Original title: Amuleto
Original language: Spanish
Translation to English by: Chris Andrews, 2006
Page count: 184
The back says: Auxilio Lacouture is trapped. For twelve days she hides alone in a lavatory on the fourth floor of the university. Staring at the floor, she begins a heartfelt and feverish tale: she is the mother of Mexican poetry.
I say: I expected this to be a tale about Auxilio being trapped in the lavatory for twelve days and reminiscing about her life prior to that incident. However, it was hard to tell exactly from which point of time it was told, veering indiscriminately from before, during and after that imprisonment, and somehow this made the tale more powerful and magical.
Unfortunately, I do not know enough of Roberto Bolaño to give an opinion on the character Arturo Belano being his alter ego, the fact that he refers to his magnus opus 2666, or that Auxilio has her own 10-page chapter in the novel The Savage Detectives. Therefore, for me this is a first-person stream of consciousness (which I love) that begins as such:
This is going to be a horror story. A story of murder, detection and horror. But it won’t appear to be, for the simple reason that I am the teller. Told by me, it won’t seem like that. Although, in fact, it’s the story of a terrible crime.
And continues to follow the self-proclaimed mother of Mexican poetry, and what I loved the most was the depictions of her time spent with the young poets of Mexico and Latin America – and her namedropping of Ché Guevara.
Mind me, the only name I recognised was Federico Garcia Lorca (whom I adore).
There is something authentic about the prose that made me want to believe every word. Perhaps it was the combination of adding actual people and the fact that the occupation of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) was a historical event that I knew nothing about (an appreciated unexpected lesson in history reading this novel).
4/5 and now I’ve bumped up 2666 a few spots on my TBR-list.