The protagonist, middle-aged Uruguayan exile Auxilio Lacouture, is a poets' groupie. Not too bright, not too beautiful, she hangs around the young, impoverished versifiers of Mexico City and makes ends meet by odd jobs in the Faculty of Philosophy and Literature at Mexico University.
This bohemian lifestyle is shattered in 1968 when, at the behest of the right-wing Government, the army invades the autonomous university beating, arresting and torturing all and sundry. Auxilio hides for 12 days without food in the ladies' rest room on the fourth floor. Starvation brings her hallucinatory visions, vignettes of poets and politics: Arturito, the poet turned Chilean revolutionary; Ernesto, the gay poet in thrall to the King of the Rent Boys and how he escaped; the faded beauty Lilian Serpas and her son Carlos Coffeen Serpas, a mediocre artist drunk on Greek mythology.
Bolano writes like a painter, weaving imagery which flutters and darts in front of the reader. Beneath the unsettling web of allusions, the novel is powered by Bolano's cold anger at the repression, and its crushing of a generation of doomed youth. One can only marvel at his skill and passion.
[Amazon Vine review].