Thursday, December 3, 2009


At the airport he bought a ticket to Tucson. While he was waiting, leaning on the counter at a coffee place, he remembered the dream he’d had the night before about Antonio Homes, who had been dead for several years now. As before, he asked himself what Jones could have died of, and the one answer street in Brooklyn, Antonio Jones had felt tired, sat down on the sidewalk, and a second later stopped existing. Maybe it happened that way for my mother, thought Fate, but deep down he knew otherwise. When the airplane took off from Detroit a storm had begun to break over the city.

Fate opened the book by the white man who had been a professor at Sandhurst and started to read it on page 361. It said: Beyond the delta of the Niger, the coast of Africa at last begins to turn south again and there, in the Cameroons, in the late eighteenth century, Liverpool merchants from England pioneered a new branch of the slave trade. Further on, and well to the south, the River Gabon, just north of Cape Lopez, was also coming into full activity as a slave region in the 1780s. This area seemed to the Reverend John Newton to possess “the most humane and moral people I ever met with in Africa,” perhaps “because they were the people who had the least intercourse with Europe at that time.” But off the coast the Dutch had for a long time used the island of Corisco (the word in Portuguese means “flash of lightning”) as a trading center, though not specifically for slaves. Then he saw an illustration—there were quite a few in the book—showing a Portuguese fort on the Gold Coast, called Elmina, captured by the Danes in 1637. For three hundred and fifty years Elmina was a center of the slave trade. Over the fort, and over a small nearby fort built at the top of a hill, flew a flag that Fate couldn’t identify. What kingdom did it belong to? he wondered before his eyes closed and he fell asleep with the book on his lap.

“Part About Fate” in 2666 by Roberto Bolaño. (page 263). Translated from Spanish by Natasha Wimmer. Published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux

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