devil's three-way

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Aug 27, 2009, 3:52:17 AM8/27/09
to bolano-l
I just heard this lovely turn of phrase for the first time, which
apparently describes a menage-a-trois between two men and one woman.
I'm curious what people think about how such a triangle is thematized
in 2666. To get the range, you have to revisit the Part About the
Crimes, as the relationship between the critics and the progeny of
bolano/lima repeats darkly in suggestions of unsolicited double-
penetrations in the Crimes section and also the filmic tastes of the
bad guys in Fate....

Do readers think that for all its dead-ends and possibililites, the
text contatins a coherent, implicit, theory of the crimes?

Despite everything else the text offers, I return again and again to
its centre. I know the Crimes are easily metonymized for the darkest
aspect of the human condition...but I feel compelled by the text to
resist their generalization. As they touch-down in a real time and
place, these records are specific. I want to talk about it. Anyone?

Andrew Haley

Aug 27, 2009, 11:50:52 AM8/27/09
to, Andrew Baron, Corinne Ball, lougod, jonagerlach, Tom Yoshikami

I think Bolaño was following some on the genre rules of detective fiction, in the Part About the Crimes Section. That section is heavily indebted to Segio Gonzalez' non-fiction Huesos en el Desierto (Bones in the Desert), to the point where it borders on plagiarism. Gonzalez even appears as a character. For a writer with such a fecund imagination as Bolaño, why base hundreds of pages of your magnum opus on a non-fiction book if you don't intend for it to be compared to non-fiction? He easily could have made up different crimes, in a different place, happening for different reasons. But he relentlessly, almost exhaustively, catalogs the Juarez murders, providing enough forensic information in each "case" for us to do the Mexican police's job for them.

It is very powerful that the crimes are not solved. That the perpetrator(s) remain an elusive force, a mysterious vague evil. 2666 as a whole strives towards something that would be lost if Crimes was merely a detective novel. That said, I think one of the agendas of Crimes is to present the historical record of Juarez so that all of us can become little Lalo Curas -- the bastard child detectives of Bolaño. As you say, there is enough individual evidence in each case to resist generalization.

Based on the forensics, it seems possible to list the victims into several categories.

1. Women killed by boyfriend/husbands (usually at home)
2. Adolescent and pre-pubescent schoolgirls who are abducted
3. Adult women, usually about 5'7" with long, straight brown hair

Most of the women are strangled. Many are stabbed or beaten to death.

If one examines the behavior of serial killers, one finds that serial killers typically follow a fairly common technique that reveals much about their personality (disorder). Ted Bundy, in the majority of his several dozen murders, beat women to death with an object, focusing his blows on their heads. This shows extreme wrath and hatred of women to be a motivating factor, vs rape as a motive, or control as a motive, as one sees in other serial killers where binding, imprisonment, rape, etc are important parts of the killer's method.

Many of the women who turn up dead in Crimes are raped and strangled. Those who appear with stab wounds, with bite marks, etc I think are a distinct group. Likewise, the abductor(s) of schoolgirls show a unique-enough proclivity that they stand apart.

My impression, having only read the book once, was that there were

1. one or more true serial killers at large in Santa Teresa responsible for many of the stabbing and mutilation deaths
2. a gang of rapists who kidnap schoolgirls, with rape as the primary motive, and kill them to cover the evidence
3. sex trade in Juarez, run by the drug cartels, so rampant that it institutionalizes violence against women, leading to numerous individual cases of murder
4. random murders against women
5. boyfriends/husbands who murder their girlfriends/wives


Aug 28, 2009, 2:27:11 AM8/28/09
to bolano-l
Thanks for the reply, Andrew. Forgive the long post.

I agree, there is intent in the use of known non-fiction sources.
Doesn't someone say (perhaps Gonzalez himself) that the degree of
state complicity makes the danger to journalists so profound that the
only way the story will be told is in fiction? I took it to mean 2666
knows as much, if not more, than the sources it asks readers to

Given this simulacra, where Bolano makes changes is interesting. Like
naming it Santa Teresa, instead of Juarez...

I feel like the text offers but ultimately resists the kind of
psychological explanation we all know from the serial killer genre.
Significantly, when the famous American profiler comes to town, he
doesn't present a psychological portrait but rather an institutional
analysis: the streets are dark, the dumps are dangerous, the
transportation is unreliable...This resistance seems reinforced by the
rather unflattering characterization of the psychiatrist and the cop
who consults her.

re:"so rampant it institutionalizes violence against women"...Indeed.
But the book is laying the blame beyond the sex trade, no? Clearly
the book shows misogyny institutionalized in the police force, the
govt., the history (Lalo Cura's ancestral rapists), the sexual
contract generally. This is why, as his mistress corrects Sergio,
it's not whores, but factory workers who are primarily victims. Even
the crimes’ foremost journalist accidentally conflates the two.

A similar conflation is the ostensible motive the critics invoke, in
their violent three-way with the cab-driver who calls Norton a whore.
That triangle is a bloody foreshadowing of the relationship later
consummated in Santa Teresa.

The book explicitly compares the Juarez femicide with the
transatlantic slave trade and the Holocaust. In those other cases,
genocide, as 2666 presents it, appears as the collateral damage of
commerce. At the same time, the theme of Aztec sacrifice, the
obsession of Archimboldi's girlfriend, thematizes mass murder as
mystical ritual and initiation.

It occured to me that maybe by focusing on the individual killers and
their relationships (imagined or real) to their victims, we focus too
much on motive. If you encountered an ancient grave of sacrificed
virgins, how much time would you spend on motive? What if to kill a
woman (particularly one who looks like your sister or your mother or
the embodiment of your country) is not an aberrant practice, but a
normative one?

Our atavars, the critics, attempt interpretation and seek motive in
the violence at the centre of Johns’ art. The two most redeemed
critics accept and confront that in the end, the famous artist cut off
his own hand “for the money.” The Nazi businessman similarly executed
Jewish prisoners and their keepers, for the money. Critics ourselves,
as we interpret the collective violence at the centre of 2666, should
we ask, where is the money?

In a place like Juarez, it’s easy to see how cartel associates,
informants, cops, journalists, witnesses, etc, can end up as the
“collateral damage” of a violent economy. But why so many girls,
girls first raped and tortured? What are the bodies of anonymous,
randomly targeted, women necessary for in this economy? How lucrative
can the regular sex trade be in a place where women make on average
more than their masculine counterparts? Where drug money is so
normalized, and can buy the ‘best’ that the sex trade has to offer,
how much of a market can there be for the kind of sexual fetish that
would necessitate the killing of hundreds of poor women?

The text anticipates this question with its account of the snuff film
legend. Women killed for the consumption of pornagraphiles is
ultimately rejected as a motive. But the paradigm it introduces – of
woman-murder as a consequence of a profit motive—is not.

Why are some of the bodies disposed of to be found? Why are their
disposals sometimes apparently site-specific, marking property
boundaries or the locations of earlier crimes? For years, literary
scholars have identified how the bodies of women are used
figuratively, to mark the political relationships between men. To me,
2666 suggests the literalization of this conceit. That the book so
closely mirrors a real situation is consequently terrifying.
> > place, these records are specific.  I want to talk about it.  Anyone?- Hide quoted text -
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