Saturday, October 13, 2012

Submerged Jealousy

A few days ago on the way to work, I had a more visceral reaction to literature than I have ever had before. I am currently reading 2666 by Roberto Bolaño. The reaction was caused by a scene in which the scholars Pelletier and Espinoza (a twentieth century Bouvard and Pécuchet to be sure) attack a Pakistani cab driver in London over an insult. The cabbie had called the two of them pimps and their mutual ex-girlfriend a whore. As best as I can tell, this is actually a quite realistic depiction about how much senseless violence gets started in this world. How crude and how ridiculous.

Before the attack happens at the very end of the scene, I had identified quite deeply with the jealousy that Pelletier and Espinoza felt due to the unraveling of their relationship with Liz Norton due to recent events in my own life. I identified even more with Pelletier and Espinoza's self-mockery of their own jealousy. But when the sequence took a turn for the bizarre with the cabbie's untoward suggestions that his fares were flesh merchants, I felt myself begin to follow Pelletier and Espinoza right down into an abyss self-aggrandizing violence. When Espinoza pulls the cabbie out of the car in order to slap him around, I was cheering his actions. Then as it quickly devolved into a merciless beating, I recoiled in horror in how far I was willing to go to salve my own feelings on inadequacy.

There is a reason that 2666 is the sixth novel by Bolaño that I have tackled this year. This is it.

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