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Literature Against Criticism

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Martin Paul Eve

Part II: Critique

4. Political Critique

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  • 1 In the limited reading that I have presented, C comes across as an apolitical novel, which is perh (...)

1If, as shown in the previous chapter, C can be considered a text focused on aesthetic critique (i.e. an interrogation of its own conditions of aesthetic possibility and self-situation within a specific literary history and/or taxonomy, independently of the university), then this is the type of metafiction that is most vulnerable to the accusation of political nihilism. A purely formalist mode, after all, whether in the university or in fiction seems to disavow politics, even if Remainder does make an ethical critique of representational art.1 While certain texts exemplify an aesthetic critique of the process of canonisation, taking this element far from the university, others, such as Roberto Bolaño’s 2666, to which I will now turn, work very differently. In fact, if one wanted an easy divide between the forms of critique enacted by these two texts, C would conduct aesthetic, formalist critique while 2666 could be said to practice political critique. The two are inseparable to some extent; the content/form dichotomy is clearly false. For the purposes of thinking about these two areas, however, it is clear that various metafictions respectively focus more strongly on aesthetic or political critique.

  • 2 For just one example, see César Aira, The Literary Conference, trans. by Katherine Silver (New Yor (...)
  • 3 Ryan.

2By ‘political critique’ in this chapter I mean that texts such as 2666 thematically represent ethical and political issues that intersect with the interests of the academy. There are some challenges inherent in this mode. Fiction and the academy may independently reach the same conclusions about issues of ethical import in the present. For instance, it is no coincidence that postcolonial and ecocritical themes should arise in a world recovering from the British Empire and one in which the threat of climate change looms as an unparalleled global catastrophe. Yet we also could say that, for literary criticism, there might be a link between the spaces. It could be that literature responds to the ethical issues of the day and criticism responds to the literature. In the time of the ‘novel after Theory’ this becomes more complex. Novels such as 2666 contain representations of academics (in fact, specifically literary critics) while also dealing with a set of topical ethical themes, emerging from a set of South American authors who take a similar approach.2 These texts therefore demonstrate a metafictional process in which they are aware of the way in which such ethical and political tropes will be read back out of their pages. As Judith Ryan puts it, such novels “write back”.3

  • 4 Michelle Huneven, ‘Hilary Mantel’s Short-Story Collection Long on Controversy’, Los Angeles Times, (...)
  • 5 American Library Association, ‘Frequently Challenged Books’, http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlyc (...)

3As an initial word of caution, though, it might be worth asking in advance what it actually means to call a literary text ‘political’. It can mean that we see formal and mimetic affinities with political theories. If we think that politics might consist of a fusion of ethics and influential power, then fiction might well possess those qualities. We might also want to ask, however, what type of influence literature has, what audiences it can reach and, perhaps most importantly: how do, or even just do, political elements of short stories, novels and poetry, amid other hybrid forms, translate into action? Is it enough, we might ask, for a text to present an ethical worldview? What about action? There is clearly a persistent and widespread social anxiety about the potential political power of literature and its translation into action. Think only of Hilary Mantel’s controversial short story about a fictional assassination of Margaret Thatcher and the media storm that it generated.4 Look only at the list of books challenged every year for censorship in the US education system.5 We should be careful, though, not to overstate the power of literature in the mind and in the academy against the power of action on the street. Academics are, like anyone else, subjectively biased and prone to making such assumptions; it would be nice to imagine that there are leagues of politicised students who leave literature courses every year and who go on to change the world. The evidence shows otherwise. For the most part, the pedagogy of debt incurred by studying literature in the academy teaches students that they must get jobs, enter the ‘real world’ and leave the realm of political literature in that other space: on the page.

  • 6 Levine.

4I choose, nonetheless, to call this interrelation of ethical themes ‘political’ because rather than purely being about ethics, meta-ethics, morality, and so forth, it is the way in which these ethical concerns are translated into a socio-textual power practice for the distribution and arrangements of the exercise of authority in which I am most invested. This is explicitly not to situate ‘politics’ and ‘aesthetics’ in opposition to one another. As Caroline Levine has noted, politics itself can fall under the discourse of formalism.6 In the novels that I write of in this chapter, however, it is specifically the textual polis — the authored textual architecture or city — that works to influence the ethical route through which its hermeneutic denizens — its readers — walk.

Roberto Bolaño and 2666

  • 7 For more on the novel’s space, see Jeffrey Gray, ‘Roberto Bolaño, Ciudad Juárez, and the Future of (...)
  • 8 Camelia Raghinaru, ‘Biopolitics in Roberto Bolaño’s 2666, “The Part About the Crimes”’, Altre Mode (...)

52666 has been heralded as phenomenal, an especially remarkable feat given that it remained unfinished at the time of the author’s death. Impossible to do justice to its size and scope, Bolaño’s novel interweaves five narratives concerning: a set of self-absorbed literary critics; the university professor Oscar Amalfitano; a journalist called Oscar Fate; Bolaño’s fictional reclusive author Archimbaldi; and a central section on ‘the crimes’. All of this is spread across a one-thousand-page epic that was originally published in Spanish in 2004 and then translated into English in 2008, with both versions appearing posthumously. These ‘crimes’ form the dystopian centrepiece with which the novel batters its reader: the sequential, gruelling description of the bodies of the female victims of sexual homicides around the fictional town of Santa Teresa, a thinly veiled rendition of the ongoing, horrendous reality in Ciudad Juárez.7 It is a near-unending “repetitive cataloguing of bodies” that, as Camelia Raghinaru puts it, “rewrite[s] the general expectations of detective fiction”.8

  • 9 Sharae Deckard, ‘Peripheral Realism, Millennial Capitalism, and Roberto Bolaño’s 2666’, Modern Lan (...)
  • 10 Roberto Bolaño, 2666, trans. by Natasha Wimmer (London: Picador, 2009), p. 193.
  • 11 Ibid., p. 227.

6In terms of its literary aesthetic, 2666 is an explicitly metatextual artefact that situates itself within two traditions: the utopian work and the encyclopaedic novel, in the latter case particularly of the North American variety, despite arguments to the contrary.9 This can be seen twofold in the text itself. Firstly, in response to its own representations of violence, the work overtly queries utopian premises when it asks of the author of the original Utopia (1516): “why Thomas More […]?”10 Secondly, Bolaño aims for his novel to be the “great, imperfect, torrential [work]” that struggles “against something, that something that terrifies us all, that something that […] spurs us on, amid blood and mortal wounds and stench”, thus invoking debates about autonomous and committed art forms within a vast structure; the link between aesthetics and politics explored by incarnations of the postmodern encyclopaedic novel.11

7Bolaño’s novel, then, is an example of contemporary writing that exhibits a strong ethical core even amid aesthetic structures that hark back to (supposedly amoral) postmodern metafiction. It is also, I will argue, a text that achieves its ethical payoff through a focus on matters of ‘teaching’. As a result, I think of 2666 under the remit of a category that I term ‘crypto-didacticism’, a phrase denoting fictions that appear vast and chaotic but that nonetheless aim to school their readerships in ethics. In this light, I suggest that those in the academy given the task of ‘teaching contemporary fiction’ should be aware that they might also on occasion read such a statement in its adjectival form: contemporary fiction that teaches.

