[Note: merry xmas, mofos. Here’s a post I wrote last week, because I’m reading 2666 faster than I should be, because it’s that good.]
Reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula just before reading 2666 is starting to pay off.
Toward the end of “The Part About the Critics,” at the suggestion of Amalfitano, two of our critics, Pelletier and Espinoza, visit a circus in search of Archimboldi. Amalfitano* sees on a flyer that the circus has an old german magician, and he suggests to our critics that maybe perhaps it’s actually Archimboldi, the 80-something year old recluse author, in disguise.** So the three of them go to visit the circus and interview this german magician, Doktor Koenig.
Here we are at the good Doktor’s trailer, pages 132-133:
He rapped with his knuckles on the door of the magician’s little trailer. Someone opened the door and a voice from the darkness asked what he wanted. The impresario said it was him and he had some European friends with him who wanted to say hello. Come in, then, said the voice, and they went up the single step and into the trailer, where the curtains were drawn over the only two windows, which were just a little bigger than portholes.
“I don’t know how we’re all going to fit in here,” said the impresario, and immediately he pulled back the curtains.
Lying on the only bed they saw an olive-skinned bald man wearing only a pair of enormous black shorts, who looked at them, blinking with difficulty. He couldn’t have been more than sixty, if that, which ruled him out immediately, but they decided to stay for a while and at least thank him for seeing them. Amalfitano, who was in a better mood than the other two, explained that they were looking for a German friend, a writer, and they couldn’t find him.
“So you thought you’d find him in my circus?” said the impresario.
“Not him, but someone who might know him,” said Amalfitano.
“I’ve never hired a writer,” said the impresario.
“I’m not German,” said Doktor Koenig. “I’m American. My name is Andy López.”
With these words he pulled his wallet out of a bag hanging on a hook and held out his driver’s license.
“What’s your magic act?” Pelletier asked him in English.
“I star by making fleas disappear,” said Doktor Koenig, and the five of them laughed.
“It’s the truth,” said the impresario.
“Then I make pigeons disappear, then I make a cat disappear, then a dog, and I end the act by disappearing a kid.”
If Dracula is still fresh on your mind, like it is mine, then I don’t need to go any further. If you are me, at this point you’re screaming at Pelletier and Espinoza to not go anywhere and to follow this López everywhere he goes, because he will lead you to either Archimboldi or a terrible murderer. (OH SHIT, IS ARCHIMBOLDI THE COUNT? Reread El Cerdo’s account of his interactions with Archimboldi [pages 100-102 and again on page 126] and tell me that that doesn’t sound like Dracula in transition from Transylvania to London.)
If Dracula isn’t fresh in your mind, then allow me to draw straight lines.
- The trailer and its interior is like the insane asylum cell that contains Renfield.
- The visit from impresario, Amalfitano, Pelletier, and Espinoza is like the Chapter 18 visit (sorry, no page number because I don’t have my copy handy) of Dr. Seward, Van Helsing, Lord Godalming, and Quincey Morris to Renfield. (I’ve put them in that specific order to directly correlate the characters, e.g. the impresario = Dr. Seward, Amalfitano = Van Helsing, etc.)
- The nature of Doktor Koenig’s magical act is a direct correlation to Renfield’s collecting of flies, spiders, birds, etc.
Here’s the connecting tissue to cement these lines in your mind, from Dracula, Chapter 6:
I gave Renfield a strong opiate to-night, enough to make even him sleep, and took away his pocket-book to look at it. The thought that has been buzzing about my brain lately is complete, and the theory proved. My homicidal maniac is of a peculiar kind. I shall have to invent a new classification for him, and call him a zoöphagous (life-eating) maniac; what he desires is to absorb as many lives as he can, and he has laid himself out to achieve it in a cumulative way. He gave many flies to one spider and many spiders to one bird, and then wanted a cat to eat the many birds. What would have been his later steps?
Renfield’s collection of flies and spiders is basically all we have to go on with Dr. Seward for the first third of Dracula. This passage above merely encapsulates Seward’s obsession with Renfield.
Okay, so what do we draw from this?
- The circus is a traveling insane asylum.
- Doktor Koenig is “an undeveloped homicidal maniac” (also Dracula, Chapter 6).
- This is another beautiful hint and foreshadowing of the horror the reader is about to learn of that is present in Santa Teresa (the part about the crimes?).
- Archimboldi himself might be a vampire of some sort.
* What is up with all these names starting with the letter A? Archimboldi, Amalfitano, Almendro, Alatorre. How many more? To what end?
** I think this is great humor. A hidden, reclusive, ancient german author seeking to escape (escape what?) by literally running away and joining the circus? C’mon, man, too funny.