Food and the End of the Road

Several times in 2666, we see strange, somehow disjunctive scenes that form themselves around food. Early on, we have Morini reading an old cookbook (which Maria wrote about). This takes place alongside a discussion of catch phrases and jokes emblazoned on mugs, and how the man who used to work at the mug place was saddened by a change in the composition of the phrases.

Later, we have Barry Seaman giving his lecture partially about food while pushing his barbecue cookbook. How much profundity there is in Seaman’s lecture is up for debate (some seem to read Seaman straight; others take him to be something of a clown), but there is, at any rate, what seems to be an attempt to link profundity with appetite (or with satisfaction thereof).

Next we have Kessler and his associate overheard in a diner during the part about Fate. This discussion of people at the edge of society is one I’ve come back to a number of times. I think the topic is central to much of what Bolaño is doing in 2666.

And finally, here at the end, we have Archimboldi talking the merits of ice cream vs. ices with a descendant of the man for whom a certain type of German ice cream (basically Neapolitan) is named. The treat’s namesake might have been remembered for any number of other accomplishments, but his name is remembered for its association with ice cream. Certain statements the descendant makes about his forebear one can imagine Bolaño hoping might one day be used in his own honor. It’s interesting to note that Morini’s encounter and his reading of recipe names occurred in the Italian Gardens and that Pückler of ice cream fame was considered something of an artist of a landscape gardner, and he spent some time in Italy.

I find myself wishing now that I had thought earlier in the book to make a more complete catalog of the consumption of food. In addition to these examples, there are of course Arcimboldo’s paintings that compose portraits out of pieces of fruit and other viands. There are a number of references to cannibalism and vampirism. Surely there are others, and perhaps someone with the stamina to read this thing yet again (twice in two years will tide me over for a while) will find more to the food motif (if it can be called that). I can’t say much more about it but that it stood out to me here at the end.

Ah, and the end. Anti-climactic, no? Maybe a little disappointing. We do confirm that Archimboldi makes his way to Santa Teresa, so there is at least a little closure.

I’ve enjoyed this group read but am glad it’s over. Onward!