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Bolaño and the Ghosts of Ciuduad Juárez
April 21, 2009 7:31 PM   Subscribe

Alone Among the Ghosts is an essay from The Nation by Marcela Valdez about Roberto Bolaño's 2666. She interviews journalist Sergio González Rodríguez, who has written extensively about the murders of women in Ciudad Juárez which is the black hole Bolaño's novel orbits around. The journalist was Bolaño's correspondent and main source of information about the femicides. The best English language article about the epidemic of violence in Ciudad Juárez I have read is Max Blumenthal's 2002 Salon article. The website No Angel Came is a good resource for more info on the subject, including a continually updated section with links to articles about the killings. The site's most arresting section is the list of every woman killed in Ciudad Juárez from 1993 to 2006. The epidemic of violence against women in Ciudad Juárez continues.
posted by Kattullus (26 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
Previous MeFi posts about Bolaño (1, 2, 3).
Previous MeFi posts about Ciudad Juárez (1, 2).
posted by Kattullus at 7:36 PM on April 21, 2009


i just finished reading the savage detectives, yesterday. interesting timing for this post. thanks kattillus.
posted by lapolla at 8:03 PM on April 21, 2009


katullus, sorry! it's so dang hot here in frisco it's making this native stupid.
posted by lapolla at 8:04 PM on April 21, 2009


Seconding the heat in the Bay, which makes reading this article, like reading 2666, just finished a week ago, even more like surveying the giant graveyard of our era, where every other day another spat of brutal murders against women (highway of tears, fbi connects long haul truckers to over 500 murders and on and on) comes to light, like the abyss has been open and swallowing for an entire century and time speeds us closer towards its center.

Thanks for the article. Your timing is perfect, absolutely kairos.

The effect of Bolaño's opus is unmistakable, it is almost impossible to extract oneself from the nightmare knowing its source is so real, we become Amalfitano staring at the rotting geometry book, as helpless as hard science against wind and rain. Fuck.. 4/20 passed too quickly.
posted by sarcasman at 8:29 PM on April 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


The 2002 Salon article link doesn't work for me; it just redirects to the main salon.com page.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:06 PM on April 21, 2009


Huh, so it does. Here's the actual link, try to copying it and pasting into the URL box:

http://archive.salon.com/news/feature/2002/12/04/juarez/print.html

I'll e-mail the mods and see if they can change the link to the non-print version.
posted by Kattullus at 10:12 PM on April 21, 2009


The 2002 Salon article link doesn't work for me; it just redirects to the main salon.com page.

Try this one.
posted by msalt at 10:13 PM on April 21, 2009


I'm reading my first Bolaño right now - on loan from my dad - it's Nazi Literature in the Americas. It's great but very dense, so I put it down a lot, and the other day during my hiatus from reading it I picked up The Earth is a Satellite of the Moon and as I was reading the numerous introductions and afterwards, I realized that Nazi Lit. in the Americas is actually a critique of the Left - which apparently, I'm seeing now, Bolaño himself said about the book - at least according to that Wikipedia entry. Anyway, he's pretty amazing.

PS - I am also boiling in the bay area.
posted by serazin at 10:15 PM on April 21, 2009


And it's been fixed. Thanks, cortex!
posted by Kattullus at 10:36 PM on April 21, 2009


Excellent documentary on the subject - Senorita Extraviada
posted by hooptycritter at 3:41 AM on April 22, 2009


critique of the Left

Interesting. I suppose a similar thing could be said about 2666.
posted by stbalbach at 5:14 AM on April 22, 2009


Haven't read any Bolaño aside from a story in the New Yorker, and I'm not sure I will be willing to confront this long, violent, and apparently deeply depressing novel, but this excellent article makes me respect both him and the reporter on whose years of work he drew. (Frankly, it was a shitty thing to do to put the reporter into the novel under his own name, knowing that the guy was already in tremendous danger, but that's why they say you should stay away from writers.) Thanks much for the post.

I was going to complain about the stupid word "femicide," but then I checked the OED and whaddayaknow, it goes back to 1801. I still don't like it, but at least it has pedigree.
posted by languagehat at 5:38 AM on April 22, 2009


I'm not sure I will be willing to confront this long, violent, and apparently deeply depressing novel,

I recommend The Savage Detectives above 2666. I think the former is a great work of fiction, the later a very good one. Though I came into The Savage Detectives cold, and now everyone knows the conceit before they read it. It unwrapped like a present. Ultimately I did not find 2666 deeply depressing, though the murders Bolano describes stick with you much more than any grisly scene in a detective or horror novel.

What I wonder is how much writerly praise is due to the fact that Bolano is safely dead.

I was going to complain about the stupid word "femicide," but then I checked the OED
That's why we love you

posted by shothotbot at 6:53 AM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I checked the OED, too, but nobody ever lights up the sonic meat machine signal. It's depressing.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:02 AM on April 22, 2009


I think I found a grammatical error in a video game! Who will save me? Who?
posted by shothotbot at 7:22 AM on April 22, 2009


More like Cuidado Juarez.
posted by klangklangston at 8:38 AM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pretty sad comment on MeFi readers when this thread has 16 comments but the one on "Marijuana Pepsi Jackson's" name has 145 so far. Priorities.

