in the internet, even if it only exists in your search string; the page showing no results is still a form of existence of what you were looking for. What you are searching for is created the instant you search for it.

Such considerations become almost inevitable in The Part About Amalfitano, as Bolaño throws at the reader a small army of references, some obscure, some well-known. Bolaño deploys these references in cryptic diagrams (please excuse the awkwardness of the drawings; I'm working with some bs Mac version of Paint):
(click for larger images)

I cannot help but feel Bolaño is trying to force us onto the internet to solve for the meaning of these inscrutable diagrams, or at least to play around with them. Bolaño wants us to create by searching, as his characters do. We will find something, even if it is wrong, but that is a process we have already experienced as readers of the book: reading too is a search that, even in the absence of results, does not threaten the existence of what we are searching for.

It is pointed out in the afterword of sorts which the publishers have appended to 2666 that the eponymous date occurs in Amulet, where a street, Avenida Guerrero, is compared not to "a cemetery in 1974 or in 1968, or 1975, but a cemetery in the year 2666, a forgotten cemetery under the eyelid of a corpse or an unborn child…" The cemetery is also a Wikipedia of sorts; or rather, isn't Wikipedia a kind of cemetery where mourners can revise the epitaphs?

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