  • 12 Deckard, p. 357.

8The broadest signal given by 2666 that it should be considered under such a mode, but also the key indicator of the target audience that the text seeks to educate, is that the university is awarded a central place — and is indeed explicitly depicted — in this novel. It is my contention in this chapter that 2666 is a text that trains its didactic strains back upon the academy in a utopian mode that, while intensely critical, still sees a limited potential for redemption. This chapter proposes that 2666 is a novel that attempts to teach, and perhaps redeem, the academy, a reading for which Sharae Deckard has already paved the way in her assertion that the first two portions of the text can be defined as “didactic ‘set pieces’”.12

  • 13 Timothy O’Leary, Foucault and Fiction: The Experience Book (London: Continuum, 2009).

9Linked to this pedagogical mission, it is also worth considering the aesthetics of 2666 within a tradition of what could be termed ‘fictions of process’, a brand of metafiction that asks the reader to value the journey, rather than the arrival, the reading, rather than the having-read. 2666 exhibits these characteristics (being composed of several, anachronistic, practically autonomous sub-books and without a clear arc of narrative progress: a ‘shaggy-dog story’) and can be seen as a novel that instead seeks to effect change through subjectification processes whereby the aim is to encounter an anticipated reader who can then be hailed and altered: an “experience book” as Timothy O’Leary might term it.13 Such a conjunction of process and subjectification has an internalising pedagogical function in which the reader believes him or herself to be an autodidact, even though, in fact, the text presupposed its particular teachings in advance. The philosophy adopted by such works, I contend, is that the best form of teaching makes the student — or, in this case, the reader — believe that it was his or her idea in the first place.

10This chapter seeks, therefore, to interrogate the political didacticism of Bolaño’s novel while also exposing the role that is assigned to the university in this text, with particular emphasis upon its structural affiliation to the police and their co-facilitation of mass murder. 2666 is a text that enacts a political critique of the university and fiction through a novelistic representation of university English.

11In order to effect this argument, this chapter is structured into two distinct parts. The first (‘Crypto-Didacticism, Utopia, and 2666’) presents a more abstract and theoretical background to ideas of pedagogy and didacticism within the novel. It begins by exploring the fact that interpretations of Bolaño’s text are frequently premised on the same, perhaps reductive, ethical narrative, which invites the question of why such a lengthy text is necessary if 2666 really is a novel with a core ‘message’. Noting, however, that Bolaño takes explicit measures to avoid conflating empathy and pornography (thus demonstrating a nuanced approach to its depiction of horror), this section then moves to examine both the political ‘commitment’ of the novel and the particular implications of the fact that Bolaño’s world is not its real-world correlative; the impact of distancing seen in utopian fictions.

  • 14 Andreea Marinescu, ‘“I Can’ t Go On, I’ll Go On”: The Avant-Garde in the Works of Roberto Bolaño a (...)

12The second part (‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?: Critiquing the critics and the university in 2666’) examines Bolaño’s explicit representation of the university in the novel. Noting that the university in 2666 is structurally twinned with the police force and also that the text ridicules purely aesthetic interpretations of literature, I argue that Bolaño depicts the university as deploying ‘strategies of condescension’ in its ethical readings of literature that sit in conflict with the academy’s own societal position. This leads to a double bind within the text calling almost for a silence of exegesis from the academy. Finally, through a reading of the conflicting temporalities of the novel’s title I note in conclusion that Bolaño’s critique is designed not to silence, but rather to raise reflexive awareness and to alter critical subjectivity; there is a redemptive potential. In the novel’s ultimate demand that people ‘keep writing’, despite a flawed subject position, a more self-conscious conjunction of pre-compromised ethics and aesthetics seems to emerge. In this way, 2666 performs a political and social critique from within a novelistic environment saturated with academia. Like Andreea Marinescu, I believe that 2666’s “capacity to generate discourse about its place within the conformity/resistance binary is ultimately the important aspect”.14 This capacity is built, however, on a critique of both the academy’s and the text’s own ability to speak meaningfully on such political and ethical topics.

Crypto-Didacticism, Utopia, and 2666

  • 15 Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics, trans. by E.B. Ashton (London: Routledge, 1973), p. 153.

132666 is a novel that lends itself to a range of ethical readings that all share a common narrative core. This is, I contend, a result of the fact that it anticipates the reading methods of the academy and plays a complex game of schooling in which it attempts to foresee and guide the academic response, a mode that I term ‘crypto-didacticism’. I use ‘crypto-didacticism’ to denote a subform of the encyclopaedic novel that hides an essential moralising purpose amid a lengthy, overloaded structure. The modus operandi of a crypto-didactic novel is to cloak its purpose within a super-dense structure so that, by the necessary intellectual capital that the reader is forced to expend in comprehension, its fundamental normative ethical propositions are all the harder for the reader to reject. This function is, as Adorno put it about the inadequacy of the concept in Negative Dialectics (1966), at once “both striking and secret”.15 It is also, as Bourdieu might note, an aspect that most readers of such hyper-dense works would wish to deny.

  • 16 Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), p. (...)
  • 17 Barbara Herrnstein Smith, p. 38.

14This seems to be bound to a false collective renunciation of the fact that the cultural expertise necessary for comprehension of such works can also be seen as interchangeable with other forms of power and material capital, derived from educational prestige: “fundamentally the work of denial which is the source of social alchemy is, like magic, a collective undertaking”.16 The way in which such novels work is through a repetitive overloading of imagery (such as ‘the crimes’ in 2666) within a broadly metafictive framework, a technique that is, I argue, designed to avoid the phenomenon of “beliefs in collision” charted by Smith.17 Rather than challenging through confrontational evidence, cryptodidactic texts suggest self-modification and reflexivity (through their metafictional elements) while showing the reader bodies (sometimes literally) of evidence that suggest a specific conclusion.

  • 18 Bolaño, 2666, p. 372.
  • 19 Ibid., pp. 382, 318.

15At a reductive level, then, the specific ethical conclusion that can be deduced from 2666 can be expressed thus: four hundred women have been tortured, raped, and murdered, the police do nothing about it because the victims are marginalised working class women and, to quote Bolaño directly, “nobody noticed”.18 Amid rampant “gynophobia” and omnipresent misogyny: “the women here aren’t worth shit”.19

  • 20 Grant Farred, ‘The Impossible Closing: Death, Neoliberalism, and the Postcolonial in Bolaño’s 2666(...)
  • 21 Peter Boxall, Twenty-First-Century Fiction: A Critical Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge Universi (...)
  • 22 Daniela Omlor, ‘Mirroring Borges: The Spaces of Literature in Roberto Bolaño’s 2666’, Bulletin of (...)
  • 23 Fermín A. Rodríguez, ‘Fear, Subjectivity, and Capital: Sergio Chejfec’ s The Dark and Roberto Bola (...)
  • 24 Laura Barberán Reinares, ‘Globalized Philomels: State Patriarchy, Transnational Capital, and the F (...)
  • 25 I do not mean in this sentence to draw a parallel between some kind of literary-critical ‘crime’ o (...)

