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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Be seduced
Be seduced by a woman's love. The woman is the narrator of this gorgeous, intimate story of creative freedom. For Roberto Bolaño to write through the eyes and feelings of a woman with such confidence and clarity is remarkable. Written entirely using free direct speech the narrative is so beautifully crafted that I read Amulet as much for the pure pleasure of its...
Published on 10 Sep 2009 by W. Rodick

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2.0 out of 5 stars Rambling
Perhaps this is the wrong book to begin with for a Bolano newcomer such as myself: though short, its brevity is at the price of any trace of the epic vision Bolano is said to display in his other books. Nevertheless, I found it very disappointing. The book is a stream-of-consciousness tale of the bohemian scene of Mexico City in the 60s and 70s driven by an unreliable...
Published on 15 Jun 2010 by alexliamw


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A look at life, poetry, and revolution in Mexico City., 31 July 2013
By 
P. McCLEAN (Dublin) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Amulet (Paperback)
Roberto Bolaño came to my attention when his book 2666 appeared on a shelf in my local bookshop. 2666 is an enormous book and it looks impressive and is quite pretty. Always being susceptible to the charms of a pretty book I investigated, saw the ebullient praise of Bolaño's work and got suspicious. Is he this good? Will I like his work?

"Amulet" provided the toe in the water for this author's writing and my impression, having finished this teaser, is that I shall be reading his other works.

In "Amulet", Bolaño gives the reader a view of the world of South American poetry, and the poetry scene in Mexico City in particular, over a period spanning the 1960s and 70s. The narrator is a lover of poetry who has devoted her life to being near the poets whose work she loves, and the young poets whose energy, enthusiasm and freedom of thought touches her.

If asked what this book is about I would say it is about poetry, revolutionary thoughts, love, the passing of time and growing old.

Bolaño's mechanism for presenting this history is interesting and I think frees the reader from the linear passage of time, and blurs the boundaries between real memories and possible memories.

I would suggest the narrator is not one hundred percent reliable, but the result comes across as a credible perception of Mexico City in those decades and the symbiotic relationship between the poetry movements and South American revolutionary thought, and indeed, action.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Be seduced, 10 Sep 2009
By 
W. Rodick (Cheshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Amulet (Paperback)
Be seduced by a woman's love. The woman is the narrator of this gorgeous, intimate story of creative freedom. For Roberto Bolaño to write through the eyes and feelings of a woman with such confidence and clarity is remarkable. Written entirely using free direct speech the narrative is so beautifully crafted that I read Amulet as much for the pure pleasure of its prose as for the adventures and characters contained therein. The vocabulary is so rich and varied and yet so consistent that I am sure it is not the consequence of Chris Andrews' immaculate translation. It is the work of a free mind.

A free mind witness to 'the intricate conduits of dryness.'

If you only read one book by Roberto Bolaño I urge you to read Amulet. If you do not know what an amulet is then use a dictionary after you have finished reading the book as I did. Entiendo.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 29 Aug 2009
By 
M. Dowden (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Amulet (Hardcover)
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This is the fifth book of Bolano's that I have now read and as with the other four I absolutely loved it. If you have never read Bolano before you are in for a real treat, although I should warn you that this is probably the most surreal of his works. If you have read Bolano before you will know that incidents and characters pop up in more than one novel, indeed this book in itself is a kind of expansion of an incident in The Savage Detectives which was first published the year before this.

If you don't know what happened in 1968 in Mexico City it is really not that important but to help you, there were demonstrations, protests, etc which led to over two hundred people being killed and a thousand being injured; this was only a short time before the Olympic Games that were held in that city that year (indeed these had their own problems when two black athletes made the Black Power sign; these were also the first Olympics to be held at such a high altitude above sea level and also the first where dope teating was first intoduced).

