Let the lamp affix it’s beam!
Maybe I’m just obsessed with Wallace Stevens, but I can’t help reading the last section of Roberto Bolaño’s novel, 2666, through the lens of “The Emperor of Ice Cream.”
That last section introduces the final character in a novel replete with interesting characters– in this case, the great great grandson of the Prince Hermann Pückler, perhaps most famous for his popularization of Fürst-Pückler-Eis, the German version of Neapolitan Ice Cream. All this comes as the final punctuation mark (an ellipsis rather than a question mark or an exclamation point or a full stop/ period) in a novel that spirals around and around the idea of legacy, of consequences, of history with a lower-case or possibly a capital ‘H.’
2666 was a fascinating book to read, if for no other reason, that for the layered textures it was built up of. This is a novel without chapters, but layers. Even ‘stories’ as a descriptor is too round, too uniform and smooth a term for the composites that feed into 2666 as a fully realized whole (or perhaps not fully realized, as the note on its posthumous publication might indicate). 2666 as a novel calls into question the idea of completion in stunning ways, echoing David Lynch’s Twin Peaks (which is paid a quick homage, in much the same fashion as Fürst-Pückler earlier in the book). There are hundreds of other examples of the blissful in-completion which Bolaño achieves or fails to achieve with 2666, among them, the title itself, which becomes a sort of talisman for the performance of his magic. And certain secrets are withheld completely. So, read this book, but don’t let it get in the way of writing your own masterpiece, or of being alive.
As Bolaño writes in what amounts ultimately to one of the keys to the morality of the novel:
Every minor work has a secret author and every secret author is, by definition, a writer of masterpieces. Who writes the minor work? A minor writer, or so it appears. The poor man’s wife can testify to that, she’s seen him sitting at the table, bent over the blank pages, restless in his chair, his pen racing over the paper. The evidence would seem to be incontrovertible. But what she’s seen is only the outside. The shell of literature. A semblance… The person who really writes the minor work is a secret writer who accepts only the dictates of a masterpiece.
Excuse the metaphors. Sometimes in my excitement, I wax romantic. But listen. Every work that isn’t a masterpiece is, in a sense, a part of a vast camouflage…
By now I know that it was pointless to write. Or that it was worth it only if one was prepared to write a masterpiece. Most writers are deluded or playing. Perhaps delusion and play are the same thing, two sides of the same coin…
In a word: experience is best. I won’t say you can’t get experience by hanging around libraries, but libraries are second to experience. Experience is the mother of science, it is often said.