Books Readed: Monsieur Pain

Monsieur Pain
by Roberto Bolaño
translated by Chris Andrews

Then we followed Madame Vallejo down grey and white corridors, with a metallic, phosphorescent sheen, blemished here and there by unexpected black rectangles.
“It’s like a modern art gallery,” I heard Madame Reynaud murmur.

From then on, supported by a modest invalid’s pension, and perhaps as a reaction against the society that had imperturbably sent me forth to die, I gave up everything that could be considered beneficial to a young man’s career, and took up the occult sciences, which is to say that I let myself sink into poverty, in a manner that was deliberate, rigorous and not altogether devoid of elegance. At some point during that phase in my life I read _An Abridged History of Animal Magnetism_, by Franz Mesmer, and, within a matter of weeks, became a mesmerist.

Excuse me. It doesn’t matter. I’m not so sure I understand myself. Synchronicity, diachronicity, juggling… I suppose you know that Hell was a priest.

You could see it like this: illnesses, all of them, are produced by nervous disorders. Disorders that have been engineered, coolly planned in advance, but by whom? By the patient, the environment, god or Destiny, what does it matter?… Hypnotism should reverse the process and bring about a cure. Should make it possible to forget, in other words.

On the screen, the sun was coming out.

But Pleumeur-Bodou was too fat, and trying to change seats simultaneously, they got in each other’s way. For a moment they were stuck. Someone behind us complained. From another seat came an irritated Shhh. The theatre might have been small and old, but its clients were serious movie-goers. Pleumeur-Bodou sat down again.
“Look, José María, you get up first and sit down here.” he tapped the leather upholstery of the seat to his left, “and when I have moved here,” he touched the Spaniard’s chest with the tip of his index finger, “then, but only then, you can take my seat.”

I thought that if I kept still I might escape from illusion and discern the presence I could sense nearby, sending me signals from an untouchable space.

I looked around: the café had emptied and the cold was creeping in among the tables and the chairs, the dirty glasses and the cigarette butts crushed on the floor.

Pleumeur-Bodou had spoken the truth, I sensed, although it was a truth composed of shadows on the wall of a cave. … Geometry, everything was geometry and shit. I stood up.

Nakedness at last, and misery.

The corridor was sealed at its far end by a wall which bore an illegible but no doubt pornographic inscription framed by a large heart, scrawled when the cement was still wet.

The man was still there in the middle of the courtyard, looking at me. I rapped on the glass with my knuckles. If he heard me, he gave no sign of it. I looked for a switch, impelled by an irrational desire to light up the room and reveal myself. To confirm my presence beyond all doubt, my _attendance_, my humble but punctual spectatorship. The light was not working either; I had ended up in the only room where everything was broken.

Anyhow, there was a rope tied to the balustrade, so I just went to the edge and looked over and saw a body hanging there, two yards below. I crossed myself a couple times, although I’m not a believer. … He wasn’t moving at all. I mean, the breeze blowing under the bridge was moving the body a bit, but that was all.



Russell Etchen was born 1979 in Shreveport, Louisiana. Artist, book designer, and curator living and working in Los Angeles

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *