August 3, 2021 | Rome, Italy

Amulet

By | 2018-03-21T18:29:20+01:00 July 1st, 2007|Recent Reviews|

By Roberto Bolaño, translated from the Spanish by Chris Andrews

New Directions, 1999 (2007). 184 pages.

Listen carefully to Auxilio Lacouture. She’s Bolaño’s “Don Quixote” in drag, the “last Uruguayan on the planet,” the blue-eyed “mother of all Mexican poetry,” a graying interloper who stalks Mexico City’s “incurable streets” and mingles with a feral generation of downtrodden writers. Auxilio sings metaphysical campfire songs that enchant Bolaño’s down-and-out Mexico City. Locked in the ladies room at Mexico City’s besieged and bloodied university in 1968, Auxilio begins telling of bored artists, gay slaves, and “broken doll” writers who bed Che Guevara. Even a teenaged Chilean exile named Arturito Belano — a curly-haired “child of the sewers” — makes an appearance. This of course is Bolaño.

Homeric Auxilio does for Mexico City what no one did successfully for Paris of the 1920s: build a surreal, elegiac vessel for a lost generation. It’s self-conscious literary voodoo that works. When her (Argentine)”“guardian angel” asks her dream questions about the future of literature, she plays along: James Joyce will be reincarnated as Chinese boy in 2124; Chekhov has three scheduled reincarnations, the last in 2081; and Marguerite Duras will “live in the nervous system of thousands of women in 2035.” Why is this all so believable? Auxilio may be making herself up from whole cloth, even she isn’t sure, but without her (and Bolaño’s fierce prose) collective memory has no bite.

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