By night in Chile by Roberto Bolano



By night in Chile by Robert Bolano

Chilean fiction

Original title – Nocturno de Chile

Translator – Chris Andrews

Source – Library book


I dreamed I saw St. Augustine
Alive as you or me
Tearing through these quarters
In the utmost misery
With a blanket underneath his arm
And a coat of solid gold
Searching for the very souls
Whom already have been sold.

I choose  a Dylan lyric I dreamed of St .Augustine a song that is about Augustine of Hippo who wrote about Guilt and evil !

Well another year another Bolano  novel on the blog .I intend at some point to get all the books by Roberto Bolano  on this blog, for now  this is the seventh book by him I have reviewed on this blog .I’ve mentioned lots about Bolano before so , lets just say its twelve years since he dies and we are nearing the end of his books being published with just two more to come out in English one of those still to come out in  Spanish , that being  the  mysterious Diorama to come out .But the last on the list out in spanish is Little Lumpen novelita which came out in US late last year , no UK date I can see at the moment  .

I am dying now  , but still have many things to say .I used to be at peace with myself .Quiet and at peace. But it all blew up unexpectedly ,That wizened youth is to blame .I was at peace .I am no longer at peace .There are a couple of points that have to be cleared up .

The opening lines as he decides to write his own story on this one evening .

By night in chile could maybe called his stab at a modernist novel in a way it is a single piece told in one long paragraph by a priest  whom writes this all in the course of one night .who is also a poet Father Sebastian Urrutia lacroix , who is under the impression this is going to be his last night on earth so is writing the tale of his life down .A life of a poet and a priest , but of a nearly man  , a man who touched greatness in his life he knew Pablo Neruda , the great poet of Chile .But what we see is how his life also got caught up in the politics of Chile at the time the shift from the Allende regime to the stricter and ruthless reign of  Augusto Pinochet .The latter of which he ends up teaching , about communism .Added to this he is a member of Opus Dei what comes across is an embittered man who is so twisted by who he is inside it all comes pouring out on to the page over the course of this  one night as he thinks he is dying  .

Then I took a train to Turin , where I visited Fr Angelo , curate of St Paul of Succour , who was also versed in the falconers art .His falcon , called Othello  , had struck terror into the heart of every pigeon in Turin  , although as Fr Angelo confided in me , Othello was not the only falcon in the city ,

I choose this on a whim to quote just because H is for Hawk won the Costa just as I was finishing this book the other night !

Now I’ve been a bit vague as this is only a short novella and I’m not wanting to give too much away as ever the main character is a poet ,which I have found is the case in most of the novels by Bolano .The book is far more political than the other books I have read by Bolano , it is a lot more about , his homeland and the events that happened in the country in his youth .It is worth noting at this point , Bolano himself spent time in prison , which he describe in a story , but was it a story it seems as thou he may have been at Mexico at that time according to other reports .I love the mystery around his own life at the time .But what comes across in the book is that in some ways Lacroix is the juxtaposed of Bolano , some that stayed , some that worked with the regime , some one that was a poet as well .But by this time I feel Bolano viewed himself more as a Novelist than a poet , so unlike Lacroix , he had started to see success .Add to this Falconery as a hobby , years spent in Europe and an Opus Dei  side story in a way .At the start of this review I called this a Modernist Novel for me this was an attempt by Bolano to maybe do a Woolf or Joyce so to speak  an homage to their style in some ways I was most reminded of Mrs Dallowway in a way as it isn’t just one evening but also the course of a life in one book .

Have you read this or any shorter Bolano books ?


28 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings
    Jan 29, 2015 @ 13:42:04

    I haven’t read any Bolano though I’m very tempted – particularly as I seem to be exploring south American lit at the moment! 🙂


    • winstonsdad
      Jan 29, 2015 @ 13:45:12

      Bolano is one you have to try then he was the first modern voice of latin american fiction in some ways .


      • Amateur Reader (Tom)
        Jan 29, 2015 @ 15:11:33

        In what ways?

      • winstonsdad
        Jan 29, 2015 @ 15:21:14

        He was one first to break away from the dictator or magic realist novels that had been main stay of what came to us in English maybe not first in actual Spanish but he owes much to living in Mexico just as the writers their started to move in this direction to what eventually became the crack movement in Mexico which in some ways you could view Bolano as a distant cousin off

      • Amateur Reader (Tom)
        Jan 29, 2015 @ 15:40:42

        I see. It was “modern” that confused me. Magical realism and dictator novels are modern.