16A brief literature review of work on 2666 reveals that these basic propositions are the foundation for the majority of critical writing on the novel’s ethics, even when such readings are executed with specifically nuanced angles. It is also clear that in drawing an ethical perspective from the novel, critics usually posit a balancing act between an implicit ‘teaching’ function of such literature and a critical skill in the perception, extraction, and explication of such teachings (a balance between an intent of the author/novel and a focus on reader reception). For instance, although very different from the reading advanced here but also premised upon a fundamental ‘teaching’ within the text, Grant Farred, alongside Patrick Dove and Sol Pelaez, has argued that Bolaño’s true focus in this ethical setup is upon a critique of postcolonialism’s entanglement with neoliberalism (focusing upon the marginalisation of the labouring victims), a critique that, nonetheless, further strengthens the notion of a crypto-didactic text.20 Likewise, Peter Boxall notes that “Bolaño’s fictions contain a kind of darkened image of a common world that is the closest the novel today can approach to imagining democracy”, thereby situating 2666 within an ethical framework of globalisation that teaches us of the ills that it darkly reflects.21 Daniela Omlor writes that “the murders of women recounted in the fourth part underpin all other narrative threads”, thus interweaving the novel’s teaching with its ethical premise.22 For Fermín A. Rodríguez, “that the figure of exclusion in these novels has the face of a woman, that the biological body of the population is the body of young female workers, and that violence as a condition of the workings of a power exasperated by the market is fundamentally a continuous violence exerted upon a feminine body”.23 Laura Barberán Reinares writes that “Bolaño’s monumental last novel” is one in which the “writer sheds a tenebrous light on the way in which transnational capital, patriarchy, and the state have enabled the vicious deaths of subaltern ‘disposable’ women”.24 As with Bolaño’s repetitious depiction of the crimes in the novel, the list of critical appraisals that draw attention to these same factors continues to grow, as though in some kind of perpetual re-enactment.25 (And I, too, am here guilty.)

  • 26 Bolaño, 2666, p. 456.

17To state this concisely: readings of the ethics within complex, lengthy metafictions such as 2666 tend, in the academy’s model of an ethical turn, towards a specific didactic hermeneutic in which the novel is seen as a disciplinary text that attempts to interpellate subjects within its own moral framework. It is, however, surely the predictability of such interpretations that has led Rita Felski and others to feel dissatisfied with symptomatic readings, regardless of how ethically sound such approaches may continue to seem. In any case, it could be, for these novels, as 2666’s Florita Almada puts it, that “teaching children”, or even literary critics, “might be the best job in the world, gently opening children’s eyes, even the tiniest bit”.26

  • 27 For more on these terms, see Stefano Ercolino, The Maximalist Novel: From Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity (...)
  • 28 Deckard, p. 359.
  • 29 Bolaño, 2666, p. 764; Kazuo Ishiguro, The Buried Giant (London: Faber, 2015).

18As with many other encyclopaedic, or even simply vast or ‘maximalist’, fictions, Bolaño sets about opening his readers’ eyes through a structure of length and overloading.27 In 2666, it seems, to leap straightforwardly to the endpoint is to miss the subject-forming aspect of these texts and negate the internalisation of such teachings. Hence, the textual politics of the novel are encoded in such a way that the reader must invest intellectual energy, or capital, in the interpretation and comprehension of the sprawling text in order to ‘purchase’ the ethical payoff. However, such a reading practice, in which the reader invests effort to come to an interpretation felt to be his or her own, is the modus operandi of university English, particularly since the modernist and poststructuralist turns away from the intentionalist schools that situate the author as a centre of meaning. To teach active interpretation on the reader-side is one of the fundamental activities of university English/literary criticism in its contemporary mode. This mode, though, must contain within it the potential for misinterpretation, at least in the mind of a controlling author. On this front, Deckard has already noted how Bolaño adeptly connects his intellectuals’ lack of political engagement (and obsession with aesthetic interpretation) to the historical situation of the Holocaust.28 Through this type of link that resides in the structural obscurantism of this torrential, imperfect work, 2666 also implicates the reader who misinterprets. In fact, the mis-readings of the academy add a layer of memory fog (functionally similar to that found in Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant [2015]) that would only become complicit with Bolaño’s Eichmann-esque figure, Sammer, who reminds his gravediggers that “the idea isn’t to find things, it’s to not find them”, a more-than-clear, pointed jibe at literary-critical interpretative practices.29

19Even putting selective readings and misreadings aside, this paradigm of interpretation that I am sketching presents a problem for theoretical literary research upon such work. In novels such as 2666, to jump to a pre-formulated end result would degrade the utopic, critical power of this type of fiction. Even while such texts ridicule the processes of literary criticism and interpretation, they simultaneously rely on such processes. These texts are reliant on what those in educational communities refer to as ‘active learning’ in which readers must go through the process of reading and decoding a work for themselves, even if — as per my above literature review — this leads us to a set of interpretations that mostly share a common understanding.

  • 30 Louis Marin, Utopics: The Semiological Play of Textual Spaces (Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Pres (...)
  • 31 Ibid.

20To some extent this is the same problem that explication creates in any form, for as Louis Marin writes in his study of Utopics: “[t]he benefits of pleasure the textual word play triggered were capitalized into analyses and theses. An authoritative power settled at the very spot of what is not capable of interpretation […] It may simply be impossible to write and speak about utopia”.30 Exegesis through criticism is thereby placed in its first double bind in Bolaño’s novel: pedagogy against comprehension; utopia (as an active and unending unfurling) against misreading and capitulation into pre-formed knowledge structures of analyses and theses. Put differently: to write literary criticism about the ethics of a novel such as 2666 is to claim reductively an “authoritative power […] at the very spot of what is not capable of interpretation” by reducing the process of reading to “analyses and theses” as though they were a ‘message’.31 On the other hand, to read the novel oneself is to succumb to its teachings and its potential ethical/political utopianism and it seems that those who write criticism of the text come to the same ‘analyses and theses’. This is what I mean by saying that Bolaño’s novel seems to value ‘process’ for its political teachings.

  • 32 Ibid., p. 279.

21In this problem of explication/criticism against utopian (and pedagogical) function, it is profitable to consider the theoretical paradigms within which the ethics and politics of Bolaño’s work can be situated. With this in mind, it is worth examining the way that 2666 stages Theodor Adorno’s ideas of autonomous and committed art while considering Bolaño’s last novel within two opposed critical frameworks: as political and as utopian, for the contemporary university. These frameworks are useful when thinking about didacticism and the university but are nonetheless opposed because, in the instance of political success, the critical utopian function of the artwork is destroyed. As Marin puts it, this is when utopian thinking comes “to the awareness of its own process” as “revolutionary praxis”.32 As utopian or dystopian literatures project worlds that contrast with our own — in ways either positive or negative — they call for a translation into action and become politics. When they do so, under some theoretical paradigms they might no longer be considered as ‘art’.

  • 33 Jean-Paul Sartre, What Is Literature?, trans. by Bernard Frechtman (New York: Philosophical Librar (...)
  • 34 Theodor W. Adorno, The Jargon of Authenticity, trans. by Knut Tarnowski and Frederic Will (London: (...)
  • 35 Idem, ‘Commitment’, in Aesthetics and Politics, trans. by Francis McDonagh (London: Verso, 2007), (...)
  • 36 Ibid., p. 176.