Also the drug murders and the murder of women in C. Juarez do not seem directly related - I say this b/c MSM is piling on the drug murders/drug war angle on any deaths near the border.
posted by hooptycritter at 4:18 PM on April 22, 2009


Hooptycritter raises a good point - the drug war and these killings of women in Juarez. I think they are related in the sense that a corrupt, complicit police and judiciary let a lot of fucked up shit happen.

The drug war that we are hearing so much about isn't occurring in a vacuum - this is an area that has experienced a great deal of brutality and where it has been demonstrated that the authorities *won't* intervene meaningfully.

What struck me about the first link was how Bolano thought the murders were the work of a single serial killer, but they turned out to be far more disturbing than that.

This story reminds me of this story on NPR. Sadly, when there is no one enforcing the ethical code, some unscrupulous people will take advantage. I blame bad parenting.
posted by jeoc at 7:11 PM on April 22, 2009


languagehat: "... I'm not sure I will be willing to confront this long, violent, and apparently deeply depressing novel ... (Frankly, it was a shitty thing to do to put the reporter into the novel under his own name, knowing that the guy was already in tremendous danger, but that's why they say you should stay away from writers.)"

Well, 2666 isn't longer or more violent than say, for example, War and Peace; or no more violent than A Farewell to arms or For Whom The Bell Tolls... I could go on.

As good fiction goes, it is only depressing as long as you let it immerse itself into you and you allow yourself to dwell into it. It is based on reality, yes, but all fiction is to some degree, otherwise it wouldn't be able to sustain itself; as such it is no more depressing than Great Expectations is. I found it to be quite uplifting and I sincerely think most people would, too (here's hoping the transaltion is at least 60% as good as the original text is).

What I wanted to say is that while The Savage Detectives is a really good novel (and a fine excercise in concealling the real story behind another among other things), 2666 is, simply put, a masterpiece of fiction, either among fiction written originally in Spanish or universal fiction. True, it is rather longish, but feels short: you never want it to end.

ultra llight spoiler:
I pretty much remember that Sergio González Rodríguez ends up being shot in his office around book three. That's why Bolaño kept the name, as the only real link back to the non-fiction world. Calavera no llora.
/ultra llight spoiler
posted by omegar at 7:47 PM on April 22, 2009


jeoc - agreed. In a corrupt society horrible things happen with impunity - The Bush years bear that out in our country.
Some Juarez police have been implicated in the killings.

I think the killings may be drug fueled but part of the issue is the complete commodification then devaluation of female life. The maquiladoras and the disinterest of the foreign corporations in solving or stopping the murders reinforces this view.
posted by hooptycritter at 3:32 AM on April 23, 2009


Well, 2666 isn't longer or more violent than say, for example, War and Peace; or no more violent than A Farewell to arms or For Whom The Bell Tolls... I could go on.

Yes, 2666 isn't more violent, necessarily...just more - detailed and helpless?

I don't know. I've read lots of novels with tons of death, but this one I can't read after 6pm, else I wake variously throughout the night in cold, sweaty panic.
posted by nevercalm at 12:14 PM on April 23, 2009


Well, 2666 isn't longer or more violent than say, for example, War and Peace; or no more violent than A Farewell to arms or For Whom The Bell Tolls... I could go on.

Are you fucking kidding me? I've read all three of the latter books, and I don't recall any of them containing hundreds of pages of graphic descriptions of rape, torture, and murder. All "violence" is not equivalent. That's like saying if you don't mind getting a little water in your mouth when you take a shower, you should be up for a good waterboarding.
posted by languagehat at 6:14 AM on April 24, 2009


Geeze languagehat! Please take a deep breath! You just said above that you haven't read the book - how can you make such an intense argument given that you don't know the tone and feel of the book?

What I saw in this this thread was someone sharing their personal perspective (in the spirit of being helpful and friendly) on a book they've read - to help you inform a decision of whether or not to read it - and you're coming back all harsh and attacking.
posted by serazin at 9:48 PM on April 24, 2009


Huh? I'm not attacking anyone, I'm just expressing extreme astonishment that anyone could make such a silly claim. I don't need to read the book to know what's contained therein; I've read several long descriptions. And I'm not saying it's not a good book; I'm perfectly ready to stipulate that it is, in fact, a great book. Furthermore, since you haven't read it either, I'm not sure what you're on about.
posted by languagehat at 6:10 AM on April 25, 2009


I was on about feeling astonished by what seemed to me to be an intense and hostile tone! Glad to hear it may have been intense, but wasn't intended to be hostile!
posted by serazin at 8:19 AM on April 25, 2009


You really seem to have taken my opinion personally, languagehat. I am sorry if you felt attacked or in any way personally referenced to as to go into slight-derail-defensive-mode.

But really, you must agree, as I do, that as there are many forms of violence, there are many experiences with water between a shower and waterboarding. I was just trying to make a point, one I developed from reading --no, devouring, through the book.

Anyway, violence is such a cornerstone in universal literature that it that, in my opinion, you could easily be saying the same about the Divine Comedy, and I would be trying to make the same point comparing it to the Iliad (keeping all due distances), as there are quite enough horrors in both.
posted by omegar at 7:46 PM on April 27, 2009


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