Seth T.'s Reviews > Amulet

Amulet by Roberto Bolaño
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As a formalistic excursion, Amulet veers toward abstraction. Bolaño's apocalyptic pericopae within a singular pericope reminds me of Ishiguro's The Unconsoled in its happy willingness to throttle time and narrative senseless for the sake of its own greater mysteries. Only, at least, Bolaño makes his readers well-aware of this through his heroine's nagging reminders.

Auxilio, whose name is a plea for salvation—for assistance, for redemption, for a crutch, for help— is the figurative mother of Mexican poets. And therefore grandmother to Mexican poetry. She bears lengthy witness to the soul sickness that has swallowed the Latin American spirit, that hearkens the doom of the Mexican verse. From the bathroom of a deserted university, purged under the bootheel of martial conquer, she peers into the past and future and cries harbinger to fey tidings, a Cassandra of ignoble heritage.

Amulet is a grim recountment of the inefficacy of the Mexican poetry, that for all its strength and beauty and honesty and reality, it is despite all belief: utterly powerless. Auxilio's explication of nightmare is of course a call for help, a demand that things not be as they are and that they would be something else, something perhaps grand. Or worthwhile at any rate.

The Mexican poetry for her, and one may presume for Bolaño, stands as "the echo of nothingness." And yet, she notes that echo is forged of songs of war and love and courage and honour and pleasure and desire. And though she sees naught but abyssal terror as the poet's end, she remains hopeful that such songs of war and love might eventually end in victory rather than centuries and millennia of loss.

But not that hopeful.

Amulet is a cynical and realistic work. As Auxilio begins, "a story of murder, detection and horror"—though in a decidedly unconventional manner. By blending madness, love, sickness, and culture, Bolaño crafts an interesting and, perhaps,* provocative reading of the landscape of the poetic. And if Bolaño's critique of Mexican poetry stands, the reader is left to ask whether it might not be the case for the international and universal varieties, as well.

[*note: I only say perhaps because I am entirely unfamiliar with the terrain of Latin American poetry and cannot really say how provocative his work might actually be.]
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Started Reading
August 1, 2010 – Finished Reading
September 7, 2010 – Shelved

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