How to find Duchamp in 2666
By Maria Goldverg
posted: 11-09-11
Marcel Duchamp's Unhappy Readymade, 1920 oil on canvas, Suzanne Duchamp
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"The idea, of course, was Duchamp’s.


All that exists, or remains, of Duchamp’s stay in Buenos Aires is a ready-made.  Though of course his whole life was a readymade, which was his way of appeasing fate and at the same time sending out signals of distress.  As Calvin Tomkins writes: As a wedding present for his sister Suzanne and his close friend Jean Crotti, who were married in Paris on April 14, 1919, Duchamp instructed the couple by letter to hang a geometry book by strings on the balcony of their apartment so that the wind could ‘go through the book, choose its own problems, turn and tear out the pages.’  Clearly, then, Duchamp wasn’t just playing chess in Buenos Aires.  Tompkins continues: This Unhappy Readymade, as he called it, might strike some newlyweds as an oddly cheerless wedding gift, but Suzanne and Jean carried out Duchamp’s instructions in good spirit; they took a photograph of the open book, dangling in midair (the only existing record of the work, which did not survive its exposure to the elements), and Suzanne later painted a picture of it called Le Readymade malheureux de Marcel.  As Duchamp later told Cabanne, ‘It amused me to bring the idea of happy and unhappy into readymades, and then the rain, the wind, the pages flying, it was an amusing idea.’   I take it back: all Duchamp did while he was in Buenos Aires was play chess.  Yvonne, who was with him, got sick of all his play-science and left for France.  According to Tompkins: Duchamp told one interviewer in later years that he had liked disparaging ‘the seriousness of a book full of principles,’ and suggested to another that, in its exposure to the weather, ‘the treatise seriously got the facts of life.’"


Selection from:

Roberto Bolano, 2666, trans. Natasha Wimmer (New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2008), 190-191.



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