I've gotten to the part about the crimes. I don't know if I'll be able to make it through. Not because of the all the dying---that doesn't bother me---but because of the monotony. 60 pages in and almost every page has a paragraph that starts like this, "The next victim was found [insert some remote place] in a ditch. She had been vaginally and anally raped. She had stab wounds in her [insert various body parts]. The cause of death was ruled [insert either strangulation or stab wounds]." When I flipped ahead through the remaining 250 pages of that section I saw the same line, over and over, all the way to the end. Expecting me to read 300 pages of that is pushing it.
At that same moment the Santa Teresa police found the body of another teenage girl, half buried in a vacant lot in one of the neighborhoods on the edge of the city, and a strong wind from the west hurled itself against the slope of the mountains to the east, raising dust and a litter of newspaper and cardboard on its way through Santa Teresa, moving the clothes that Rosa had hung in the backyard, as if the wind, young and energetic in its brief life, were trying on Amalfitano's shirts and pants and slipping into his daughter's underpants and reading a few pages of the Testamento geométrico to see whether there was anything in it that might be of use, anything that might explain the strange landscape of streets and houses through which it was galloping, or that would explain it to itself as wind.
"Believe me," said Pelletier in a very soft voice, like the breeze that was blowing just then, suffusing everything with the scent of flowers, "I know Archimboldi is here."
"Where?" asked Espinoza.
"Somewhere, either in Santa Teresa or else nearby."
"So why haven't we found him?" asked Espinoza.
One of the tennis players fell and Pelletier smiled.
"That doesn't matter. Because we've been clumsy or because Archimboldi is extraordinarily good at self-concealment. It means nothing. The important thing is something else entirely."
"What?" asked Espinoza.
"That he's here," said Pelletier, and he motioned toward the sauna, the hotel, the court, the fence, the dry bush that could be glimpsed in the distance, on the unlit hotel grounds. The hair rose on the back of Espinoza's neck. The cement box where the sauna was looked like a bunker holding a corpse.
"I believe you," he said, and he really did believe what his friend was saying.
"Archimboldi is here," said Pelletier, "and we're here, and this is the closest we'll ever be to him."
About a dozen pages in I was ready to give up on it, maybe even throw it against a wall. It had a certain lazy self-indulgence that I find (strangely) usually only in latin american writers: intentionally indecisive, extended chronicling of imaginary historical figures that's fact after fact with no payoff, lots of wink-wink and nudge-nudge.
Given its reputation and acclaim I bore on waiting for the upswing. And then gradually it started shedding all those annoying qualities and we begin to see a great writer emerge. Almost 200 pages in and I'm now immersed. By the time the story makes its way to Mexico the pace and rhythm hit their stride. I can only hope the obnoxious opening was intentional.
He read the spine of her book. "Count Leo Tolstoy," he said. He shook his head and laughed silently.
"Nothing," he said. "I'm just trying to imagine what it's like to be you."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean beautiful. Smart. Disciplined. Rich. Going to college. What's it like?"
She had a ridiculous impulse to answer him by touching him, to let him feel what it was like. There was no other way, really, to answer.
She shrugged and said she didn't know.
Maybe the pleasures of a swing set, likewise of sky- and scuba diving, were tastes from a time when the uterus held you harmless from the claims of up and down. A time when you hadn't acquired the mechanics, even, to experience vertigo. Still luxuriated safely in a warm inland sea.