In and Out

On page 506, I underlined the sentence “That same night, in bed in his cell, Haas said: the killer is on the outside and I’m on the inside” and drew an arrow to my own note: “There’s a lot of this contrast (in/out) in this part (at least) of the book.” Once I was finished with this week’s reading, I went back and did a very quick scan of the text to find a few of the instances of in and out or inside and outside that had jumped out at me. Here’s a brief (but not necessarily complete) catalog:

470: Of Estrella Sandoval (the girl whose murder eventually points back to Haas), her friend says that she went in and talked to Haas and was mad when she came out.

475: Haas’s desk is horseshoe shaped, an enclosure.

475: There’s a reference to a couple of kids boxing. A boxing ring is an enclosure (enclosing violence).

477: Epinfanio asks if he can come into Haas’s house. Surprisingly, Haas lets him in.

479: Haas invites policemen on a subsequent visit to come into his home, but they decline before arresting him.

480: Haas, in possession apparently of endless stores of energy, makes his interrogators, shut in a soundproof room with him, lose patience.

481: Haas is put in a private cell.

483: Inmates in private cells could go out into the yard or spend their days inside. Twice on this page we see the phrase “The first time he went out into the yard.”

485: Haas acknowledges that at some point he’ll have to leave his private cell, so that his “in” becomes another “in.”

486: There’s a reference to a labyrinth.

488: There’s another reference to a labyrinth and a couple of references to an abyss (to a prison, which is very much an “in,” built on the edge of the abyss). He also feels (in a dream) something sewn inside his mouth. My puzzler for the day: Is an abyss in or out or something else altogether?

490: “Here, to a greater or lesser degree, everyone is sensitive to what happens outside, to the hearbeat of the city, you might say… Then I asked him if he thought I had killed [the women] and the bastard said no, not you, gringo, as if I was a fucking gringo, which inside maybe I am… That here in prison they know I’m innocent… It’s like a noise you hear in a dream. The dream, like everything dreamed in enclosed spaces, is contagious.”

502: There’s mention of the changing of a city’s limits, a shift in what constitutes in and out.

506: “The killer keeps killing and I’m locked up. That’s an incontrovertible fact. Someone should consider that and draw conclusions. That same night, in bed in his cell, Haas said: the killer is on the outside and I’m on the inside.”

513: Elvira Campos wants to ask Juan de Dios Martinez more about the crimes, but “doing so would only deepen the relationship, lead them, together, into a locked room to which she alone held the key.

I’m reminded of a discussion way back in the part about Fate between two men in a diner. Steve highlighted the section a few weeks ago, but I’ll requote the pertinent parts:

The ones killed in the Commune weren’t part of society, whereas the woman killed in a French provincial capital and the murderer on horseback in Virginia were.


“All right, then,” said the white-haired man. “I’ll tell you three things I’m sure of: (a) everyone living in that city is outside of society, and everyone, I mean everyone, is like the ancient Christians in the Roman circus…”

As is often the case, I don’t have a tidy theory to assemble these fragments into, but it does seem to me that Bolaño is doing something with insider and outsider status (even among the critics, with the different cliques) in the book and that, in this week’s section including several scenes in jail, he adds some color to the vague dichotomy of insider/outsider by providing lots of examples of specific ins and outs.

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