When the Mexican army invades the National Autonomous University in September 1968, Auxilio Lacouture spends 12 days hiding in the fourth-floor bathroom, the only civilian left on campus. The self-proclaimed Mother of Mexican Poetry recalls her life among writers, dreamers and failures, from her childhood in Uruguay to the teenage Mexican poets she saves from the King of the Rent Boys.

Auxilio's memories transform into prophesies of Mexico's distant future, the years she is yet to live, and all the writers yet to be reborn: "Alice Sheldon shall appeal to the masses in the year 2017. Alfonse Reyes shall be killed . . . in the year 2058, but in fact it shall be Reyes who kills his killers. Marguerite Duras shall live in the nervous system of thousands of women in 2035." Roberto Bolaño redefined the form of the novel in his masterpiece 2666; with the hallucinatory narrative of Amulet, he reimagines what literature can become.

Picador, 192pp, £14.99

This article first appeared in the 12 October 2009 issue of the New Statesman, Barack W Bush