Bucket's Reviews > By Night in Chile

By Night in Chile by Roberto Bolaño
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Apr 01, 09

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bookshelves: reviewed, post-modern-book-club-reads, diversity, history, language, literary, life-and-death, politics, religion
Read in February, 2009

Urrutia is a catholic priest in Chile on his deathbed. He is also a member of Opus Dei, a writer and literary critic, and feeling both guilty and defensive about his life's decisions. Urrutia chose at times to turn a blind eye towards and other times to aid and abet the dictator Pinochet who came to power in Chile in the 70's. The story is one giant stream of consciousness paragraph - it begins with Urrutia becoming a priest, then his intro to the literary community through Farewell (who also gropes him), then his life as a poet and critic and his decisions to work for Raef and Etah (Opus Dei right-wingers who support Pinochet) first by studying falconry at churches in Europe then by teaching Pinochet himself (and other army officials) about Marxism so they can better fight the enemy.

Themes: Chilean history and the intellectuals/literary elite who were shamefully right-wing or turned a blind eye, guilt and admittance of guilt, justification of life, death, the wizened youth

This is as much about Bolano's rage towards the literary figures of Chile who stood by and chatted with each other (in one case in the very house where citizens were being tortured) while Chile was torn apart by a dictator as it is about Urrutia as a character. Bolano does a brilliant job building Urrutia and making the reader sympathize with him, despite what a horrible person he is. The never-ending sentence/paragraph structure was hard to take at times, but this was a quick read.
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