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Amulet Paperback – May 17, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Bolaño's work fugues again and again around the confluence of fugitive literary movements and tumultuous political upheavals of '60s and '70s Mexico and Chile. Originally from Montevideo, poet Auxilio Lacouture cleans house in Mexico City for two well-known poets and hangs about the university literary scene doing odd jobs. In September 18, 1968, as the army occupies the campus, arresting and killing people, Auxilio is in the deserted bathroom stalls, obliviously reading poetry; later she becomes famous for being the only one who resists arrest that fateful day. Over years without fixed address or employment, she loses her teeth and befriends the teenage Arturo Belano. Belano eventually returns to Chile at the time of the Allende coup and is imprisoned by Pinochet—a political initiation author Bolaño experienced himself. Auxilio's first-person narration serves as a medium for lost young voices of revolution, such as the elusive, limping Elena, the Catalan painter Remedios Varo, and Lilian Serpas, who claims she slept with Che Guevara. Auxilio's lyrical prophecies converge in a wrenching tribute to all the voices she has known, tinged with Bolaño's luminous pathos. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Good, as good as they reported in the New York Times and The New York Review of Books. (Ralph: Review of Arts, Lit, Philosophy, and the Humanities , Carlos Amantea)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions (May 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811217469
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811217460
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #165,016 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Author of 2666 and many other acclaimed works, Roberto Bolaño (1953-2003) was born in Santiago, Chile, and later lived in Mexico, Paris, and Spain. He has been acclaimed "by far the most exciting writer to come from south of the Rio Grande in a long time" (Ilan Stavans, The Los Angeles Times)," and as "the real thing and the rarest" (Susan Sontag). Among his many prizes are the extremely prestigious Herralde de Novela Award and the Premio Rómulo Gallegos. He was widely considered to be the greatest Latin American writer of his generation. He wrote nine novels, two story collections, and five books of poetry, before dying in July 2003 at the age of 50. Chris Andrews has won the TLS Valle Inclán Prize and the PEN Translation Prize for his Bolaño translations.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By James Elkins on January 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book really stays in your mind! I hadn't thought I would write a review, because Bolano is the Latin American author du jour in North America. But this novel has genuine staying power. The central image -- a woman cowering in the women's room on the fourth floor of the Philosophy and Literature building in UNAM in Mexico City during the police incursion -- is itself very memorable, but really it's her inner monologues, dreams, and hallucinations, and the strange sinuous voice that connects everything into a single book, that stays with me.

One of the more acute reviews of Bolano recently was, I think, in the "London Review of Books"; the reviewer noted thaqt Bolano writes continuously about writing, and that his novels chronicle novelists and poets, but that somehow his books aren't exactly novels. The authorial voice, and in this case also the narrator's voice, are presented as if they are talking. It's as if this is what happens in a writer's mind when he or she is contemplating the craft and social world of novel writing, before it's time to settle down and actually write. I think that's an excellent insight, and it explains an odd effect in Bolano: when you encounter a passage that is beautifully written, it seems somehow out of place, as if that is something that should only happen in the novels that Bolano's characters are forever discussing. Or to put it another way: it is as if novel writing is no longer possible, and the only way forward for the novel is rumination about the novel.

Wonderful book. I dare you to forget it.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By huetenan on May 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
A haunting hallucinatory story. The central event is hinted at but never directly mentioned, as far as I remember: namely, the cold-blooded murder of its own students by the Mexican state in 1968. This unsolved crime poisons and pollutes the very structure of the time and space that the heroine wanders like a ghost. She lives for poetry but there doesn't seem to be a poem that can cope with the violence she unwillingly experienced and survived. Her prophecies and dreams finally say what ordinary language can't.

Sounds too arty? No, it's lively and readable. The whole thing is held together and made compelling by the heroine's unique voice. You won't want to stop listening to her, even at her most confused. I suspect that this will be a classic that our great grandchildren will be reading and puzzling over too.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
AMULET is different, confusing, and disconcerting . . . and quite haunting. Although it probably is most readily classified as a novel, it does not easily wear that label. AMULET is a first-person narrative, but there is no real plot. Instead, what the narrator -- Auxilio Lacouture, a woman poet originally from Uruguay but now in Mexico City (and a character in another of Bolano's works) -- relates is more of a memoir of her years as a kind of groupie in the vibrant literary world of Mexico City in the mid-1960s to late-1970s. But this "memoir" is not chronological or linear, and it continually veers between the impressionistic and the realistic. Rather than "memoir", maybe it is better thought of as an all-night oral account (and accounting) of her "literary life" delivered by Auxilio to a small group of fringe literati in a cheap and shabby university apartment.

The central event in Auxilio's story is the police crackdown on the student movement and occupation of the National Autonomous Mexican University in September 1968. While the riot police cleared the campus of students and dissidents (an actual historical event, with fatalities) Auxilio cowered in the women's room on the fourth floor of the Philosophy and Literature building. Again and again Auxilio returns to this event, with evident uneasiness about having hid out in a bathroom stall.

Auxilio fancies herself the "mother of Mexican poets," and during the course of her bohemian life in Mexico City she has come into contact (or claims to) with a number of Latin literary figures and artists, including "Arturo Belano" (an obvious alter ego for the author Roberto Bolano, an alter ego who has appeared in other of Bolano's works).
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By G. Bestick VINE VOICE on February 12, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I picked up Amulet for two reasons. First, Roberto Bolano is the "it" boy of Latin American novelists at the moment - critics and the literary fashionistas are climbing all over The Savage Detectives and 2666. Second the massacre at Tlateloco, which is what this book is about, is a shameful, neglected event in Mexican history.

Tlateloco first. In 1968, many thinking Mexicans were pushing the PRI, the ruling party in a one party country, to become more open and democratic. Some specific demands were: the repeal of an article in the penal code that allowed people to be locked up for "crimes of opinion;" the freeing of certain political prisoners; the removal of Mexico City's police chief. On October 2, 1968, students from the Autonomous University and elsewhere gathered for a meeting in Mexico City at the Plaza de Tlateloco. The army surrounded the plaza and opened fire. By the best estimates, over 300 people were killed and thousands more injured and arrested. Even by the harsh standards of Latin American politics, it was a massively brutal response, one that went largely unnoticed outside of Latin America in that turbulent year.

Amulet is a book that wants to bear witness. The story is told by Auxilio Lacoutre, an eccentric Uruguayan who fancies herself as the "mother of Mexican poetry" for the disinterested love and attention she showers on Mexico City's aspiring poets, including one Arturo Belano, a stand-in for the author. Auxilio becomes a heroine, at least in her own mind, because in 1968 she was holed up for almost two weeks in a ladies room at the Autonomous University while it was under siege by the police and the army.
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