Woes of a True Policeman: Review
By Armando Ortiz
In Woes of a True Policeman, Roberto Bolano gives the impression that he is beginning to develop ideas for his novel 2666, but the book itself gives a different dimension to the overarching story or theme of both novels. Woes of a True Policeman ultimately stands independent to the bigger novel because it includes or introduces to the read a new character- Padilla. In this novel, Bolano touches on the lives of characters that appear on 2666; Professor Amalfitano, the professor of literature that for the moment is a professor Santa Teresa. We then get a peek into his daughter’s life; Rosa Amalfitano who is becoming a young independent woman. Bolano moves on to talk about the illusive writer Archimboldi, whom we get a detailed bibliography of his work, and we finish the journey with the young and fearless officer Pancho Monje. Throughout the novel we find Padilla, Amalfitano’s ex-lover who is a writer and who might be suffering from a serious disease.
|Woes of a True Policeman|
The overarching story line is between Professor Amalfitano and Padilla, and they make their appearances throughout the whole book. Prof. Amalfitano is an accomplished academician who has taught in many parts of the Spanish world. He was once married to Edith Liebernam with whom he had a child. We see that he deeply loved his wife and was a committed husband, though with unusual tendencies, but nonetheless faithful. After he loses his wife, he loses his emotional and in many ways spiritual well-being. Finding himself in what others see as forbidden relationships. Through his travels we discover that he is a leftist professor. Being a revolutionary or leftist leaning has made it hard for him to maintain a lifestyle that he is comfortable with, so he is forced to resign from several posts, traveling from one Latin American country to another, and moving around in Europe.
Next, we have a section on Rosa Amalfitano who is slowly coming of age. She spends time having conversations with Jordi Carrera with whom she’s struck up a friendship in Barcelona, and then exchanging letters after she leaves Spain and moves to Mexico. We get hints that she is becoming more familiar with her new home and its people. As she becomes accustomed to life in Santa Teresa she begins to find her path with every merging she does with the crowds. One day she discovers that her dad likes men, she comes home early and things get awkward. Furthermore, she starts being followed by a young officer who is supposed to be following her father, due to her father’s “suspicious” activities. She heads out of her home and walks down the tree lined streets, and like smoke disappears into the daily traffic of life slowly becoming her own person.
Archimboldi, in this novel, is a prolific author and well written. He’s made it big in Europe and is making headway into the Americas. We get reviews of the novels, essays and stories that he’s written. In addition to his literary output, we get a glimpse into his hobbies and some of the things he spends time doing when he isn’t writing. Finally, we see the social network that Archimboldi belongs to and the enemies that he has made. In many ways we get more info on the writer, but the person himself, still remains just as elusive as in 2666.
We have the young officer, Pancho Monje, who has withstood the test of adversity. Being of a lineage of women who suffered from rape and poverty, but stoically have kept living their lives, loving their seeds and pushing forward in life has made Pancho both stoic with a strong work ethic. He is the first male descendant from a long line of women who have been born into the family. He grows up in a household of three generations of women. He is studious and brave, and soon is recruited as an officer. His recruitment comes after being a body guard to the wife of a powerful politician in the town, and saving her live in a shootout with assassins. He is a rising star within the force because he is both fearless and follows through the orders he receives, except that on his last assignment, he discovers Rosa. He is spellbound.
In this story the one character that seems to be the most developed and makes a constant appearance throughout the different chapters is Padilla. We find that he is writing a novel, and Amalfitano is continually being encouraging him to continue working on the story. We see that he lives a life of a desperado, having fear of no one, wandering the streets at night, and meeting outcasts from all walks of life. He lives a destructive life, but makes up for it with his poetry. He is an ominous figure, who Amalfitano seems to obsess about. Communication between the two takes place in a time where the internet was just an idea, so the pauses and reading between the lines of letters is something they do habitually.
The book is an extension or addendum to 2666 where the main characters of the novel appear there too. But now we see more detail on the characters, discovering the dangers and situations that they unwittingly put themselves in. The driving force behind all of this being able to develop one’s art, to meet likeminded individuals who unfortunately might be putting their lives at risk by losing themselves in the raw life of an artist/poet. In many ways Amalfitano’s lover is the main character of the story, because all the other characters are already familiar to those that have read 2666. He might very well represent an ominous precursor to all the events that later happen to the characters. Padilla, as it turns out, is dying of a terminal disease, which shakes Amalfitano, but then again we see that Pancho might have also caught a type of virus that those that discover true beauty in a being can catch.