Candiss's Reviews > Amulet

Amulet by Roberto Bolaño
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's review
Apr 09, 2016

liked it
bookshelves: length-under-250
Recommended for: die-hard Bolaño enthusiasts, patient readers
Read from September 02 to 10, 2010

I soldiered on to the end, but perhaps Roberto Bolaño (or, at least, Amulet) is not for me. I had heard many glowing things about his writing, so I had good hopes, but I just couldn't get into the story. Half-way through, finding myself a bit bored with the narrative and fatigued by the style, I suspected I was in trouble. I thought things might pick up in the second half of the book, but sadly, they did not.

Amulet is the story of a middle-aged, couch-surfing Uruguayan woman named Auxilio, who styles herself "the mother of Mexican poetry", knows and loves all the young poets (sometimes in a Biblical sense), and who is in a ladies' room at a Mexican university when the Mexican military invades the campus. She decides to dig in and hide out, as opposed to being captured and forced to leave with the faculty and staff. She spends 13 days entrenched there with water, but no food, dozing, fantasizing, reminiscing, and possibly hallucinating.

The book reads like being harangued by a chatty daydreamer who does not know how to conduct a conversation - rambling on and on, digressing again and again, jumping around in time, rehashing stories she has told everyone many times before...a filibuster narrative. It's like getting cornered by your half-senile great-Aunt for what feels like forever and feeling too guilty to cut her off, all the while dreaming of nothing but escape. I felt like a captive audience to this book, yet I felt somehow wrong about wanting to quit reading. I found myself more and more daydreaming while reading, losing my place, metaphorically nodding so the author would think I was paying polite attention.

Perhaps my head was in the wrong place for this story. I love dreamy narrative, but this was not dream-like so much as meandering. There were elements of magical realism, which I appreciated; in fact, those were my favorite parts of the book. But the over-indulged "Did I tell you about the time...." gambit and the copious name-dropping (of both real and fictional figures, very few of whom I had any mental connections for) quickly became jumbling and just plain messy. I've known several people in real life who have a very extensive social history and are always inserting into conversations things such as "One time, Harold and I went to this place..." and "Kelly told me, years ago...", and I don't know any of these people - never met a one of them - and can't keep them all straight, and there's not enough context for me to keep a place for them in my mind... Well, Auxilio went on exactly like that.

I get that she is a daydreamer. I understand that she is both poetic in nature and no longer young. I know she's in a stressful, muddling situation. But I got the distinct impression that she would be no less whimsical and disconnected and circular-thinking if she weren't stuck in a toilet stall. I'm afraid that, although I suspect Bolaño intends for me to like Auxilio, to find her kooky-charming and outsider-artsy, I frankly just wanted her to shut up for a moment or two, take a deep breath, have a little pause with her endless reflection.

And there you go: I feel guilty, like I just shushed lonely old Aunt Mabel.

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Reading Progress

09/08/2010 page 91
47.0% "This is slow, slow going. Based on the first few chapters, I expected to love this, but I'm finding it tedious. Subtle characterization, a syrupy weave to the prose, and and interesting cultural backdrop, but meandering and infinitely digressing. It's taking me something like an eon to clear each handful of pages. Auxilio loves to think aloud and just goes on and on and on and on...pause to breathe, woman!"

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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Pollopicu Although it seems I enjoyed Amulet slightly more than you did (mostly because I'm a "Bolaño enthusiast") I can appreciate your review.

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