By Night in Chile

By Night in Chile

Unknown - 2003
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As through a crack in the wall, By Night in Chile's single night-long rant provides a terrifying, clandestine view of the strange bedfellows of Church and State in Chile. This wild, eerily compact novel--Roberto Bolano's first work available in English--recounts the tale of a poor boy who wanted to be a poet, but ends up a half-hearted Jesuit priest and a conservative literary critic, a sort of lap dog to the rich and powerful cultural elite, in whose villas he encounters Pablo Neruda and Ernst Junger. Father Urrutia is offered a tour of Europe by agents of Opus Dei (to study "the disintegration of the churches," a journey into realms of the surreal); and ensnared by this plum, he is next assigned--after the destruction of Allende--the secret, never-to-be-disclosed job of teaching Pinochet, at night, all about Marxism, so the junta generals can know their enemy. Soon, searingly, his memories go from bad to worse. Heart-stopping and hypnotic, By Night in Chile marks the American debut of an astonishing writer.
Publisher: New York : New Directions Pub., 2003
ISBN: 9780811215473
Branch Call Number: FIC Bolan
Characteristics: 118 p
Additional Contributors: Andrews, Chris


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Oct 08, 2010

Then she began to mix with writers and realized that they were not particularly well educated either. What a relief that must have been. A very Chilean sort of relief. So few of us are truly cultured in this god-forsaken country. The rest are completely ignorant. Pleasant, likeable people all the same.

Oct 08, 2010

. . . and then they gave me a letter addressed to me and written by Mr Raef, in which he asked How's Europe going, what's the weather like, and the food and the sites of historical interest, a ridiculous letter but somehow it seemed to conceal another, invisible letter, more serious in content, and this hidden letter, although I couldn't tell what is said or even be sure it really existed, worried me deeply.

Oct 08, 2010

In this barbaric country, the critic's path, he said, is not strewn with roses. In this country of estate owners, he said, literature is an oddity and nobody values knowing how to read.


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Nov 28, 2014

Goodness! This whole book, all 118 pages of it is one long chapter, and one loooong paragraph. There isn't a single break in the text from beginning to end. This is slightly annoying because there is absolutely no natural place to put the book down, you just have to stop in the middle of the paragraph. It's also slightly intimidating to look at, just a huge block of seemingly never-ending text (never-ending despite the fact that it's only 118 pages long). To be continued...

Later - The plot is quite interesting, but having all these authors' (mostly Chilean, I think, if they are indeed real) names thrown at me is getting confusing especially when I'm not sure whether they're real authors (or even people, I mean this is a fictional story).

There are a lot of threads running through this book for only having read 30 pages. Farewell, strange name, I wonder if it means something different in Spanish, is behaving like he's about to molest Sebastian (the narrator). Sebastian is strangely disgusted by the workers at Farewell's estate, something which I don't understand considering the fact that he trained as a priest. Sebastian keeps mentioning 'the wizened youth' and how this youth made a slur against his reputation (telling that story is supposedly the whole reason for this book, which is being told from Sebastian's deathbed), but it's unclear to me whether 'the wizened youth' is meant to represent himself when he was young and he himself did something that ruined his reputation, or if there really was a 'youth' who said/did something that created a scandal that has followed Sebastian ever since. To be continued...

15/10 - Who or what are Mr Etah and Mr Raef (hate and fear) meant to represent. There are a lot of real people playing parts through this story, and that's making me think that it's not all fiction. Was Sebastian Urrutia Lacroix a real person? Or was a fictional character inserted into real events? To be continued...

16/10 - I think this would have been more relevant to me if I had even a minute amount of knowledge of Chilean writers or their works. Farewell and Sebastian kept comparing and discussing the merits of all these Chilean authors and I didn't even know whether those authors were real people. I even came to believe Sebastian himself was real (so many details of his fictional life were inserted into real events that I began to think it entirely possible), but then I googled him and got the biography of a Mexican soccer player, and I realised I had been fooled and Bolaño was simply very skilled at merging the fictional with the real.

In summation, this was an interesting read that I didn't really get the point of. I found it very similar in style to Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night. Both authors had a plot that they were working to, but were constantly drawn off in not particularly relevant tangents that made the plot hard to follow (or truly enjoy). Recommended if you have a plan to read a book by an author from every country in the world, and are missing Chile.

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