2008 2009 Books in Translation

2666 – Roberto Bolaño. Part 2: The Part About Amalfitano

Steph and Claire are hosting a read-along for the highly acclaimed book, 2666, by Chilean author Roberto Bolaño. The novel is 900 pages long, and divided into 5 parts. We are reading one part a month, for the next five months.

Here are my thoughts on Part 2: The Part About Amalfitano


As the title suggests this section is all about Amalfitano, and other than the fact it is set in the town the critics visited searching for the German writer, it has little relation to Part 1.

Amalfitano is raising his daughter, Rosa, after Rosa’s mother, Lola has walked out on them. Amalfitano receives letters from Lola occasionally in which she tells him of her travels round Europe and her obsession with a Spanish poet. Lola eventually returns and confesses that she is dying of AIDS.

This part was much easier to read than Part 1, but it made me feel incredibly stupid. There were so many references to poets/philosophers/other people I’d never heard of that much of it went over my head. About half way through this section Amalfitano discovers a geometry book in his house that he has never seen before. He studies it for a while and then decides to hang it on the washing line:

…to see how it survives the assault of nature, to see how it survives this desert climate,

Why? I really didn’t understand. He then goes on to draw geometric shapes, with various people listed at the apexes. I have no idea why! Amalfitano’s attempts to explain it just confused me even more:

The B that appeared at the apex of the triangle superimposed on the rectangle could be God or the existence of God as derived from his essence.

By the time he lists the three columns of names I have decided that it is all beyond me, and so I’ll just ignore that until someone more knowledgeable than me explains it all.

As with part 1, this section contains numerous sexual and homophobic references and at one point Lola has sex in a cemetery. Again I found this all a bit weird. I find myself just shaking my head at this book. I just don’t seem to understand where it is coming from.

I really hope that it comes together soon, as it is all a bit weird for me.


Do you think you understand what the author is trying to achieve with this book?

Is it mystifying you, or are you really enjoying it?

13 replies on “2666 – Roberto Bolaño. Part 2: The Part About Amalfitano”

Jackie, like you I found this section easier to read overall, but I also feel like I got less out of it. In that this section felt really aimless and purposeless; I didn’t see how it really tied to the last section, and I certainly felt this part stood on its own even more poorly than Part I. I have no idea what the point of the first portion with Rosa was about, nor did I get the references to the philosophers/poets or what the obsession over the geometry book was about.

I think overall I’m glad this part was short since it didn’t seem to advance the previous story or tell one in its own right. Overall, I felt this section was not as enjoyable as the first part, as I felt it was lacking much of its predecessor’s wit, humor, and passion.

Steph – It looks as though we had very similar feelings about this section. I have seen reviews saying that parts 1, 2 and 3 make no sense put parts 4 + 5 tie everything together in an amazing way. I’m looking forward to getting to part 4 now!

Jackie – I also found this section harder to read and make sense of. The style is very different.

I found myself digging deeper and following Amalfitano’s walk along the edge between sanity and madness. Maybe that’s what this part is all about.

I’m actually enjoying not knowing how this will all pull together!


I don’t pretend to understand certain things any better than you do, but a lot of my enjoyment of this section had to do with the way Bolaño put us inside the heads of two terribly traumatized people: Amalfitano and Lola. I found them very believeable as characters (although I hope their obsessions are different from my own!), and I think part of what the geometry thing was about was calling attention to Amalfitano’s hope to impose order on a world that is clearly out of order. In any event, I enjoyed reading your review and I’ll be back for the next installment. Cheers!

Gavin – I think you’re right – this section is about madness, but it isn’t something I really understand and so I suppose that is why I don’t appreciate what is happening fully.

Richard – I did feel that Amalfitano and Lola were much more rounded, vivid characters than the critics in part 1, but I’m not sure how realistic they are. Perhaps I just don’t have enough exposure to people with mental illness, but it all seemed very odd to me.

I think a key point about the whole part with the geometry treatise and Amalfitano’s semi-conscious drawing of geometric figures, is that he doesn’t seem to understand it any better than the reader. In fact, his own lack of understanding really torments him, to the point where he’s losing sleep over it, you know? So I don’t think there’s an expectation that the reader should have the reaction “Oh yeah, I see why he’s putting Kant here and Shopenhauer there,” since Amalfitano is puzzled and creeped out by that himself, and almost doesn’t remember drawing the figures after he’s done it. I think it’s all about the fragmentation and dissolution of his mind, and how he’s becoming obsessed with order and yet losing his sense of control over his own life. He feels like the passive party (discovering the geometry book, finding these drawn figures) even when, logically, he must also be the active party – but he can’t access the times when he’s active, or the active parts of himself. The voice is the same thing – it must be inside his head, yet he feels himself to be the passive receptor of its words.

To answer your questions, I’m really enjoying it (or really enjoyed it), but I love the absurd & bizarre in literature, so not understanding everything doesn’t really bother me. 😀

I was also hoping there was someone out there more knowledgeable about philosophy than I am! I recognized most of the names Amalfitano used, but I don’t know anything about any of their works. So I have no idea how to even begin interpreting those diagrams.

I too was bothered by some of the sexism in Part 1, but not so much in Part 2. I think we need to distinguish between the author and his characters. I definitely got the impression that, in this case, Bolano was simply portraying characters who had sexist and/or homophobic attitudes. I don’t think it’s a reflection of Bolano himself.

Lol! Jackie! You are not alone. I felt extremely stupid reading about those people, too. But, like Emily, I don’t mind the absurdity of it all for as long as I’m loving the writing and the author is successful in moving me along. So, yes, I was completely mystified (I did not know what to make of it in the end), but also, yes, I a-hundred-percent enjoyed it. I hope you hang in there with the weirdness!

I agree with Emily: Amalfitano is as confused by his own madness as we are. I definitely don’t understand it yet, but I think I like it. I like the absurdity and I hope hope hope that it all comes together in a brilliant way. I’m a little afraid at this point that it’s going to fall flat in the end and all the things I had high hopes for will be forgotten or not completely flushed out. I hope not!

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