. . . but they have no interest in real combat, when the great masters struggle against that something, that something that terrifies us all, that something that cows us and spurs us on, amid blood and mortal wounds and stench.

18 February 2010

The Works of Benno von Archimboldi

The Works of Benno von Archimboldi

The following is a list of novels in order as their publication is described in The Part About Archimboldi with information found in The Part About the Critics appended.

1. Lüdicke. This is Archimboldi's first novel. [p. 800]

A very odd review of this book appeared in a Berlin newspaper after its publication. Mrs. Bubis kept it. Someone named Schumacher “tried to sum up the novelist's personality in a few words.
Intelligence: average.
Character: epileptic.
Scholarship: sloppy.
Storytelling ability: chaotic.
Prosody: chaotic.
German usage: chaotic.”
[p. 27]

2. The Endless Rose. [p. 815] Upon reading this Mr. Bubis was deeply shaken upon reading it. It was better than good. Looking back on it later, he recalls that it was upon reading this book that he became convinced of Archimboldi's story-telling powers. Archimboldi also displayed his “capacity to inject new blood into the sclerotic German language,” in Mr. Bubis's opinion.

This is the book by Archimboldi that Amalfitano translated. Page 117.

3. The Leather Mask. [p. 817 This book is one of Archimboldi's trilogy, a “Polish-themed” novel.

The critic Junge insists to Mr. Bubis that he has read Archimboldi, which of the books named above we do not know. Junge gives that opinion that Archimboldi does not seem to be a European writer. Finally, he settles on the opinion that Archimboldi is more like an Asian writer, Malaysian in fact. [p. 819]

The library in Santiago had a copy, and Amalfitano read this book when he was about 20. Page 117.

4. Rivers of Europe. [p. 823] This book is really only about one river, the Dneiper. The Dneiper is the protagonist, and the other rivers are the chorus. Mr. Bubis laughed when he read it. The book was translated and appeared in Italian in 1971. [p. 5]

The library in Santiago had a copy, and Amalfitano read this book when he was about 20. Page 117.

5. Bifucaria Bifurcata is Archimboldi's novel about seaweed. Apparently, this novel is nearly unreadable. Not even Mr. Bubis finished it. [p. 826] Nonetheless, Morini translated it into Italian in 1988. [p. 5] Other Archimboldi texts had already been translated into Italian at the time.

The library in Santiago had a copy of this book, too, but Amalfitano could not finish it. Page 117.

6. Inheritance. came to Mr. Bubis four years after Archimboldi's disappearance. [p. 837] A big book of over 500 pages originally to which Archimboldi added another 100 pages at the last minute on his last visit to the publisher, a chaotic text, in Mr. Bubis's opinion, but one that left him “with a feeling of great satisfaction.” Archimboldi lived up to all of Mr. Bubis's hopes. The book was translated and appeared in Italian in 1973. [p. 5]

7. Saint Thomas. “. . .the apocryphal biography of a biographer whose subject is the great writer of the Nazi regime, in whom some critics wanted to see a likeness of Ernst Jünger, although clearly it isn't Jünger but a fictional character.” [p. 846]

This is the second novel that Morini translated into Italian.

This is one of the books that Pelletier rereads on the terrace in Santa Teresa. [p. 142, 149]

8. The Blind Woman was sent to Mr. Bubis from Icaria. [p. 847] . “. . . it was about a blind woman who didn't know she was blind and some clairvoyant detectives who didn't know they were clairvoyant.”

This was the first Archimboldi work that Liz Norton read when it was loaned to her by a friend in Berlin. She liked it but did not then run out and buy every Archimboldi she could find. [p. 9] We do not know which work of his was the second that she read.

This is one of the books that Pelletier rereads by the pool in Santa Teresa. [p. 143, 149]

9. The Black Sea was apparently also written during the Icaria stay. [p. 847] “. . . a theater piece or a novel written in dramatic form, in which the Black Sea converses with the Atlantic Ocean an hour before dawn.”

10. Lethaea was apparently also written during the Icaria stay [p. 847], an explicitly sexual novel, and the first to go through five printings after the court case alleging it to be pornography was disposed of. It is a novel “in which he transfers to the Germany of the Third Reich the story of Lethaea, who believes herself more beautiful than any goddess and is finally transformed, along with Olenus, her husband, into a stone statue.”

Morini wrote a study on the various “guises of conscience and guilt” in this novel and the novel Bitzius. [p. 6]

This is one of the books that Pelletier rereads on the terrace in Santa Teresa. [p. 145, 149]

11. The Lottery Man was apparently also written during the Icaria stay. [p. 847]. “. . .the life of a cripped German who sells lottery tickets in New York.”

12. The Father. A son recalls the activites of his father, a psychopathic killer, “which begin in 1938, when his son is twenty, and come to an enigmatic end in 1948.

13. The Return came to the publishing house after Mr. Bubis's death. [p. 849]

14. The King of the Forest is not mentioned in connection with the publishing house. Is this Archimboldi's last book? Probably not. [See The Head below.] This is the book that Lotte purchases at the airport book stand. Upon reading it, she recognizes the characters as her family members and knows it is written by her brother. [p. 887

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The following are miscellaneous works that I have difficult to place among the works listed above.

