Winding Down

I am off the road for a bit. I mentioned some time ago that I thought the opening of The Part About Fate was clearly a nod to Albert Camus’ The Stranger. At page 554 via more of those voices, this time in Lalo Cura’s head, we hear of his family history.

Lalo’s known family history, according to the voice, goes back to 1865 when a nameless orphan is raped by a Belgian soldier and then gives birth to María Expósito. There follows rape after rape through generation after generation until at one time there are five generations of María Expósitos living in an ever expanding house outside Villaviciosa. One of these María Expósitos has the powers of a witch. In the center of this saga about all these generations is planted the story of a brother’s revenge.

This section is short, roughly four and a half pages. It reminded me so much of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. There was the repetition of names through the generations. Some dramatic and passionate blood letting. There was magic.

I am sure that elsewhere in this novel there are other instances where Bolaño mimics other authors, or pays tribute to them if you will, and I did not recognize that for what it was. (Come to think of it, there was a tip of the hat to Borges in there somewhere, but I cannot remember now where it was.) These two examples came through very clearly for me though.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

As we finish up The Part About the Crimes, it seems to me that we have been presented with a pretty vivid picture of the fecklessness of everyone. And I do mean everyone. Not just the cops.

The three medical examiners, whom I myself labeled The Three Wise Men, have breakfast regularly together, do not talk, and then slink away like vultures. Page 549.

The press is paid off for discretion in what they write according to Haas’s lawyer. While our main representative of the press, Sergio González, is apparently not being paid off, there is no reason to pay him off. He cannot write anything at all about the crimes. Page 564.

Yolanda Palacio, the head of Santa Teresa’s Department of Sex Crimes wherein she is the only employee, holds forth on how Santa Teresa is not all that bad for women given the employment opportunities there. Page 568.

In the end the only information that Florita can offer us is that the killers have big faces, swollen faces and that their joys and sorrows are huge. What the hell is that all about? Page 571.

The former police chief of Mexico City opines that the snuff film industry in Santa Teresa does not exist. Page 536. Immediately thereafter we follow an Argentine reporter as he goes to watch one.

And when all is said and done, is not Professor Kessler as impotent as all the rest, almost comically so? Daryl below makes reference to the pomp of his visit, and that is about all there is. He makes visits to crime scenes or other settings related to the crimes ostentatiously taking notes. He sneaks off at times taking elaborate precautions to avoid being tailed, but he is tailed by the police anyway. He seems best at giving lectures to full halls at the University and regaling people at cocktail parties about the movies for which he has consulted. He is a zero in this place because of his outsider status, again as Daryl points out.

Let us not forget to mention Professor Silverio García Correa, the Mexican criminologist, another study in uselessness. Page 578.

This brings me to the charismatic congresswoman, Azucena Esquivel Plata, about whom Daryl has also written below. It is difficult to come to grips with her. Nonetheless, for all her intensity, passion, and determination, the best she can do in the end is demand that Sergio write about the crimes–the reporter who cannot report. As much I like her, I think we must anticipate that her efforts will be to absolutely no effect, as have been the “efforts” of everybody else in this place.

Cynicism rules. My original draft of this entry was far too long because I had collected quotes wherein various characters offer their own particular brands of cynicism. I will settle for only one, which really captures the overall mood. In contrast to the former Mexico City chief of police’s little homily about fighting the good fight at page 537, we find this from Sergio:

But what are good times? Sergio González asked himself. Maybe they’re what separate certain people from the rest of us, who live in a state of perpetual sadness. The will to live, the will to fight, as his father used to say, but fight what? The inevitable? Fight who? And what for? More time, certain knowledge, the glimpse of something essential? As if there were anything essential in this shitty country, he thought, anything essential on this whole self-sucking motherfucker of a planet.

Now that is cynicism. But what more can you expect from people who regularly go to El Rey del Taco for beers and Tex-Mex?

When all is said and done my overall impression is that Haas’s lawyer is correct. Anybody who seriously wished to investigate these crimes ought to follow the money. That is precisely what nobody is able or willing to do.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Do any of our main characters ever mourn these young dead women? Or even give them a serious second thought. Azucena Esquivel Plata does of course in an enraged sort of way. Oddly enough, Juan de Dios Martínez does, too.

. . . and then Juan de Dios Martínez set his coffee cup on the table and covered his face with his hands and a faint and precise sob escaped his lips, as if he were weeping or trying to weep. . . .

Page 534.

Juan de Dios rested his head on the steering wheel and tried to cry but couldn’t.

Page 600.

–Steve Brassawe

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