Roberto Bolano, Amores Perros, and more

Roberto Bolano, Amores Perros, and more


Corruption: whether political or economic, it’s everywhere. It resists almost all efforts to uproot it and combat it and appears, for the moment, to be perhaps the defining process of American politics. Read our review of the Italian publisher and journalist Carlo Alberto Brioschi’s excellent history of the subject.

“Reading is like thinking, like praying, like talking to a friend, like expressing your ideas, like listening to other people’s ideas, like listening to music, like looking at the view, like taking a walk on the beach.” Is that a lot to keep track of? Or does that description of reading sound just kaleidoscopic enough to pique your interest? If so, welcome to 2666, Roberto Bolaño’s masterwork. The plot circles around a fictional city standing in for Ciudad Juárez and a search to find a lost, mysterious German writer amid its violence epidemic — that and the lives of academics, journalists, criminals, and ex-soldiers. With writing this panoramic, it is easy to understand why reading will relate to just about anything when Bolaño has you in his grasp.

Don’t expect an end to intersecting storylines or the Mexican setting for our movie pick this week: Amores Perros, nominated for best Foreign Language Film in 2000 at the Academy Awards, and winner of the Best Picture award from the Mexican Academy of Film that same year. The film tells three separate stories centered around one car crash in Mexico City. One is about a young man from the slums building up cash through dog fights to get out of town with a lover besieged by family problems. The second touches on life at a higher sphere: a magazine publisher and his supermodel wife whose leg is horribly damaged by the car crash — when their dog disappears from their apartment, the cracks in the marriage start to show. And finally there’s the most mysterious and, probably, most interesting character — the contract killer, who we think is just a homeless man for most of the film. Striving to make right by his estranged daughter and a pack of mongrels he takes care of, this dogged man with his exceptionally dirty skin and disheveled hair does the title and ending of the movie justice. No, really: as it turns out, the title is as dynamic as the tripartite storyline. While Amores clearly links to love, the word Perros refers to both misery and dogs.

ON THIS DAY IN 1914 . . .
Set far before (most) of what we’ve already talked about in this week’s Rostrum, a critical moment in Mexican nationhood happened on this day in history in 1914, when President Victoriano Huerta of Mexico broke off diplomatic relations with America. There was a time just over a century ago when U.S. troops occupied Mexican soil. Huerta seized power — and lasted all of 17 months before his army collapsed — in 1913 after assassinating the pro-democratic the Mexican President, the President’s brother, and the Vice President in a conspiracy now known as La Decenca Tragica — or the Ten Tragic Days. Civil war quickly followed; Woodrow Wilson lost faith in Huerta after he refused to at least pretend to be democratically elected. Anti-American demonstrations sponsored by the government raged after Wilson refused to recognize Huerta’s government, embargos followed along with even more bloody civil strife in Mexico, until armed Constitutionalists ousted Huerta as the U.S. Atlantic Fleet seized Veracruz. It should also be noted that Wilson, a Southern white supremacist, grew angry at Huerta for starting a civil war that funneled Mexican refugees and immigrants into America. Hopefully our current President won’t find himself invading Mexico any time soon.