We are introduced to Auxilio Lacouture, a Uruguayan living in Mexico who is the self styled 'Mother of Mexican Poetry'. We don't really know what Auxilio does, we only have what she says, but it would seem that she is really some kind of groupie who hangs around the intelligentsia; we are given the impression that she cleans and does odd jobs for them and gets laid by them. When the army move into the university to clear it Auxilio finds herself in the toilets and manages to hide out there whilst the troubles are going on, drinking water from the tap and eating toilet paper. All she has with her is a book of Mexican poetry. With nothing to do Auxilio starts looking back on her life, both real events and others that she invents, and then re-invents. We are led on a hypnotic and surreal journey through the lives of the people she has met or has wished to, never really being sure of what is truth and what is fiction. This may sound a bit weird or off putting but let me assure you that it does work, Bolano pulls it off with some aplomb.

There is as always a semi-autobiographical sense in this book, and indeed Arturo Belano is Roberto Bolano himself. We are given a glimpse into the lives of these poets from that time, and the interactions between them and Auxilio, finding out that a lot of them are actually immigrants like Auxilio who have either left willingly or been forced to flee their own countries due to political, reactionary reasons. This book takes in Greek myth, the infamous plane crash in the Andes where those who survived only did so due to cannibalism and Auxilio's predictions/ prophecies of who will re-emerge as literary luminaries in the future. As usual there is a strong literary theme to the whole novel, which although is short as usual packs in a lot more than you would expect.

All in all this is a great little book and if you haven't read Bolano before will make you hanker for more, although I should warn you that we did Last Evenings on Earth at my local reading group and only one other person with myself absolutely loved it. Personally I love what the late great Bolano wrote and it definitely needs to be read by a wider audience, it is so easy to read and appeals to something deep inside you.
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4.0 out of 5 stars "How right they are, dust and literature, from the beginning...", 15 Feb 2013
By 
John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Amulet (Paperback)
Roberti Bolano was a Latin American author who was born in Chile, and subsequently lived in several other countries, including Mexico. He died in 2003, at the age of 50. He was posthumously awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2008 for his magnum opus, 2666. Some have described him as taking the literary mantel of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Carlos Fuentes. "Amulet" is the first work of his that I have read. It does seem to be a good introduction, mixing real life literary figures with some of the traumatic political events in Latin American, all served up in the style sometimes dubbed "magically realism."

Auxilio Lacouture, who features in some of his other novels, is the central character in this one. She is a middle aged woman from Montevideo, who goes to Mexico City, and survives by hanging around the university, picking up odd jobs (and the occasional youthful poet.) Early in the novel, she is the maid for two prominent poets, Leon Filipe and Peditro Garfias, both of whom die within a short period of each other, around 1968. The subject quote is her observation, from her "maid duties," of their bookshelves.

One of the characters that Auxilio befriends is the youthful Arturito Belano, who appears to be the author's alter-ego. There is a memorable scene in which she takes the rather inebriated Arturito home. It is the first time she meets Arturito's mother. The two women are approximately the same age. Auxilio says she believes in being frank, and so hastily assures the mother that she and her son have not slept together.

Another scene that is woven throughout the novel is when the Army invades the university in September, 1968, removing many of the students and those "leftist professors." Auxilio hides in the women's bathroom for two weeks. Literary connections and "what-might-have-beens" are also sprinkled throughout the novel. For example, she cites the meeting between the youthful Ezra Pound and the mature W.B. Yeats, and the influence this had on the former's work. Likewise, she speculates on what a similar meeting might have produced between two Latin American poets, the youthful Huidobro and Ruben Dario, if the latter had not died so young, before reaching 50. Hum. The author also revisits tales from Greek legends, specifically when Agamemnon comes back from Troy, and his wife Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus kill him, and how that reverberates through the subsequent generation.

Another central theme, which appears in other works of the author, is when Arturito returns to Chile, to work on behalf of Salvador Allende when he came to power, only to be caught up in the Pinochet counter-coup, arrested, and held for eight days. Apparently with the help of some former students, he escapes, and is treated as a "mature warrior-veteran" when he returns to Mexico City, by yet more youthful poets.