22Adorno’s essay ‘Commitment’ (1974) presents a specific response to Sartre’s notion of committed literature that is relevant to the discussion at hand. In his writing, Sartre makes the distinction between prose and poetry, arguing that the author of the former can demonstrate political commitment to a cause and for an act of communication, while the latter is a mode that cannot. For Sartre, the prose writer is one “who makes use of words” to convey a message.33 Although Adorno is highly critical of the term ‘commitment’ for its coercive mode of non-freedom in existentialist philosophy — a point he outlines in The Jargon of Authenticity (1964)34 — in the essay piece ‘Commitment’ he posits two different polarities of non-commodified literature: committed art that has an overt and specific political aim, but that “strips the magic from a work of art that is content to be a fetish”; and autonomous art, or “art for art’s sake”, that falsely denounces its own “ineradicable connection with reality” and therefore subconsciously espouses a political aim nonetheless.35 These positions, in which each dialectically “negates itself with the other”, constitute the space in which all art, according to Adorno, has lived; a space located somewhere between the utopian/aesthetic and the political/mimetic.36 Of relevance for an analysis of 2666, the example that Adorno uses to demonstrate his thesis comes from the work of Bertolt Brecht.

  • 37 Ibid., p. 183.
  • 38 Ibid.
  • 39 Ibid., p. 184.
  • 40 Ibid., pp. 184–85.

23Adorno stresses that Brecht’s original intention, in which Adorno believes he failed, was to practice an art that “both presents itself as didactic, and claims aesthetic dispensation from responsibility for the accuracy of what it teaches”.37 For Adorno, Brecht’s work simultaneously claims that it is political while nonetheless also stating that it can claim for itself an artistic detachment or abstraction from political reality. The first part of this problem for Brecht, as Adorno sees it, is that his works are too saturated with overt political messages and information: “the more preoccupied [he] becomes with information, and the less he looks for images, the more he misses the essence of capitalism which the parable is supposed to present”.38 The second dialectical point is that, in Brecht’s downgraded metaphors — in this case the substitution of a “trivial gangster organization” for “a conspiracy of the wealthy and powerful” in The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (1941) — “the true horror of fascism is conjured away”.39 Adorno goes on to argue that “[f]or the sake of political commitment, political reality is trivialized”.40

  • 41 Farred, p. 692.
  • 42 Adorno, ‘Commitment’, p. 189.
  • 43 C.J. Dean, ‘Empathy, Pornography, and Suffering’, Differences, 14.1 (2003), 88–124 (p. 89).
  • 44 Bolaño, 2666, p. 536. This approach might be contrasted with the depiction of snuff films in Ameri (...)
  • 45 C.J. Dean, p. 106.

242666 is, in many ways, also susceptible to such critiques. A work of epic theatre that nonetheless “has no epic pretensions”, Bolaño’s novel seeks to “make men think”, in Adorno’s phrase, but it also potentially falls prey to the traps of ‘commitment’.41 As one example, Bolaño’s novel must beware Adorno’s association of committed literature with pornography. This is not the more recent idea of ‘empathy fatigue’ espoused in the wake of mass-media culture, but rather that, for Adorno, “[t]he so-called artistic representation of the sheer physical pain of people […] contains, however remotely, the power to elicit enjoyment”.42 While Carolyn J. Dean points out, in her critique of this argument, that this strain of thought has a heritage as far back as Diderot in the eighteenth century, and substantially increased in usage around the 1960s in reference to the Holocaust, Bolaño recognises this conflation of sexuality and power that can occur in artistic representation and so constantly reminds the reader that this pornographic mode is also potentially one of sexual violence.43 Thus, every time that we might be tempted to forget the affinity between the modes, the text reminds us that many, if not all, of the murder victims piled up in 2666 have been both vaginally and anally raped. Furthermore, in 2666’s discussion of snuff films, Bolaño gives the reader a strong metatextual clue as to where the novel sits, reminding us of both the mimetic fallacy, but also the pornographic potential that, it seems, the novel wishes to avoid: “the snuff industry, in this context, was just a symptom”.44 To rephrase this: Bolaño appreciates the fine line between empathy and pornography in ethically ‘committed’ literature and metafictionally signposts this so that, each time the trap is open, the reader is pointed around the pitfall. Bolaño, like Dean, wants to express “something quite a bit more complicated than the conventional notion that pornography represents an unspeakable association between sexuality and murder”, but is aware of this link and warns the reader of their potential complicity.45

25As a text that seeks, then, to explore ethically the power of fiction in the wake of mass murder, it is worth considering in more detail how 2666 fits within a utopian tradition (by which I am referring also to dystopian traditions) and also how it resonates with other twenty-first-century novels. This is important; the purpose of Thomas More’s original Utopia was, at least in part, to reflect critically on the current environment in England, while also parodically schooling its audience in the routes to a perfect world. It turns out that this utopian function is linked, in several ways, to the mode of didacticism that 2666 employs. In the study of literary utopia, fictions (such as Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels [1726]) are usually not deemed important so much for the specific topoi they present — although these are undoubtedly of enormous real-world significance — but rather for their more generalizable qualities of ongoing (uncompletable) dislocation and reformulation; a literary distancing from the real-world analogies to which mimesis aspires. In such a model, in addition to exhibiting internal incoherence, utopian and dystopian worlds aim to expose a rift between what could be (realms of subjunctive possibility) and what merely is and, therefore, the preconditions of its possibility; critique. In both cases, this is a matter of perspective. Dystopia takes the elements of the present that look most threatening or dangerous and amplifies them in a projected future. Utopia, on the other hand, takes those elements that loom large (such as politics) in our world and makes them seem petty by resolving their debates in an instantiated but dislocated space.

  • 46 For more on this, see Tom Moylan, Demand the Impossible: Science Fiction and the Utopian Imaginati (...)

26In Gulliver’s Travels, for instance, this is exemplified in the way in which Gulliver’s perspective is changed between the different worlds that he visits. In Brobdingnag, he is small amid a land of giants and the ugliness of the world is (misogynistically here) amplified, shown in his disgust at seeing the pores in the skin of the women lifting him up. The small cracks in the world are made large. In Lilliput, though, the Big and Little Endians fight their war over which end of a boiled egg should face upwards — and here, Gulliver is a giant who views such politics as literally petty. This well-rehearsed idea of dislocation and reformulation, a subjunctive thinking-otherwise, is a key concept in utopian fiction.46

  • 47 Bolaño, 2666, p. 459.
  • 48 Sarah Pollack, ‘After Bolaño: Rethinking the Politics of Latin American Literature in Translation’ (...)

272666 deliberately signals itself in this mode. Its city is not the real-world Ciudad Juárez but an emphatically insisted-upon intra-textual reality: “Santa Teresa. I’m talking about Santa Teresa”.47 The potentially dangerous essentialism that is engendered by this dislocation and abstraction — the creation of a “floating signifier”, as Sarah Pollack has put it — conversely again lends itself to a pedagogical function at the expense of specificity; a ‘teachable moment’ as the present lingo might have it.48 This is, once more, the challenge of which Adorno wrote: as Bolaño dislocates his environment from the mimetic reality it gains political force, but perhaps only somewhat at the expense of the specific suffering in the real place of Ciudad Juárez.

