Minimum number of Mexican mayors who have been killed by hit men in the past decade: 44
According to the April 2016 Harper’s Index, narcos assassinating government officials disrupts society in profound ways, way more than what stylized portrayals of narcotraficantes in media dare to capture. Senior year of high school (Class of 2000), the most impressionable movie of the year was the film Traffic.
This novel, 2666, is very much about borders, both figuratively and literally. To review: the first part about the critics serves as prologue, and the second part appears to be semi-autobiographical, while the third part stands as a concise example of how skilled the author can write and copy the greatest hits of 20th century machismo in American Literature.
Weighing in as the belly of the novel, a white whale well into 266 pages long, part four is unavoidable and difficult to endure. The part about the crimes, catalogues over a hundred murders, compounded with a survey of maquiladoras, prisons, and boom-bust development (the oasis-mirage real estate of urban sprawl coupled by bank speculation, foreclosures, and renovations). Now we have Roberto Bolaño channeling Melville and Thoreau too.
Henry David Thoreau may have been inspired by Mexico to execute his infamous civil disobedience, but he spent the arch of his life chronicling the habitats of Cape Cod. The wreck of St. John sinks to the core of American muckraking. As the New Republic says, “It is a kind of extended prose elegy, written to bear witness to and make sense of the tragedy that befell that shipload of Irish immigrants.” Thoreau cared about the borders of his day that were most local, and the deaths of Irish immigrants washing ashore on the beaches of New England called Thoreau as much as the Mexican-American border calls Bolaño.
The obsessive compulsive, white giant draws the most attention through part four. Almost an identical reversal of a concept found in Murakami’s 1Q84 — the concept of the Little People — Bolaño uses the mythos of the Giant to build tension in an otherwise blatant political diatribe, akin to Orwell’s 1984 and the book within the book. Like Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, Bolaño uncovers the plight of turn of the 21st century proletariat.
Not that the Northeast has little to say about the human drama playing out in the Southwest, the 2000 film Dark Days lurks in the shadow of Hollywood blockbusters like Traffic. The underground dwellers in NYC have a lot in common within the dump dwellers of Mexico (complimentarily drenched in sunshine to the point of blindness).
Contemporary World News has covered the Syrian refugee crisis with an almost eager ignorance of any other border dramas simultaneously unfolding. North America fails to address its own immigration record when speaking grandiloquently about Europe and the Middle East. From Guantanamo Bay to Ciudad Juárez (aka Santa Teresa), serious Human Rights issues are frozen in an undefined state. American Democrats rarely criticize the Obama administration’s handling of immigration, but it is far from inept as Republicans are oft to paint it as. The frightening reality hides an ugly chapter in American History today.
The part about the crimes details the crimes alright, but it does not answer the question of who the criminals are for real? The character of Lalo Cura blurs the line between narco and police. Apparently the free trade agreements between countries are as insidious as the real estate schemes between banks or the under the table negotiations between criminals (on both sides of the fence). The 2001 documentary Life and Debt deftly sings a conspiratorial tune about the long term effects of the globalized economic assault of the West. The Juan de Dios Martínez of 2666 is a questionable character.
There used to be an Indian settlement here, remembered the inspector. A policeman who’d lived in the colonia had told him so. He dropped onto a bench and gazed up at the imposing shadow of the tree silhouetted menacingly against the starry sky. Where are the Indians now? (Page 366)