Overall, I found this novel a good introduction to Bolano, and the continued Latin American literary tradition of "magically realism." However, for me, there is a narrow line between that style and the wild semi-hallucinatory ramblings of William Burroughs, as in The Naked Lunch. Towards the end, Bolano crossed over the line a bit too much for my taste, hence, only 4-stars.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Another mesmerising effort from Bolano, 11 Sep 2012
By 
jacr100 "jacr100" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Amulet (Paperback)
Auxilio Lacouture is the 'mother of Mexican poetry', trapped inside a university toilet while the military intimidate a student uprising. With nowhere to go and no-one to talk to, she begins to ruminate on her life thus far.

So far so straightforward.

As the time passes Auxilio begins to make less chronological sense as the boundaries between past and future, experience and projection become increasingly blurred.

Bolano plays with time and memory to create a wonderful collection of anecdotes and prophecies. The writing is of such a high degree that as a reader you stop looking for "answers" or "sense" but rather let yourself be taken wholeheartedly into the increasingly delusional mind of Lacouture.

There is only one voice in the book, which could be a difficult trick to pull off in terms of maintaining reader interest and developing variety. While I enjoyed Auxilio and found her a typical Bolano creation, there is no denying that the tone is somewhat similar throughout (perhaps the length of the novel is therefore perfectly judged).

Having read other Bolano titles, I remain very pleased to have discovered him. There is a nerdy quality in his writing that books and literature matter; that there is no more noble calling than to create great poetry. Bolano repays his followers by having his characters pop up in his novels as major ones here and minor ones elsewhere. There is even another Hitchcock-like cameo for his alter ego Arturito Belano - wielding a knife and attacking a local pimp.

On the surface this is a tale of an elderly woman recalling her life within the literary circles of her time. Beneath the surface, it is a mind-stretching dose of LSD with a message in bright neon letters that nothing in life is more important than love and books. And that's a message I can get on board with.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Amulet, 18 Nov 2011
By 
Jack Olsen "jlo" (copenhagen) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Amulet (Paperback)
New readers to Roberto Bolano should perhaps start with his earlier work "the savage detectives" in that this novel is closer look at one of the figures in the earlier book, but like all the works of Bolano, his narative flows like water from a fountain,and here giving the reader a small glimpse of the atvantgard poets of 68-76 Mexico City, and their struggle to stay afloat in the mainstream of life
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2.0 out of 5 stars Rambling, 15 Jun 2010
By 
alexliamw (New Haven, CT) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Amulet (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Perhaps this is the wrong book to begin with for a Bolano newcomer such as myself: though short, its brevity is at the price of any trace of the epic vision Bolano is said to display in his other books. Nevertheless, I found it very disappointing. The book is a stream-of-consciousness tale of the bohemian scene of Mexico City in the 60s and 70s driven by an unreliable narrator. Unfortunately the unreliable narrator is not employed subtly, with the unreliability hitting you round the head, chiefly exhibited through obvious date mix-ups and failure to remember whether particular episodes even occurred. Furthermore, the book's structure is not 'complex', as one can imagine its devotees might proclaim, but rather non-existent: we dart in and out of different episodes with no masterplan at all. I certainly don't object to non-linearity but non-linear structures ought to serve a purpose to make a broader point, if a book is to be more than a series of musings. But my biggest problem with the book was simply that it didn't emotionally resonate with me at all and I couldn't empathise with the characters. The narrator, Auxilio, is conceited and has a highly annoying habit of speaking in quasi-Hegelian dialectic at times (perhaps intended as a product of her hanging around a Mexican philosophy department, as the story has it) -- saying one thing and then the precise opposite, rendering the faux-profound observations rather meaningless. There are nice turns of phrase here and there and the writing is fluent and almost poetic, which prevents the book from being actively unpleasant to read, but it is not so beautiful as to make the book engaging on its own (in the way that say, Kerouac, who one might see affinities with, can be). I ended up without a sense of what the book was trying to say, and the combination of this with plotlessness made it a frustrating read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Pleasure to read, 18 Sep 2009
By 
Ed Meister "Web Product Guru" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Amulet (Hardcover)
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Started off as a good read but lost it's way with the timeshift. Put it down, picked it up and started again and enjoyed.
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4.0 out of 5 stars 'courage and mirrors, desire and pleasure', 17 Sep 2009
By 
purpleheart (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Amulet (Paperback)
'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' is the opening of Roberto Bolaño's short novel Amulet.