  • 49 Marin, p. 208.

28That said, Bolaño even announces that we should read 2666 in a critical dystopic mode through his mapping of the city space. In this aspect of the text, Bolaño reworks Marin’s formulation that the utopian city “gives not a possible route, or even a system of possible routes, but articulations signaled by closed and open surface spaces” in the fact that his city is mapped by the dead, closed (but openly violated) female body, navigated by the male police officials, and mediated through the intersubjective shifts of narration in the novel.49 To evoke Borges, as does Marin, and following Boxall’s reading: 2666 is a one-to-one map of the abstracted necropolis narrated with the body-as-text, rather than a particular, specific space of lived horror. Yet, just at the moment when Bolaño’s abstraction seems to go too far, the transnational features of the text, with clear representations of global economy and travel, return to lend a specificity to the location. Santa Teresa is also Ciudad Juárez but, in its fictional abstraction, Bolaño is saved from the purely political/mimetic and allowed to play with the utopian/aesthetic.

  • 50 Bolaño, 2666, p. 661.
  • 51 Farred, p. 699.
  • 52 Marin, p. 4.

29This questioning of societal independence in art, in conjunction with the idea of the utopian tradition in 2666, prompts a return to Marin and his reading of May ’68 and the university. Bolaño clearly signals that the function of the university, or rather its breakdown, is crucial to his investigation through the satirical portrayal of the literature professors and the pretentious high-literary writing of his fictional author, with a cult academic following, who trails sentences thus: “then, too, then, too, then, too”.50 As Farred puts it: “2666 satirizes the cult status that the Archimboldians of all theoretical stripes have assigned the elusive, Pynchonesque author”.51 In fact, one of the key didactic purposes of Bolaño’s novel is an attempt to evaluate critically the academy: the neoliberal university as a site of revolution, teaching, and resistance. Examining these sites in his theoretical work, Marin asks: “[w]asn’t this the place where the relationship between teacher and student, authorized and institutionalized, could be deconstructed through this relationship’s very content?”.52

  • 53 Ibid., pp. 4–5.

30The university was proposed, in ‘68’s grim optimism, as a “‘properly’ utopic space”, but how much we had to learn of utopia in order to see the “proof of the project’s failure”, writes Marin. Most academics are, by now, more aware of the university’s socio-disciplinary, as opposed to esoterically cultural, function than they would like. We are now beyond the age of innocence when we could imagine an academy free from interdependence with the dominant ideology, be that in its mirroring of the “capitalist industrial system” or of the labour practices “linked to the most insidious forms of cultural exploitation”.53 Bolaño’s critique of the institutional structure is, however, more complicated than this straightforward, plaintive protesting would suggest.

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?: Critiquing the Critics and the University in 2666

  • 54 Bolaño, 2666, p. 606.
  • 55 Ibid., p. 787; Louis Althusser, ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Inves (...)
  • 56 For more on this interpretation of German idealist traditions, see Ameriks; Paul Guyer, ‘Absolute (...)

31Bolaño’s text, I have argued, is one that can be seen as crypto-didactic; a novel that is slyly pedagogical in its ethical precepts, using a history of utopian fictional techniques to underwrite this. As can now be explored in more detail, the dystopia of 2666 brings a specific focus to the structure of the university and the text appears to mount several critiques of this institution. The entanglement of the university in the dystopic critique of 2666 is furthered through the statements that show, not a site of pure learning divorced from the horrendous events that are charted throughout the novel, nor even one on the correct side of the events of 1968, but instead an institution connected by blood. In fact, the most transparent of these signposts is the family bloodline: Don Pedro Negrete, head of the ineffectual and corrupt city police in the text, is the “twin brother of the university rector”.54 The scorn poured on the university here is not a simple case of an anti-academic authorial jibe (although such institutions are also depicted as “breeding grounds for the shameless”), but an insinuation that the entire mechanism of the university is paired with the corruption of the police force that permits mass rape and slaughter; twinned representations of Louis Althusser’s state apparatuses.55 Bolaño shows that the idea of the university as a site of detached, utopian purity is deeply flawed through an almost idealist mode that separates appearance from essence.56 This is achieved through the fact that the surface appearance, or depiction, of the critics in the first part of the novel is as eccentric and pedantic, formalist individuals obsessed with their texts; merely isolated, but harmless. Their essence, however, is one of violence. This is most clearly revealed when they savagely beat the taxi driver who objects to their polyamorous interest in Liz Norton. At this point the text suddenly veers into discourses of national and religious hatred. Bolaño’s text is instantly peppered with “English” vs. “Pakistani” and the violence is purported to embody the insults:

  • 57 Bolaño, 2666, p. 74.

shove Islam up your ass […] this one is for Salman Rushdie […] this one is for the feminists of Paris […] this one is for the feminists of New York [...] this one is for the ghost of Valerie Solanas, you son of a bitch, and on and on, until he was unconscious and bleeding from every orifice in the head, except the eyes.57

32The invocation of feminism as justification for racial violence is particularly pertinent not only to the femicides in Mexico, thereby implicating the critics, but also to a wider discussion regarding occidental neo-colonialism, Islamophobia, and intersectionality. In this instance, it is the university, through the critics, that appears central to this violence. This is important. As will be seen, literary criticism in Bolaño’s novel may be depicted as onanistically detached, but its ethics and elements of hypocrisy do matter. In fact, it matters to such an extent that Bolaño connects it directly to the misogyny of the central and most prominent portion of his novel.

  • 58 For more on the place of the university within neoliberalism, see Wendy Brown, Undoing the Demos: (...)
  • 59 Bolaño, 2666, p. 114.
  • 60 Ibid., p. 12.
  • 61 Ibid., p. 114; for more on Charles Eliot Norton and his belief that he was defending against cultur (...)
  • 62 Bolaño, 2666, p. 116.

33As Bolaño gives no straight out-and-out reasoning for why the university can be seen as totally complicit with this violence, it seems most straightforward — by the law of Occam’s razor — to link it to Farred’s reading of a postcolonial critique of neoliberalism within the text and the academy’s growing entanglement with big business.58 This is seen in the function of exclusivity and marginalisation in the university structure. When the critics first meet Amalfitano “the first impression” they had “was mostly negative, in keeping with the mediocrity of the place”, a statement that draws a parallel between geo-specificity/location and assumptions of merit.59 The exception to the group here is Liz Norton, an educated and intelligent character, but one who is less tightly bound to the academic institution: “[a] ll they knew about Liz Norton was that she taught German literature at a university in London. And that, unlike them, she wasn’t a full professor”.60 Despite sharing her surname with an early literary elitist and generalist literary professor, unlike the other critics, Norton sees the human being rather than the competitive academic association of individuals with national placement: her “impression was of sad man whose life was ebbing slowly away”.61 Yet, “[w]hen Amalfitano told them he had translated The Endless Rose”, one of the fictional author’s (that is, Archimbaldi’s) novels and likely a play on Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose (1980), “the critics’ opinion of him changed”.62 The structures of value and worth that Bolaño’s academy co-opts, in keeping with all neoliberal, late-capitalist (for whatever those terms are worth) vocational careers, is one of ‘excellence’ amid competition, but also one that privileges the preoccupations of the occidental university. When Amalfitano shares the interests of the Anglo-American critics, his worth is increased. To distinguish oneself from the mediocre mass is the aim, but the ‘mediocre’ mass of people, in 2666, are being sequentially murdered.

