I started 2666 a few hours after finishing Dracula on Sunday, and, I gotta say, this is some slow-burn shit. I’ve already hit Friday’s milestone of page 23, and all that’s happened so far is we’ve been introduced to four nerds: the french Pelletier, the italian Morini, the spanish Espinoza, and the british Norton. They’re all acclaimed expert academics on a fairly unknown german author, Benno von Archimboldi,* and they like meeting up with each other at various german lit conferences and symposiums to, intellectually, kick the shit out of their academic rivals. Their relationships with each other inspire a page-long sentence on page 14 that is kind of ridiculous and ultimately acts as a warm-up to a five-pages-long sentence from page 18 to 22 about a guy who once met Archimboldi.
If it weren’t for all the reading I’d already done on this book, however, I might’ve completely missed this line on pages 7-8:
[Espinoza] also discovered that he was bitter and full of resentment, that he oozed resentment, and that he might easily kill someone, anyone, if it would provide a respite from the loneliness and rain and cold of Madrid, but this was a discovery that he preferred to conceal.
This line in a book about a town where women are being brutally raped and murdered on the regs. It matches up nicely with this line on page 21 (amidst that wacky five-fucking-page-long sentence):
…and then the little gaucho looked up at the lady with the eyes of a bird of prey, ready to plunge a knife into her at the navel and slice up to the breasts, cutting her wide open, his eyes shining with a strange intensity, like the eyes of a clumsy young butcher…
So, twice in the first 23 pages, in a section about four german lit nerds, there are allusions to murder. I knew to look for the first one, about Espinoza, but I had no idea about that second one, and it jumped out at me from the page like a knife-wielding maniac. After I saw this second line, I rewound a page (still in that one fucking sentence) and reread this:
…when the city was a meat emporium and the refrigerator ships left port laden with meat, a sight to see, hundreds of ships arriving empty and leaving laden with tons of meat headed all over the world, and when she, the lady, went out on deck, say at night, half asleep or seasick or ailing, all she had to do was lean on the rail and let her eyes grow accustomed to the dark and then the view of the port was startling and it instantly cleared away any vestiges of sleep or seasickness or other ailments, the nervous system having no choice but to surrender unconditionally to such a picture, the parade of immigrants like ants loading the flesh of thousands of dead cattle into the ships’ holds, the movements of pallets piled with the meat of thousands of sacrificed calves, and the gauzy tint that shaded every corner of the port from dawn until dusk and even during the night shifts, the red of barely cooked steak, of T-bones, of filet, of ribs grilled rare, terrible…
A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again this is not. Oh man, apocalyptic signs hidden in a seemingly anodyne story about nerds.
But there’s more. Of course.
There’s the wheelchair-bound Morini, sporting his multiple sclerosis and some as-of-yet undescribed mystery ailment. That the others, according to that page-long sentence on page 14, are concerned about. Perhaps a sign of some internal, mental, or emotional rot?
Oh, and just before page 18, there’s a strong hint that the three male critics–Pelletier, Morini, and Espinoza–are about to become rivals for the affections of Norton. (Well, maybe not Morini.) And as for Norton:
As for what passed through Liz Norton’s head, it’s better not to say.
Their part of this novel is going to end in either an orgy or a murder-suicide. And, honestly, in this situation so far, I don’t think those two things are mutually exclusive.
* Unknown in the duel senses that no one has heard of him and no one has met him.