Professor Amalfitano is crazy. He hangs a book of geometry on the clothesline (which perhaps is one of the smartest things to do with such a book). He constructs very simple geometric figures and labels each vertex with names of famous people such as Aristotle, Thomas More, Plato, Diderot and Mendelssohn, “dictated by fate or lethargy or the immense boredom he felt thanks to his students and the classes and the oppressive heat that had settled over the city.” He hears a voice which begs him not to be a queer.
It reminds me vaguely of the film A Beautiful Mind.
My favorite character in this section is not Amalfitano. It is the dean’s son, Marco Antonio Guerra, who says two such fascinating things I leave them here to ponder:
“People see what they want to see and what people want to see never has anything to do with the truth. People are cowards to the last breath. I’m telling you between you and me: the human being, broadly speaking, is the closest thing there is to a rat.” p. 219
Now, I don’t for a minute thing that the human begin is the closest thing there is to a rat. But, I do think there is far too much cowardice. It is indeed far easier to see what we want to see, and it takes much courage to look at truth.
Then later he tells Amalfitano,
“I used to read everything, Professor, I read all the time. Now all I read is poetry. Poetry is the one thing that isn’t contaminated, the one thing that isn’t part of the game. I don’t know if you follow me, Professor. Only poetry–and let me be clear, only some of it–is good for you, only poetry isn’t shit.” p. 226
I wonder why Bolano has one of his characters propose such a thing; is prose not his favorite medium? I think a very small part of him is mocking the great writers, and even his own efforts. But that’s just a supposition on my part, with no textual support any where.
Plus, I’ll take prose over poetry, or geometry, any day.
Tomorrow, thoughts on The Part About Fate.