        Amusingly, in this context, By Night in Chile is a dictator novel.

      • winstonsdad
        Jan 29, 2015 @ 15:50:05

        It’s a new take on that style not a strict dictator novel as in I supreme or such maybe contemporary would been better he was first of what is a different generation of writers

      • Richard
        Jan 29, 2015 @ 18:02:37

        I love most of the Bolaño stuff I’ve read, Stu, but I have to disagree with the idea that he was one of the first Latin Americans to break away from the dictator and/or magical realist novels. Juan Carlos Onetti, Ricardo Piglia, Manuel Puig, and Juan José Saer, for example, to name four fellow South Americans that Bolaño was familiar with, have nothing to do with those types of novels either, and they all predated Bolaño by ages. Bolaño was, of course, the first Latin American to match the simultaneous commercial and critical success of García Márquiez, but that’s another matter.

        As far as By Night in Chile, it may interest you to know that both the priest/narrator and the female character who runs a literary workshop in the novel were both based on real Chileans. The priest was modeled on a real life Opus Dei-priest and literary critic named José Miguel Ibáñez Langlois, who did book reviews under various pseudonyms for a leading right wing newspaper in Pinochet’s time; María Canales, on the other hand, was based on the real life Mariana Callejas, accused of running a literary workshop out of the mansion that also doubled as the site of extralegal torture sessions run by the Chilean secret police, for whom she worked. The falconry bits that you mention in your post thus seem a clear reference to the shady Operation Condor, the Chilean secret police-sponsored threat to exterminate subversives outside the country in Europe and elsewhere: an allegory of hawks eliminating doves in other words. Anyway, nice post–I hope to reread this novel same day.

      • winstonsdad
        Jan 29, 2015 @ 18:18:55

        Yes next large writer is what I had in mind all those writers mention have been translated but never broke out I loved the Puig I read he is due a revival for sure

  2. Amateur Reader (Tom)
    Jan 29, 2015 @ 14:14:54

    The protagonist is not just a poet but also, much worse, a critic.


  3. MarinaSofia
    Jan 29, 2015 @ 14:53:32

    I just need to come to you for recommendations for South American writers. I only really know some Brazilian ones (not the most up-to-date either).


  4. The Lone Reader Blog
    Jan 29, 2015 @ 17:56:45

    Just read this myself. The first I’d read by Bolano and found it fascinating. I imagine it’s not his best work but can already see his influence on current Latin American writers. What’s the significance of him being a priest, do you think? Is it because of religion’s political role in Chile/Latin America?


    • winstonsdad
      Jan 29, 2015 @ 17:59:09

      I would thought so same with being Opus Dei the right side of the Catholic Church of the books I’ve read which includes the big two I read before the blog it’s a middling work but classic for that in some ways


  5. JacquiWine
    Jan 29, 2015 @ 17:59:33

    I don’t have this one, but it’s been on my radar for a while (although I can’t quite remember how I latched on to it). To be honest, my experience with Bolano has been fairly mixed and I wonder whether I might fare better with one of his novels? I’ve only tried his short stories so far.


  6. Lisa Hill
    Jan 30, 2015 @ 00:59:02

    I’ve ‘read’ (and reviewed, see ) The Savage Detectives, but only as an audio book which was not the best way to start with Bolano. 2666 has been sitting on my shelves since then, maybe this will be the year that I get to it. I think I’d like to read some novellas first…


  7. Claire 'Word by Word'
    Jan 30, 2015 @ 08:34:01

    A novella! I have 2666 to read this year and can’t believe the same author writes novellas; 🙂 Great post review discussion Stu, always adds so much to the reading experience, wonderful to have your experience and reading knowledge to tap into. Thank you for the insightful review.


  8. russell1200
    Jan 30, 2015 @ 14:23:38

    I have his 2666, but haven’t made the commitment to plunge in yet.


  9. 1streading
    Feb 01, 2015 @ 20:47:03

    Not only did I enjoy your review but you’ve sparked off some great comments! I’ve not read this one yet – and, as I have two already awaiting my attention, it won’t be any time soon. But, like you, I hope to get round to them all eventually!


  10. parrish lantern
    Feb 02, 2015 @ 04:54:08

    Read this a couple of years ago & thoroughly enjoyed it, although Bolano is better known for his large books (2666 etc ) I personally believe his shorter works are a better representation of his style, condensed with no excess. I’ve still got a couple more of his books to read, at the moment I’ve Tres on my bedside table.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

January 2015
« Dec   Feb »
%d bloggers like this: