After reading Amulet, I truly understand why Bolano has been very popular among the literary-minded in the last decade. His books are filled with poets, fictionists, literary admirers, academics, and the like, both living and dead, as well as historical and fictional.
Amulet follows in this vein by presenting the sometimes sober and sometimes raving narrative of Auxilio, a woman who found herself trapped in the toilet when soldiers invaded the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in 1968 to flush out radical student protesters.
Styling herself the ‘mother of Mexican poetry’, Auxilio recalls how she lived and survived day to day as a literary bum doing odd errands at the university by day and hanging out with young poets at cafes and bars during the night.
This is pretty much standard material for many contemporary fiction churned out by creative writing mills and based on the ‘writerly life’ or the travails of the ‘academic circuit’.
That is, except for the narrator’s particular circumstance which clearly point to the repressive milieu (US-backed Latin American dictatorships) within which she lived and which most readers around the world continue to endure up to the present. And it could have just been that. Another playful and ironic blah.
But what won me over to Amulet is the ending, a surreal sequence wherein the narrator saw a mob of children marching into an abyss and singing a song of war and love.
The book’s title Amulet is a tribute to an entire generation of young Latin Americans who, like Che Guevara, Roque Dalton, Otto Rene Castillo, and thousands more, fought and sacrificed themselves in revolutionary wars in the name of the people.