“Esa noche, mientras trabajaba en la puerta del bar, se entretuvo en pensar en un tiempo de dos velocidades, uno era muy lento y las personas y los objetos se movían en este tiempo de forma casi imperceptible, el otro era muy rápido y todo, hasta las cosas inertes, centellaban de velocidad. El primero se llamaba Paraíso, el segunda Infierno, y lo unico que deseaba Archimboldi era no vivir jamás en ninguno de los dos.” Roberto Bolaño; 2666, p. 1001-1002, Anagrama, Collecion Compactos, Barcelona 2009.
[Re-posted from the Old Site, original dated 13th December 2009. I am breaking the chronological re-posting order for the unattractive reason that this one is very google-popular.]
(amateuristic English translation: “That night, whilst he worked the door of the bar, he whiled away the time, thinking of time at two speeds, one of them was very slow and persons and objects moved in this time in a way that was barely noticeable, the other was very fast & everything, up to and including the non-living things, was moving with scintillating speed. The first was called Paradise, the second Hell, & the only thing Archimboldi wished for was not to live in any of them.”)
[To be honest: I am kinda proud of that translation!]
This will probably be the most recent thing (that will) ever (be) quoted here. As such it is an exception in much the same way that I hope all entries are an exception. As a rule, one would not want to write things that are unexceptional, would one?
Why is Paradise slow?
I guess because it gives you the time to think things through, and to appreciate what happens instead of merely playing
Why is Hell fast?
Presumably because its speed is unforgiving. Shit happens – & you are a part of ‘that shit’. No time to write about it. Nor to expand on it.
[This is, by the way, not ‘my’ exercise in literary criticism; one good reason to restrict one’s reading (and specifically of works of fiction) to old classics is to dispense with all of this wearying uncertainty. To let the many bacteria, loving the immediate and modern, process the new, knowing that – over a sufficient amount of time – only the really good stuff will be able to resist the all-consuming nature (e.g. the biographical interest, & the related interest in live performances in theaters near you) of this ‘highly specialized’ bacterial colony of lovers of the literary contemporaneous and all other things ‘hot’ or ‘in’.]
Why doesn’t Archimboldi want to live in either? I haven’t got the faintest of clues, as I do not think Archimboldi is one of the best worked out characters in this (or indeed in any other) regard, & whether that’s a good or a bad thing you will have to work out for yourselves. But I do know that Paradise is boring and Hell is painful. And therefore that neither is better than reality, even if reality cannot truthfully be spelled with this or that capital letter (which is an interesting application of truth, said in passing).
On closer inspection, Hell & Paradise are the abstractions of the two worst things that can happen to human beings: boredom & pain. Things going too slow, and things going too fast. Also: Archimboldi is closer to Paradise than he is to Hell – and this is true because of the mere fact that he makes the observation highlighted by a writer that I quoted; but not much closer because he does it for entertainment, & not in a grand desire to stop all engines, tinker with them – e.g. in order make them run smoother – and then be on with it.
Paradoxically – but not in a logically mysterious sense of ‘paradoxically’ – by observing this both Bolaño & Archimboldi speed up time whilst also slowing it down. Slowing it down because the insight allows them more time, to understand their surroundings. Speeding it up because time is whiled away thusly, & more observations can be fitted in a shorter timeframe. Both eventually because the insights have increased.
Which brings me to cultural pessimism (ha-há, you didn’t see that one coming, did you?): it seems quasi-unavoidable and is also pervasively present in the tale of Archimboldi. I myself – a distinctly out-of-the-closet cultural optimist – believe it’s an identity crisis best explained as a time/speed crisis as per the above. Considered in one way; things go fiendishly rapid and in a continuum of pain that seems to be the most acute sense of reality. Considered in another, more contemplative, way there seems to be a benign stated of ‘culturedness’ where universal qualities appear, and can be appreciated in … peace and quiet.
The latter is associated with the past (and now I can recycle my entre square parentheses above) as it is only after quite some time that the security emerges in which one can contemplate these universal ‘goodies’. The former is associated with the future; a decaying of universal benign-ness into the flashing lightning speed of ever more inputs.
Or, to reverse yet another time, uncertainty and certainty.
Deconstruction and postmodernism have been written off too easily in the silly end of the XX-th century. The crisis is – at least in part – resolved by understanding how we can take apart the past, remain with the filtered out best bits and move toward the future in which the proportion of good bits vis-à-vis bad bits can’t but increase in basically Darwinian ways (to make a connection with other entries on this blog).
The problem with the ferocious attack on postmodernism is modernism with a twist: critical people are now convinced they are beyond criticism since they áre critical. Not coincidentally, I think, Bolaño did not wish to finish his book (in more or less the same way as Archimboldi seems unable to finish living).
Not knowing biographic detail, I don’t think the book is unfinished because he died to soon. My thesis is that the book is so long precisely because he didn’t die sooner (or is this too cruel?)
[Whilst writing this I was listening to Paco de Lucia, Al di Meola, John Mc Laughlin, The Guitar Trio, Polygram 1996.]