When I wrote about vampirism in 2666 about a month ago, I had forgotten entirely the events that take place at Castle Dracula in this week’s swath of reading. Or maybe there was some little synapse way back in the recesses of my brain that remembered, but it sure wasn’t something I had in my conscious memory. But sure enough, Hans Reiter gets shipped off this week to a strange assignment at Castle Dracula that culminates in let’s just say really impressive and ultimately at least slightly disturbing (or is it just humorous?) coitus complete with blood and chanting.
So why all the vampirism? And why this specific strange interlude, with its dream of cannibalism, at the castle of Dracula himself? In the comments on that older post of mine, it’s demonstrated readily enough that vampirism lines up rather nicely with the consumption of others, parasitism, etc., that’s so pervasive in the part about the crimes. It would be simple enough to allow that the Dracula interlude is just a solidification of the conceit.
But I think there’s more to it. Those who read along when we did Dracula this past October may remember that the author of that classic if really sort of disappointing text was Irish and that there are plenty of bits of the text that can be reasonably said to comment on the landlord debacle that Ireland is known for (I wrote about it briefly here). At the heart of that debacle was the misuse of poor people on the margins — outside of society, to use Kessler’s phrasing — by those within society. It kind of sounds familiar within our context, doesn’t it?
Further, consider how Bolaño lingers on the story of Benito Juarez earlier in the novel (I believe it’s in the section in which we first meet La Santa, and I assume that the city of Juarez, after which Santa Teresa is modeled, is named after this former Mexican president). During Juarez’s terms as president, Mexico was the subject of invasions by the U.S. and by France. Both nations had loaned money to Mexico for economical and political reasons, and both fought for influence in the country. Compare this to the history of Ireland, whose landlord problem arose as a result of England’s play to control Ireland for political reasons (it was a buffer from invasions by Spain and France). So yet again, we see pointers in Bolaño’s book to parallels with Irish history that happen also to be addressed, if obliquely, in Stoker’s book.
And then finally, at the end of this week’s section, we see the strange courtship of Reiter and Ingeborg in which we learn of her fascination with the human-sacrificing Aztecs and Reiter’s oath sworn by the Aztecs. Bolaño here is tying World War II and, by not very lengthy extension, the human sacrifice of the holocaust, back to the Mexico in which the heart of his story is centered. That one of Ireland’s most well-known writers couched the landlord matter in terms of cannibalism hardly seems tangential.
Someone who has a better head for history than I do may be able to provide additional color or nuance, but I definitely have the sense that Bolaño is using the vampirism in the story, and Dracula in particular, to tie together some of the threads he’s been unwinding pertaining to insiders and outsiders, parasitism and consumption of people, and a sort of larger parasitism of nations.