Daryl in focusing on what I call Amalfitano’s impotence comes as close as one can to an overview of the man at this point in his life. There is really no macro approach to this part. I believe that it will take more form in our minds as we read further into this novel and look back on it.
I have been exchanging thoughts with others about Marco Antonio Guerra and the voice over in the forums at Las obras de Roberto Bolaño . In that context I hope to discuss Lola’s telepathy, Amalfitano’s bizarre epiphany that he himself is probably telepathic because of the similarity between his mother’s name and the name of Bernardo O’Higgin’s telepathic mother, and all that weirdness. I will not take that up here.
In anticipation of leaving The Part About Amalfitano, I return repeatedly to this reverie:
He imagined himself locked up in an asylum in Santa Teresa or Hermosilla with Professor Pérez as his only occasional visitor, and every so often receiving letters from Rosa in Barcelona, where she would be working or finishing her studies, and where she would meet a Catalan boy, responsible and affectionate, who could fall in love with her and respect her and take care of her and be nice to her and with whom Rosa would end up living and going to the movies at night and traveling to Italy or Greece in July or August, and the scenario didn’t seem so bad. [Emphasis mine.]
Now does this not echo Lola and her poet in that other asylum nicely? Perhaps Amalfitano can learn to blow smoke rings during his commitment, which was the poet’s primary pastime.
I like the man so much that I would prefer that he not get into that Las Suicidas mezcal too seriously. When I consider all the alternatives, it appears to me that his impotence will prevent him from ever leaving Mexico himself. He simply cannot bring himself to take any action now on any front. Of those alternatives I have concluded that the asylum scenario does not seem so bad to me either. . .as long as Rosa does get out of Santa Teresa and back to Barcelona.
Also, the critics at the asylum in Switzerland!!!
“They don’t have it too bad.”
Just for fun:
There is a character in Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives named Amadeo Salvatierra who also drinks Los Suicidas mezcal.
P.143 “I skipped joyfully ahead into the kitchen, where I got out a bottle of Los Suicidas mezcal, a mezcal only made in Chihuahua, limited run, of course, of which I used to receive two bottles each year by parcel post, until 1967.”
He is chatting with the characters Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima (fictional stand-ins for Roberto Bolaño and the poet Mario Santiago) and continues, “Well, boys, how is it? I said, and one of them, the Chilean, said that he’d never heard of a mezcal called Los Suicidas, which struck me as a little presumptuous, there must be two hundred brands of mezcal in Mexico at the very least, so it would be hard to know them all, especially if you weren’t from here, but of course they didn’t realize that, and the other one said it’s good, and then he said I’ve never heard of it before either, and I had to tell them that as far as I knew no one made it anymore, the factory went out of business, or burned down, or was sold and turned into a bottling plant for Refrescos Pascual, or the new owners didn’t think the name was good for sales.”
Guerra says this of the drink in 2666 (p.215): “There should be a worm at the bottom of the bottle, said Marco Antonio, but those scum probably ate it. It sounded like a joke and Amalfitano laughed. But I guarantee it’s genuine Los Suicidas, drink up and enjoy, said Marco Antonio. At the second sip Amalfitano thought it really was an extraordinary drink.”
And it’s funny that the mezcal factory becomes a soda pop bottling plant. (Do the suicides in the name of the mezcal refer to the demise of the drink, the drinkers, or the culture of Mexico as a whole, or the whole world?) But scary that this bottling plant (or maquiladora in Chihuahua) is just the place a young woman might work who later turns up dead in the Part about the Crimes.
“They don’t make it anymore, said Marco Antonio, like so much in this fucking country.”
Michael, thank you so much for taking the time to transcribe that passage from The Savage Detectives. I have not read that novel. Interesting. It is apparent that Bolaño is awfully fond of this metaphor or symbol or whatever it is. I appreciate that he could be accused of being heavy-handed with this stuff at times, with some justification. My response would be that there is nothing necessarily wrong with heavy-handedness. It all depends on the hand.
That business about those scum having eaten the worm is a beautiful thing, isn’t it?
All I can say is that based upon my observations only, I am so happy that I quit drinking before I ever discovered Mexican mezcal. I would never have survived it.
I want to add a piece of language trivia that signifies nothing. I hope the fluent Spanish speakers attending will correct anything I say that is wrong here.
Initially, that word suicida, suicide victim, puzzled me because of the feminine ending. Initially, I thought suicidas referred to women suicide victims. But no. There was the definite masculine article “los,” which can be indefinite as to gender because it is plural.
It turns out that suicida is one of those rare Spanish words that can be either masculine or feminine. In other words, there is no such word as suicido for a man who commits suicide. All suicide victims, men or women, are suicidas. Apparently, “the male suicide victim” would be “el suicida,” which certainly looks weird to me.
A lot of asylums in this book, Maria. A lot of asylums.