Nick's Reviews > Amulet

Amulet by Roberto Bolaño
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** spoiler alert ** Middling Bolaño. It has all the Bolaño trademarks: the visceral obsession with poetry, the South American exiles in Mexico City, and the prose that doesn't so much flow across the pages as rush through them. Arturo Belano and Ulises of "The Savage Detectives" have a cameos and the narrator has in turn a bit part in the earlier novel, published the year before. That narrator, Auxilio Lacoutoure, a Uruguayan exile wandering through Mexico City hanging out with other poets and doing odd jobs at the National University. That is where she finds her self in 1968 when the Mexican Army invades the university to tamp down protest; Auxilio survives by hiding in a women's restroom in the Department of Philosophy and Literature for twelve days. The memories that form her first-person narration, of older poets she knew and younger writers and artists of her acquaintance, frequently inexact as to the year, and often making outlandish assertions, such as being the mother of Mexican poetry. That would not be unexpected of a woman who seems to have no fixed address but was trapped in a university restroom while tanks prowl outside. But it does not make for compelling reading despite the propulsive prose. As with "The Savage Detectives", the payoff comes at the end, when she has a vision of young people marching, "singing and heading for the abyss." That is where the novel becomes clear and powerful; Bolaño, the Chilean exile is writing about the invasion of the university by the Mexican army that would be followed, a few weeks later, by the massacre of students by that same army in the Plaza de Tlatelolco. Within a few years, the Argentine military would be dropping students from helicopters into the ocean. When the world sent sailing ships to the United States in celebration for the Bicentennial in 1976, we saw the Chilean ship and thought it was the one the Pinochet dictatorship used for torture. And then the civil wars in Guatemala and El Salvador and the militarization of Honduras (which fostered the immigration crisis of today). So that is what Auxilio Lacouture sees in the closing pages of "The Amulet", the march of singing children that she wishes she could stop but cannot. It is a scene of absolute horror that no movie of the genre could ever match, because it foresees the bloody, unforgivable future.
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Finished Reading
April 20, 2018 – Shelved

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message 1: by Tom (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tom Though I've not read any of B's door-stopper novels, I have a hard time imagining them surpassing the emotional impact of slim novels like this one and By Night in Chile.


Nick I read "The Savage Detectives" and it really is powerful. Like "The Amulet" it drifts a lot (even more, in fact, being longer) but ends powerfully. But I think you have to be willing to breeze through adolescent meandering in the beginning and a lot of adult wandering in the middle.


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