34The fundamental critique of the university’s entanglement with neoliberalism is now well-known and rehearsed, particularly in humanities departments. As far as the term ‘neoliberal’ is useful to denote a political rationality of free-market-based systems operated on a nominal insistence on transparency and underwritten by fixations on quantification and measurement, this is well summarised by Sheila Slaughter and Gary Rhoades:

  • 63 Sheila Slaughter and Gary Rhoades, ‘The Neo-Liberal University’, New Labor Forum, 6 (2000), 73–79 (...)

[p]ublic colleges and universities are exemplars of neoliberalism. As with neoliberal regimes worldwide, U.S. public higher education assigns markets central social value. Public colleges and universities emphasize that they support corporate competitiveness through their major role in the global, knowledge-based economy. They stress their role in training advanced students for professional positions close to the technoscience core of knowledge economies.63

  • 64 See, for more critiques, among others, Thomas Docherty, For the University: Democracy and the Futu (...)
  • 65 Stephen Billett, Vocational Education: Purposes, Traditions and Prospects (London: Springer, 2011) (...)
  • 66 Michel Foucault, ‘Pastoral Power and Political Reason’, in Religion and Culture, ed. by Jeremy R. (...)

35Clearly, from such critiques, and many others that frequently circulate, the direct threat to the liberal Enlightenment humanist educational project through entanglement with the market is the main objection.64 This prompts two responses that are pertinent to 2666. The first is a counter-objection that, as Stephen Billet puts it, “the provision of vocational education through universities has long existed, and has always been largely directed towards occupational purposes, despite the contrary often being claimed”.65 The fact that these vocations are well paid and in intellectually demanding areas is often overlooked in the denunciation of the university’s claimed secession to the needs of society. The second is that, if we are to see the university and the police as twinned, as Bolaño’s novel implies, then the function of the university that is under critique shifts slightly: the university must work, as with late-Foucault’s reading of the police, to create a “live, active, productive man” but also to totalise, discipline and, in the next phase, control.66

  • 67 Bolaño, 2666, pp. 111–12.
  • 68 For more on the narratives of humanistic resistance to corporate culture through elitist retreat, (...)

362666 presents, from this, an academy divided against itself. As revolutionary praxis, it is failure: there has only been a further entrenchment of the academy in neoliberal models of commodified education and societal discipline. As a utopian project, to follow Marin’s schema, the university also falls down: the supposition of the university’s function as pure and discrete from commerce or the aims of society leads to segregation and implicit complicity through inaction with the exploitation (and in Bolaño’s text, murder) of lower class women. This is clearly seen in the fact that the bumbling literature professors, alongside the rector who looked “as if every day he took long meditative walks in the country” (implying a life free from cares, a stereotyped and outmoded presentation of academic life), form a group whose exegesis of Archimbaldi’s texts as a “Dionysian vision of ultimate carnival” (aesthetic critique) sits in opposition to another group’s readings of “suffering” and “civic duty” (political critique) in the writer’s works.67 While there has long been a stereotype of the literature professor as a “kind of internal émigré” from broader cultures, it is the eponymous critics’ anarchic aesthetic and formal approaches that prevail in the text’s narrative.68 In their isolated apolitical obsession with aesthetics, rather than an integration with the social, the suffering of individuals is erased. As was seen in the preceding chapter, this function can also be taken away from the university by novels that seek to supersede university English in this area. Bolaño’s critique, though, is very different to McCarthy’s. Rather than critiquing the role of university English in the canonisation process and in the conferral of aesthetic value, Bolaño seems to brand this very activity as the height of self-obsessed nihilism or narcissism; the same accusation that some in the academy level at metafiction.

37When viewed in this light, the role of the university as represented in 2666 brings Bolaño’s project back full-circle to notions of commitment and didacticism. By remarking on formalism as opposed to ethical readings the text begins to signal the acceptable interpretations through which it can be read by university professors and the degree to which their position is pre-compromised. In this way, 2666 demonstrates a knowledge of the ways in which it will be approached by academics and metafictionally steers the reader; a crypto-didactic function. Firstly, it seems clear that the novel ridicules purely aesthetic interpretations divorced from social reality as affordable only to an apolitical, privileged class group. For a literary-critical reading of Bolaño’s work to adopt this stance, therefore, would place its arguments in logical contradiction with the text. Secondly, though, the text also pre-invalidates sociological approaches of the academy towards literature on the basis of the social position that the university occupies; twinned with the police. To speak on behalf of the subaltern through institutional practices that the text depicts as married to violence suggests that literary criticism, in Bolaño’s take, would do better to remain silent than to adopt a self-profiting strategy of condescension.

  • 69 Pierre Bourdieu, ‘Social Space and Symbolic Power’, Sociological Theory, 7.1 (1989), 14–25 (p. 16) (...)

38To expand upon this a little, ‘strategies of condescension’, in the sociology of Pierre Bourdieu, are “those strategies by which agents who occupy a higher position in one of the hierarchies of objective space symbolically deny the social distance between themselves and others, a distance which does not thereby cease to exist”. From such a situation, the dominant party in a power relationship “can use objective distances in such a way as to cumulate the advantages of propinquity and the advantages of distance, that is, distance and the recognition of distance warranted by its symbolic denegation [denial]”.69 Bolaño demonstrates that his literary critics are deploying such a strategy in their ‘defence’ of Liz Norton. At once, the critics espouse feminist values (while not truly valuing Norton’s intellectual contributions and instead wanting to sleep with her), while concurrently shunning notions of equality as it applies in other spheres of liberal tolerance. In this way, Bolaño makes his critics benefit from an ethical payoff in outwardly supporting feminist equality from their privileged position of patriarchal authority while also showing that their underlying racism is intensely problematic for any kind of inclusivity or intersectionality. The benefit to the critics in outwardly collapsing the distance between their patriarchal position and supporting Norton is transparent. The same is true, however, of their critical reading practices. While benefiting from a supposed history of liberal humanism and civic purpose, the critics choose to explore aesthetics over ethics. Conversely, it is also true that the rival critics, who do enact ethical readings, do so from a socially elevated position, and so themselves benefit from their critical, ethical reading.

  • 70 Zadie Smith, On Beauty (London: Penguin, 2006), p. 371.