The trilogy:

D'Arsonfal. This is the first book by Archimboldi that Pelletier read [p. 3], a “French-themed” book. On his own initiative, Pelletier undertook a translation of it into French in 1983-84. [p. 4]

The Garden is another in the trilogy, an “English-themed” novel. Pelletier found it in an old Munich bookstore in 1981. [p. 4]

The Leather Mask [see above], is the other work in the trilogy. The book had already been translated into Italian by Colossimo in 1969, long before Morini had discovered Archimboldi. [p. 5]

Pelletier gave a copy of this to Vanessa, the prostitute with the Moroccan husband, thinking “that with some luck Vanessa might read it as a horror novel, might be attracted by the sinister side of the book.” Vanessa remarks that, “It's as if you were giving me a part of you.” [p. 82]

I wish to interject here that it is when Pelletier gives this book to Vanessa, we read this:

Pelletier had, along with a few others, instituted a new reading of the German, a reading that would endure, a reading as ambitious as Archimblodi's writing, and this reading would keep pace with Archimboldi's writing for a long time, until the reading was exhausted or until Archimboldi's writing—the capacity of the Archimboldian oeuvre to spark emotion and revelations—was exhausted (but he didn't believe that would happen), though in another way it wasn't true, because sometimes, especially since he and Espinoza had given up their trips to London and stopped seeing Norton, Archimboldi's work, his novels and stories, that is, seemed completely foreign, a shapeless and mysterious verbal mass, something that appeared and disappeared capriciously, literally a pretext, a false door, a murderer's alias, a hotel bathtub full of amniotic fluid in which he, Jean-Claude Pelletier, would end up committing suicide for no reason, gratuitously, in bewilderment, just because.

[p. 82-83] I include this note because it proves me wrong. Pelletier started to encounter difficulties understanding Archimboldi's works long before he went to Mexico.

Mitzi's Treasure is a small book, less than 100 pages. Pelletier found it in an old Munich bookstore in 1981. [p. 4]

Railroad Perfection. The book was translated and appeared in Italian in 1975. [p. 5] Morini wrote a study on the role of fate in this book. [p. 6]

The Berlin Underworld was a collection of mostly war stories put out by a publishing house in Rome in 1964. [p. 5]

Bitzius is a novel of less than 100 pages similar to Mitzi's Treasure. It tells “the story of the life of Albert Bitzius, pastor of Lützelflüh, in the canton of Bern, an author of sermons as well as a writer under the pseudonym Jeremiah Gotthelf.” Morini wrote a study on the various “guises of conscience and guilt” in this novel and the novel Lethaea. [p. 6]

This was the third work by Archimboldi that Liz Norton read. This is the one that did make her run out, but run out through the rain in the quadrangle. It was as if she had drunk a cup of steaming peyote. [p. 9]

When the four critics first talk avidly about Archimboldi by telephone, they discuss the “reconquest of the verbal and physical territoriality in the final pages” of this book.

The Head. When Espinoza and Pelletier are sleeping in Norton's sitting room after she first started to consider sleeping with both of them, Espinoza pulls out this book and starts reviewing his marginal notes at 4:00 in the morning. Espinosa and Pelletier both felt that this was the last novel that Archimboldi would write, although that had been said also about Railroad Perfection and earlier about Bitzius. I find no other reference in 2666 to The Head.

Some miscellaneous notes:

Espinoza never translated Archimboldi or any other German author. [p. 8] However, in 1990 he received his doctorate in German literature with a dissertation on Benno von Archimboldi. [p. 8]

At a twentieth century German literary congress held in Maastricht in 1981, Pelletier delivered a paper titled “Heine and Archimboldi: Converging Paths,” and Espinoza delivered a paper titled “Ernst Jünger and Benno von Archimboldi: Diverging Paths.” [p. 10] (I include this note because I love the titles of the papers). Earlier, Espinoza had terminated all dealings with the “ Jüngerians” after feeling slighted by them. [p. 7]

In approximately 1993 Pelletier and Espinoza adhered to an interpretation of Archimboldi's works marked by a festive, Dyonisian vision of ultimate carnival (or penultimate carnival). They also spoke of civic duty. Liz Norton supported this view. Leading the opposing group, Borchmeyer spoke humor, which Morini considered the height of gall. [p. 12]

In 1994 Pelletier presented a paper that focused on insularity, the rupture that divided Archimboldi from the German tradition but not the European tradition. [p. 15]

Espinoza read the Marquis de Sade in order to refute a paper by Pohl, one of Borchmeyer's allies that drew connections from Justine and Philosophy of the Boudoir to one of Archimboldi's novels of the 1950s [p. 44], Lethaea perhaps? That was the sexed up one.


  1. You should definitely submit this to Matt at bolanobolano.com to be published once the reading is done (or nearly done). It's a great resource.

  2. A song inspired by 2666 about Archimboldi - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=777a-8i7tV4