It wasn't until I'd finished the novel that I thought again about that opening - what is the horror story? what is the terrible crime? Bolaño's protagonist, Auxilio Lacouture, is trapped in the toilet of the university for 12 days and the horror, the terrible crime, is the atrocity of the killings that took place there in 1968.

But as Auxilio says 'it won't seem like that' as the books travels through her past and future and imaginings, poetry and politics, so that much is explored in its 184 pages. Perhaps it's too elaborate though if it's not getting its core message across simply?

Bolaño's alter ego Arturo Belano appears here in the bohemian world that Lacouture inhabits in Mexico city. She know all the poets and says that 'I am the mother of Mexico's poets. I am the only one who held out in the university in 1968' and even in the women's toilet she has the book of poetry that she took in there to read.

So what about the title, what is the amulet, the talisman, against such atrocity? - the very end of the novel explains.

I first read Distant Star in 2005 for my book group and moved on to The Savage Detectives, impressed by the power and intelligence of his writing. The publication of 2666 has highlighted his growing stature in the English speaking world - but I admit I have yet to finish it as it's both brilliant and hard work.

Amulet is fascinating, although it is probably not the best introduction to his work and doesn't show his full talent
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4.0 out of 5 stars Divides opinion - but I enjoyed it for its style, 3 Sep 2009
By 
Ripple (uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Amulet (Hardcover)
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Amulet is a beautifully written, poetic story of the dreams and hallucinations of Auxilio Lacouture as she is left hidden in the bathroom of Mexico University when the right wing army invade in September 1968, with only a book of poetry for company. She is the only one left on the site and her mind imagines a number of bohemian encounters with the poets and artists of Mexico City not only in the past and present day, but also in the future. At times she is aware that these are dreams but as time goes on, lack of food and fear make these more an more real to the narrator. It is deeply moving and Auxilio's voice is interesting and charming - with a nice touch of self awareness that makes it easy to empathise with her. What makes it so beautiful is that the language is both clever but also very grounded in the every day language of the struggles of the poor and artistic community in Latin America. Even before her shocking experience, she was always an outsider to the artistic community and she continues very much to be an observer. It is the artists who can concentrate of beauty while suffering and struggling that seems to speak to many Latin American writers (Bolano is Chilean) many of whose countries have suffered terrible political mismanagement.

It has an unmistakably Latin American style - if, like me, you love the works of writers such as Gabriel García Márquez, then you will undoubtedly enjoy this book - although it is a lot less complex than books like One Hundred Years of Solitude. But it shares the same dream like qualities, and a lack of coherent narrative - which is either beautiful or annoying depending on your point of view. It's also much shorter - and is more a novella than a full blown novel. Writing of dreams and hallucinations can so easily lose the reader, but this kept me enthralled partly because of the simple beauty of the language.

It's a beautiful and moving book and I will certainly look out for other of the late writer's works. Highly recommended, particularly if you already enjoy the Latin American writing style or just beautiful poetic writing. But if you are a slave to plot, then this book isn't for you.

EDIT: If you are interested in Spanish writing, check out Granta 113: The Best of Young Spanish Novelists (Granta: The Magazine of New Writing) for some interesting names to watch out for.
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Amulet
Amulet by Roberto Bolano (Hardcover - 4 Sep 2009)
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