2666: Major and Minor Works

One night, while the kid was scanning the shelves, Amalfitano asked him what books he liked and what book he was reading, just to make conversation. Without turning, the pharmacist answered that he liked books like The Metamorphosis, Bartleby, A Simple Heart, A Christmas Carol. And then he said that he was reading Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Leaving aside the fact that A Simple Heart and A Christmas Carol were stories, not books, there was something revelatory about the taste of this bookish young pharmacist, who in another life might have been Trakl or who in this life might still be writing poems as desperate as those of his distant Austrian counterpart, and who clearly and inarguably preferred minor works to major ones. He chose The Metamorphosis over The Trial, he chose Bartleby over Moby-Dick, he chose A Simple Heart over Bouvard and Pécuchet, and A Christmas Carol over A Tale of Two Cities or The Pickwick Papers. What a sad paradox, thought Amalfitano. Now even bookish pharmacists are afraid to take on the great, imperfect, torrential works, books that blaze paths into the unknown. They choose the perfect exercises of the great masters. Or what amounts to the same thing: they want to watch the great masters spar, but they have no interest in real combat, when the great masters struggle against that something, that something that terrifies us all, that something that cows us and spurs us on, amid blood and mortal wounds and stench.

—Roberto Bolaño, 2666

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4 comments on “2666: Major and Minor Works

  1. Stefanie says:

    Oh that's delicious! I realy have to clear my reading plate so I can read this.

  2. Sylvia says:

    Stefanie, I think you will roar at the first part, which involves literary critics obsessed with a possibly non-existent literary genius. 😀

  3. Stefanie says:

    Ok, I'm sold. Now I am going to have to try not to rush through Liaisons Dangerouses and Dracula giving them short shrift just to start reading this!

  4. Sylvia says:

    Great! I think your other books will actually be a fitting lead-up to 2666. You'll see when you get there… 😉

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