The other day I tried to give my fiction shelves a bit of a tidy-up (that’s the bulk of them in the photo there) and I came across my copy of The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano. I had a bit of a flick through the book and landed on a page where I had pencilled a note that said “everything that begins as comedy” at the start of the chapter; these were not my own words, however, they were in fact a phrase that the narrator had repeated throughout the chapter (Chapter 23 of Book II). While I had been reading this sprawling, rambling, rambunctious, fascinating, vicarious novel I was so struck by the writing that I wanted to try to make some notes that would help me remember the contents of various chapters should I ever want to come back to the book for whatever reason.
It struck me as strange, synchronous, to open on this chapter given I had recently started this blog with its focus on comedy and tragedy (and I had read the book back in 2010) . I had underlined some sentences within the chapter. Here is what they said:
- Everything that begins as comedy ends as tragedy.
- Everything that begins as comedy ends as tragicomedy.
- Everything that begins as comedy inevitably ends as comedy.
- I’m an educated man: the prisons I know are subtle ones.
- In some lost fold of the past, we wanted to be lions and we’re no more than castrated cats . . . Everything that begins as comedy ends as a cryptographic exercise.
The subsections within the chapter go on to iterate other endings to things that begin as comedy but for some reason I didn’t continue to underline them or any other text within that chapter.
What does it all mean? I’m not sure.