39To digress briefly, these particular strategies of condescension are prevalent in many contemporary novels that deal with the academy but perhaps appear nowhere so explicitly as in the aforementioned work by Zadie Smith, On Beauty. Near to the close of this text, the reader is presented with the most detailed portrait of Howard Belsey’s friend, Erskine, that the novel will offer. At this moment, Smith explicitly signals that she is working with strategies of condescension. Erskine’s “great talent”, we are told, lay “in making people feel more important than they actually were”. From this, Smith writes, “[i]t might seem, when Erskine praised you or did you a professional favour, that it was you who were benefiting. And you might indeed benefit”. However, “in almost every case”, she continues, “Erskine was benefiting more”.70

40This is of particular relevance for a comparative reading with Bolaño’s novel. In 2666 it is clear that the moment I have been detailing, in which the male critics collapse distances of power for their own benefit (a strategy of condescension), is inextricably linked to race. The critics amplify their racism in order, supposedly, to downplay their misogyny while all the while profiting from this act. In On Beauty, the specific context is the moment when Carl is appointed to the (newly fabricated) post of ‘Hip Hop Archivist’ in order to circumvent the impending prohibition on discretionary students attending Wellington College’s classes, an aspect that intersects with the different political polarities of the novel’s various black characters: the conservative Kipps against the liberal Erskine. In this particular instance, the benefit to Erskine in concocting a job for Carl is to avoid entering into the spirited debate about affirmative action and the historically conditioned elements of inequality within a supposed meritocracy that problematically circle his outward show of generosity. While very different works, it is nonetheless of note that this practical, strategic move in On Beauty, is also linked to issues of race within a context of an academic humanities department, as it is in 2666.

  • 71 Roberto Bolaño, Amulet, trans. by Chris Andrews (New York: New Directions, 2008), p. 86.
  • 72 Henry Hitchens, ‘The Mystery Man’, The Financial Times, 8 December 2008, http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0 (...)

41To return to Bolaño’s novel, though, this problem, in which criticism is scarcely possible and in which art struggles to speak of politics, is reflected in another didactic contradiction of the text: the temporal disjunction of its name. As with most utopian fictions that have to dislocate their settings, Bolaño certainly re-spatializes his work to a fictional Santa Teresa. However, the novel’s temporality is arguably located amid a fluctuation between the past, the contemporary, and the future. This is especially clear when the novel’s title is read through the well-known reference in Bolaño’s previous novel, Amulet (1999), to “a cemetery in the year 2666, a forgotten cemetery under the eyelid of a corpse or an unborn child, bathed in the dispassionate fluids of an eye that tried so hard to forget one particular thing that it ended up forgetting everything else”.71 Treating the title as a year, based on the Amulet reference, Henry Hitchens pointed out that this could correspond to certain datings of the Exodus story occurring 2666 years after the creation, thus placing the novel’s key reference point in our now-distant past.72 Conversely, as a year based on the Christian calendar, the text implies a dystopian future; a direction in which humanity is headed as the bodies of the present pile up and are forgotten. Amid these temporal poles lies the novel’s present, which has to try not to forget moral lessons, learned either from the text’s future projection of a dystopian cemetery or from its redemptive past reference point. In either case, the conception of time and forgetting is curious but can be linked back to a schooling purpose within the novel; the temporal dislocation and its relation to the present mark a demonstrable example or case study of the novel’s space and time.

42What seems to emerge from this setup is that the issues of commitment that 2666 frames do not appear to be concerned solely with artistic practice; Bolaño does not seek just to teach art how to represent. Instead, broadly speaking, the text’s teachings are turned upon the academy. Bolaño’s novel, in its treatment of the critics, seems designed to discipline, train, and encourage critics and the academy to write sociologically engaged criticism while concurrently negating the validity of those readings as strategies of condescension and encouraging reflexive thought on the societal position of the university. That this metafictional signalling is designed to teach and to alter critical subjectivity is made clear through a conversation between two of Bolaño’s characters:

  • 73 Bolaño, 2666, p. 716.

“That’s a pretty story. […] A pity I’m too old and have seen too much to believe it”.
“It has nothing to do with belief […] it has to do with understanding, and then changing”.73

43This has ironic consequences because, under such a mode, Bolaño’s novel takes on utilitarian characteristics: it is itself as entangled in the neoliberal web of ‘use’ and ‘utility’ of art as the objects of its own critique.

  • 74 Ibid., p. 563.
  • 75 Catherine Belsey, Critical Practice (London: Routledge, 2002), p. 27.
  • 76 Bolaño, 2666, p. 72.
  • 77 Ibid., p. 631.

44In this environment, it might be concluded that Bolaño’s critique of the university is one designed to shut down literary criticism. As either a hypocritically positioned critical entity, or an ineffectually aesthetically obsessed body, what hope can the university and university English offer in a space where “the victims of sex crimes in this city” number “[m]ore that two thousand a year. And almost half of them are underage. And probably at least that many don’t report being attacked. […] every day more than ten women are raped here”?74 Yet, as Catherine Belsey puts it: “[a]ssumptions about literature involve assumptions about language and about meaning, and these in turn involve assumptions about human society. The independent universe of literature and autonomy of criticism are false”.75 Bolaño also tells us, through the previous Biblical reference in the novel’s title, that all is not lost; it is not too late to begin a journey to a promised land. Redemption might still be possible. Although this doesn’t get us out of Adorno’s theoretical problem that, in the false world all praxis is false, Bolaño espouses an ethics that asks us to believe once more in the political, utopian and didactic function of writing, both critical and creative. Critics must not, though, be didactic. Bolaño makes it clear enough that this task is to be left to fiction, for otherwise the critics become “like missionaries ready to instill faith in God […] less interested in literature than in literary criticism, the one field, according to them — some of them, anyway — where revolution was still possible”.76 Despite the criticism of the critics, however, Bolaño also makes it clear that he does not want a vacuum: “[w]hat is it I want you to do? asked the congresswoman. I want you to write about this, keep writing about this. […] I want you to strike hard, strike human flesh, unassailable flesh, not shadows”.77

Notes

1 In the limited reading that I have presented, C comes across as an apolitical novel, which is perhaps a little unfair.

2 For just one example, see César Aira, The Literary Conference, trans. by Katherine Silver (New York: New Directions, 2010).

3 Ryan.

4 Michelle Huneven, ‘Hilary Mantel’s Short-Story Collection Long on Controversy’, Los Angeles Times, 3 October 2014, http://www.latimes.com/books/jacketcopy/la-cajc-hilary-mantel-20141005-story.html.

5 American Library Association, ‘Frequently Challenged Books’, http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks.

6 Levine.

7 For more on the novel’s space, see Jeffrey Gray, ‘Roberto Bolaño, Ciudad Juárez, and the Future of Nativism’, Pacific Coast Philology, 49.2 (2014), 166–76.

8 Camelia Raghinaru, ‘Biopolitics in Roberto Bolaño’s 2666, “The Part About the Crimes”’, Altre Modernità, 15 (2016), 146–62 (p. 150), http://dx.doi.org/10.13130/2035-7680/7182.

9 Sharae Deckard, ‘Peripheral Realism, Millennial Capitalism, and Roberto Bolaño’s 2666’, Modern Language Quarterly, 73.3 (2012), 351–72 (p. 369), http://dx.doi.org/10.1215/00267929-1631433.

10 Roberto Bolaño, 2666, trans. by Natasha Wimmer (London: Picador, 2009), p. 193.

11 Ibid., p. 227.

12 Deckard, p. 357.

13 Timothy O’Leary, Foucault and Fiction: The Experience Book (London: Continuum, 2009).

14 Andreea Marinescu, ‘“I Can’ t Go On, I’ll Go On”: The Avant-Garde in the Works of Roberto Bolaño and Raúl Ruiz’, Romance Notes, 54.3 (2014), 391–98 (p. 393), http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/rmc.2014.0071.

15 Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics, trans. by E.B. Ashton (London: Routledge, 1973), p. 153.

