author: Roberto Bolaño

name: Steev

average rating: 3.79

book published: 2002

rating: 4

read at: 2010/01/07

date added: 2010/01/09

shelves: novels, own-it, politics

This short novel is, even for Bolaño, very strange. The bulk of the story seems to take place as a sort of dream being dreamt by the narrator, all while she is dozing on the floor trapped in a bathroom at the university in Mexico City during the infamous government invasion of the campus in October 1968.

This character and her ordeal is mentioned briefly in Bolaño's much lengthier book The Savage Detectives, as are several other characters, including his alter-ego Arturo Belano. The substance of Amulet, though, seems without very much cohesive plot, even, again, relative to other work by this author. It's really a collection of anecdotes told by this woman as she remembers or imagines various events in her life as an itinerant poet, intellectual, and scenester in the avant garde poetry scene of D.F. in the 60s and 70s.

As such, I found it somewhat less satisfying than Savage Detectives or 2666, though still extremely powerful and touching. Plus, the book made me realize a comparison about Bolaño that may or may not seem gross or dumb, but it may or may not also be useful and profound: Vonnegut. Bolaño is like a Latin American Kurt Vonnegut, one generation younger but sharing many of the same traits and concerns in his work: a twinge of science fiction sensibility, surrealism, mystery, politics, intellectualism, a post-modern sensitivity, etc. He also shares with Vonnegut a crucial type of life experience, a horrifying episode that shaped his life and work. In brief, Roberto Bolaño's Slaughterhouse Five is the Pinochet coup in Chile, or perhaps more generally, the awful brutality of the various latin american dictatorships and civil wars that littered the era of his youth.