Academic journal article Chasqui

Counting Violence: Roberto Bolano and 2666

Academic journal article Chasqui

Counting Violence: Roberto Bolano and 2666

Article excerpt

"A mediados de febrero, en un callejon del centro de Santa Teresa, unos basureros encontraron a otra mujer muerta," the narrator telis us in Roberto Bolano's 2666 (447/355). (1) Beyond the violence of postdictatorship and against the grain of globalization, this text destabilizes not only the great Western narrative of progress, reason, and Enlightenment (in its capitalist and its revolutionary communist versions) but also that of humanity and human rights and its phallogocentric notion of fraternity. 2666 explores how the singularity of horror can be shared, that is, how the world (not the globe) emerges from violence, and how to go from the singularity of pain to the barred universality of sharing it. Furthermore, in sharing trauma, 2666 challenges language (and its users) with the ethical dilemma of accounting for violence. Many critics read 2666 from a "morally alert" position, searching in it for a critique of neoliberalism, of the violence of the 20th century, or of evil. However, 2666 not only critically narrates these violences; it also examines the enjoyment and indifference involved in writing and reading about violence. The text explores how the enjoyment of language and the reification that language entails pervade the telling and reading of violence, questioning the position of a morally alert criticism. Thus, 2666 locates language at the intersection of responsibility and complicity, leaving no possible external position from violence and language.

Violence has been one of the core topics of late twentieth-century and early twenty-first-century Latin American literature. Many of the narratives about violence in the eighties and nineties were dominated by state political violence. These narratives came in the form of testimonio and post-dictatorship fiction, the historical novel, or narratives about violent democracies like those of Mexico, or Peru among others. Sometimes, along with a reflection on political violence came a critique of the patriarchal system and of heterosexual gender normativity. During the nineties, and at beginning of the twenty-first century, dictatorship remained relevant, but the focus switched to the survivors, the next generation, and the remaining effects of violence. New narratives emerged exploring the transition from the state to the neoliberal market and the violences related to this passage, such as new poverty and corruption, and the decay of old forms of social organizations that made more visible older forms of violence. In this frame, novels on drugs trafficking, on urban violence, on transnational and border experiences and alternative gender identities became more visible. Among this new trend of narrative, 2666 deserves a special attention.

2666 is a series of five parts, intended to be published separately but published together by an editorial decision. While the Parts do not reunite in a teleological storyline, they still belong to the same series, 2666, and gravitate elliptically towards Santa Teresa city, the spectral presence of Ciudad Juarez (Mexico), and femicide. The Parts are not chapters and do not share a homogeneous narrative voice; they have different styles and play with diverse genres. La parte de los criticos narrates the obsession of four European literary experts about the mysterious German author Benno von Archimboldi. Three of them travel to Santa Teresa city, under the belief that their author is there and meet Amalfitano. La parte de Amalfitano tells the story of the eponymous exiled Chilean professor of philosophy, his life in Santa Teresa, and his worries about having brought his daughter, Rosa, to a city where women are being murdered. Then, La parte de Fate recounts the adventures of an African American journalist who travels to Santa Teresa, unwillingly gets involved in the crimes against women and escapes with Rosa. La parte de los crimenes focuses on Santa Teresa city and the killing of women. Finally, La parte de Archimboldi narrates the metamorphosis of Hans Reiter into Benno von Archimboldi, the author. …

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