28 June 2010

Roberto Bolaño, Amulet, 1999

Picador picked up a total of eleven Bolaño titles in 2009, and this was the first to be released in English after publication of his posthumous magnum opus 2666. There is a link between the two books: the year 2666 gets a mention here, included among the many other ramblings of Bolaño’s wonderful creation Auxilio Lacouture, a Uruguayan immigrant and the self-declared ‘mother of Mexican poetry’. She’s holed up in a Mexico City university washroom, hiding from the military as they try to quell student demonstrations in 1968; her rather prolonged stay there results in an increasingly hallucinatory excursion backwards and forwards in time as she recalls meeting people she could never have met, plus some far-flung predictions of which authors will be popular in, say, 2059 or 2017 – there’s a surprise in store here for fans of science fiction as Bolaño indulges a penchant for name-dropping outside his own genre. He also gives himself plenty of space to let his words breathe with his familiar long rambling sentences, and it’s often difficult to see where fact separates from fiction or where he is taking the story until the very last page, although the thrill, as with By Night in Chile, is in Auxilio’s mad journey itself. Simply, a lovely book.  PY


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