Week 3: Characters

by Brooks Williams

Augusto Guerra

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Letters in Saint Teresa, makes the introduction to Amalfitano (112).

Oscar Amalfitano

Acts as a guide for Norton, Espinoza and Pelletier in Saint Teresa. Translated The Endless Rose in 1974 (116). He is from Chile. The Critics are fond of him (130). Norton’s initial impression “was of a sad man whose life was ebbing swiftly away…” (114).

“Exile must be a terrible thing,” said Norton sympathetically.

“Actually,” said Amalfirano, “now I see it as a natural movement, something that, in its way, helps to abolish fate, of what is generally thought of as fate.”

“But exile,” said Pelletier, “is full of inconveniences, of skips and breaks that essentially keep recurring and interfere with anything you try to do that’s important.”

“That’s just what I mean by abolishing fate,” said Amalfitano.  “But again, I beg your pardon.” (117)

Has a copy of Rafael Dieste ‘s Testamento geometrico hanging on his clothesline.

Appears to have a close relationship with Augusto Guerra’s son (128, 130).

Rector Negrete

Rector at the University of Santa Teresa. Tall, lightly tanned (111). Norton, Espinoza and Pelletier attend a party at his home (127).

Augusto Guerra

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Letters at the University of Santa Teresa (112). Makes the introduction, by letter, between Amalfitano and Norton, Pelletier and Espinoza.

Doktor Koenig

“German” magician and member of the Circo Internacional in Santa Teresa. Visited by Amalfitano and The Critics (132). Turns out he’s an American named Andy Lopez. His act entails making living things disappear – moving from small (flea) to large (child).

Albert Kessler

Mentioned (138).


Girl who sells rugs in the market. High school age, wants to become a nurse (125). Espinoza has a romantic relationship with her and takes her and her brother (Eulogio) under his wing. She has a sister named Cristina (147).


Rebeca’s little brother (149). Works with Rebeca in the market.

Rodrigo Fresan (1963 – ) – Argentinian writer and journalist. He was a close friend of Bolano.

Zocalo -A massive plaza in the center of Mexico City. The word zocalo translates to “base” or “plinth”.

Plaza Santo Domingo – A plaza surrounding the Church of Santo Domingo in Mexico City. In the plaza, writers can be found with typewriters, willing to draft legal documents, etc for illiterate people. “Unfortunately, this area is also very well-known for the falsification of documents.” (Maybe that’s why Archimboldi wanted to go there…)
Angel on Reforma – A victory column featuring a bronze angel (representing law, war, justice and peace) perched at the top. The column is at the center of a roundabout in central Mexico City. It was built to commemorate the centennial Mexico’s War of Independence. It looks similar to the Victory Column in Berlin.
Mikhail Bulgakov (1891 – 1940) – Russian novelist and playwright. His most famous work is The Master and Margarita, a novel Bulgakov spent ten years writing and rewriting. It was in its fourth draft when Bulgakov died and was finished by his wife in 1941.
Situationists – An international revolutionary group active from 1957 – 1972. The situationists rejected capitalism and held that mass media manufactured a false reality that attempted to cover up the degradation of the working class at the hands of capitalism.
Marcel Schwob (1867 – 1905) – French symbolist writer. Translated Robert Louis Stevenson to French.
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 – 1894) – Scottish writer. Author of Treasure Island, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Kidnapped (among others).
Silvio Berlusconi (1936 – ) – Italian Prime Minister and billionaire.
Willie Nelson (1933 – ) – American country music singer and songwriter.
Martin Heidegger (1889 – 1976) – Hugely influential German philosopher who questioned the fundamental question of “being”.
Gunter Grass (1927 – ) – German writer. Nobel Prize (Literature) in 1999.
Arno Schmidt (1914 – 1979) – German author and translator.
Franz Kafka (1883 – 1924) – German writer. Notable works include The Metamorphosis and The Trial.
Peter Handke (1942 – ) – Austrian controversial avant-guard novelist and playwright.
Thomas Bernhard (1931 – 1989) – Austrian controversial playwright and novelist.

PRI– The Industrial Revolutionary Party. Formerly a socialist party, the PRI occupies the center-left of Mexican politics. The PRI was the dominant political party in Mexico for much of the 20th century.
PAN– The National Action Party. Â Theoretically neither a left or right-wing party, the PAN can generally be viewed in a christian context and thus currently occupies a place in Mexican right-wing politics. The president of Mexico has been a member of the PAN since 2000.
Paul Valery (1871 – 1945) – French symbolist poet.

Louis-Ferdinand Celine (1894 – 1961) – French writer. Real name was Louis-Ferdinand Destouches. Notable works include Journey to the End of the Night.

Pierre Drieu La Rochelle (1893 – 1945) – French writer and Nazi collaborator.
Charles Maurras (1868 – 1952) – French writer. Believed in fascism, but did not support Hitler and the Nazis
The Gorgons – The children of Phorcys and Ceto, “the term commonly refers to any of three sisters who had hair of living, venomous snakes, and a horrifying gaze that turned those who beheld it to stone. Traditionally, while two of the Gorgons were immortal, Stheno and Euryale, their sister Medusa was not, and was slain by the mythical hero Perseus.”
Rafael Dieste (1899 – 1981) – Spanish writer. Testamento geometrico – I found this
Pierre Michon (1945 – ) – French writer. Notable works include Small Lives and The Origin of the World.
Jean Rolin (1949 – ) – French writer and journalist. Notable works include L’organisation.

Javier Marias (1951 – ) – Spanish novelist and translator. Since 1986 all of his protagonists have been translators. Notable works include A Heart So White.

Enrique Vila-Matas (1948 – ) – Spanish novelist. Notable works include Bartleby & Co. and Montano’s Malady.


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