16 Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), p. 195.

17 Barbara Herrnstein Smith, p. 38.

18 Bolaño, 2666, p. 372.

19 Ibid., pp. 382, 318.

20 Grant Farred, ‘The Impossible Closing: Death, Neoliberalism, and the Postcolonial in Bolaño’s 2666’, MFS: Modern Fiction Studies, 56.4 (2010), 689–708; Patrick Dove, ‘Literature and the Secret of the World: 2666, Globalization, and Global War’, CR: The New Centennial Review, 14.3 (2014), 139–61, http://dx.doi.org/10.14321/crnewcentrevi.14.3.0139; Sol Pelaez, ‘Counting Violence: Roberto Bolano and 2666’, Chasqui, 43.2 (2014), 30–47.

21 Peter Boxall, Twenty-First-Century Fiction: A Critical Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), p. 209.

22 Daniela Omlor, ‘Mirroring Borges: The Spaces of Literature in Roberto Bolaño’s 2666’, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, 91.6 (2014), 659–70 (p. 660), http://dx.doi.org/10.3828/bhs.2014.40.

23 Fermín A. Rodríguez, ‘Fear, Subjectivity, and Capital: Sergio Chejfec’ s The Dark and Roberto Bolaño’s 2666’, Parallax, 20.4 (2014), 345–59 (p. 345), http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13534645.2014.957550.

24 Laura Barberán Reinares, ‘Globalized Philomels: State Patriarchy, Transnational Capital, and the Fermicides on the US-Mexican Border in Roberto Bolaño’ s 2666’, South Atlantic Review, 75.4 (2010), 51–72 (p. 53).

25 I do not mean in this sentence to draw a parallel between some kind of literary-critical ‘crime’ of repetition and the crimes that Bolaño details. Such a reading would degrade the horror of the crimes. I also somehow feel, despite its repetitiveness, that criticism should continue to draw this reading from the novel. It is important, ethical, and worthwhile.

26 Bolaño, 2666, p. 456.

27 For more on these terms, see Stefano Ercolino, The Maximalist Novel: From Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow to Roberto Bolaño’s 2666, trans. by Albert. Sbragia (London: Bloomsbury, 2014); Edward Mendelson, ‘Encyclopedic Narrative: From Dante to Pynchon’, MLN, 91.6 (1976), 1267–75.

28 Deckard, p. 359.

29 Bolaño, 2666, p. 764; Kazuo Ishiguro, The Buried Giant (London: Faber, 2015).

30 Louis Marin, Utopics: The Semiological Play of Textual Spaces (Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press International, 1990), p. xx.

31 Ibid.

32 Ibid., p. 279.

33 Jean-Paul Sartre, What Is Literature?, trans. by Bernard Frechtman (New York: Philosophical Library, 1949), p. 19.

34 Theodor W. Adorno, The Jargon of Authenticity, trans. by Knut Tarnowski and Frederic Will (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986), pp. 34, 69–70.

35 Idem, ‘Commitment’, in Aesthetics and Politics, trans. by Francis McDonagh (London: Verso, 2007), pp. 177–95 (pp. 175–76).

36 Ibid., p. 176.

37 Ibid., p. 183.

38 Ibid.

39 Ibid., p. 184.

40 Ibid., pp. 184–85.

41 Farred, p. 692.

42 Adorno, ‘Commitment’, p. 189.

43 C.J. Dean, ‘Empathy, Pornography, and Suffering’, Differences, 14.1 (2003), 88–124 (p. 89).

44 Bolaño, 2666, p. 536. This approach might be contrasted with the depiction of snuff films in American fiction of the brat pack generation, such as Bret Easton Ellis’s Less Than Zero (1985).

45 C.J. Dean, p. 106.

46 For more on this, see Tom Moylan, Demand the Impossible: Science Fiction and the Utopian Imagination (New York: Methuen, 1986).

47 Bolaño, 2666, p. 459.

48 Sarah Pollack, ‘After Bolaño: Rethinking the Politics of Latin American Literature in Translation’, PMLA, 128.3 (2013), 660–67 (p. 663).

49 Marin, p. 208.

50 Bolaño, 2666, p. 661.

51 Farred, p. 699.

52 Marin, p. 4.

53 Ibid., pp. 4–5.

54 Bolaño, 2666, p. 606.

55 Ibid., p. 787; Louis Althusser, ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation)’, in Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays, trans. by Ben Brewster (London: NLB, 1971), pp. 121–73.

56 For more on this interpretation of German idealist traditions, see Ameriks; Paul Guyer, ‘Absolute Idealism and the Rejection of Kantian Dualism’, in The Cambridge Companion to German Idealism, ed. by Karl Ameriks (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 37–56.

57 Bolaño, 2666, p. 74.

58 For more on the place of the university within neoliberalism, see Wendy Brown, Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution (New York: Zone, 2015).

59 Bolaño, 2666, p. 114.

60 Ibid., p. 12.

61 Ibid., p. 114; for more on Charles Eliot Norton and his belief that he was defending against cultural barbarism, see Graff, pp. 82–83.

62 Bolaño, 2666, p. 116.

63 Sheila Slaughter and Gary Rhoades, ‘The Neo-Liberal University’, New Labor Forum, 6 (2000), 73–79 (p. 73).

64 See, for more critiques, among others, Thomas Docherty, For the University: Democracy and the Future of the Institution (London: Bloomsbury, 2011); John Holmwood, A Manifesto for the Public University (London: Bloomsbury, 2011), http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781849666459; Andrew McGettigan, The Great University Gamble: Money, Markets and the Future of Higher Education (London: Pluto, 2013); William Davies, The Limits of Neoliberalism: Authority, Sovereignty and the Logic of Competition (Thousand Oaks: SAGE, 2014); Brown.

65 Stephen Billett, Vocational Education: Purposes, Traditions and Prospects (London: Springer, 2011), p. 8.

66 Michel Foucault, ‘Pastoral Power and Political Reason’, in Religion and Culture, ed. by Jeremy R. Carrette (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999), pp. 135–52 (p. 149); Gilles Deleuze, ‘Postscript on the Societies of Control’, October, 59 (1992), 3–7.

67 Bolaño, 2666, pp. 111–12.

68 For more on the narratives of humanistic resistance to corporate culture through elitist retreat, see Alan Trachtenberg, The Incorporation of America: Culture and Society in the Gilded Age (New York: Hill and Wang, 2007); Graff, pp. 82–86.

69 Pierre Bourdieu, ‘Social Space and Symbolic Power’, Sociological Theory, 7.1 (1989), 14–25 (p. 16), http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/202060.

70 Zadie Smith, On Beauty (London: Penguin, 2006), p. 371.

71 Roberto Bolaño, Amulet, trans. by Chris Andrews (New York: New Directions, 2008), p. 86.

72 Henry Hitchens, ‘The Mystery Man’, The Financial Times, 8 December 2008, http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/7c4c7cd2-c264-11dd-a350-000077b07658.html.

73 Bolaño, 2666, p. 716.

74 Ibid., p. 563.

75 Catherine Belsey, Critical Practice (London: Routledge, 2002), p. 27.

76 Bolaño, 2666, p. 72.

77 Ibid., p. 631.

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