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The Obscene Bird of Night

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  1,670 Ratings  ·  151 Reviews
This haunting jungle of a novel has been hailed as “a masterpiece” by Luis Bunuel and “one of the great novels not only of Spanish America, but of our time” by Carlos Fuentes. The story of the last member of the aristocratic Azcoitia family, a monstrous mutation protected from the knowledge of his deformity by being surrounded with other freaks as companions, The Obscene B ...more
Paperback, 438 pages
Published June 30th 2003 by David R. Godine Publisher (first published 1970)
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Helen Ροζουλί Εωσφόρος   Vernus Portitor Arcanus Ταμετούρο   Αμούν Arnum
«η φυσική κληρονομιά εκείνου που ειναι ικανός για πνευματική ζωή είναι ένα ανυπόταχτο δάσος όπου ουρλιάζει ο λύκος και τερετίζει το άσεμνο πουλί της νύχτας».
Χένρι Τζέιμς ο πρεσβύτερος.

Όποιος ακούσει το Άσεμνο πουλί της νύχτας να κελαηδάει με χιλιάδες ανθρώπινες φωνές και μελωδίες απο τις εφιαλτικές ορχήστρες της παράνοιας,τότε σίγουρα έχει οργανώσει το χάος των τρόμων και των φαντασιώσεων του.

Έχει δει και έχει κατανοήσει το μαγικό λαβύρινθο της σχιζοφρένειας,του πραγματικού,του εξωπραγματικο
Absolutely incredible. A masterpiece that deserves much wider readership.

Looking at some reviews around the place for this and noting the struggles some seemed to have had, I wanted to (in a non-spoilery way) set out how I would propose approaching the reading of this incredible book.

(view spoiler)
Adam Floridia
Dec 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-star-books
The perfect review of The Obscene Bird of Night would actually be this.

The image that burned in my brain as I read was Goya's El Gran Cabron

Pathetically, that's about the best review I can offer...which is surprising because I'm usually so stingy with my 5-star ratings.

This was NOT what the back of the book promised--the story of an aristocrat who "protects" his deformed child by imprisoning him in a world of monsters. Sure, that was in there, but the primary story is driven by the narrator(s??
Vit Babenco
Sep 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
“It was a sealed world, stifling, like living inside a sack and trying to bite through the burlap to get out or let in the air and find out if your destiny lies outside or inside or somewhere else, to drink in some fresh air not confined by your obsessions, to see where you began to be yourself and stopped being others…”
The Obscene Bird of Night is magic realism and beyond… It is magic realism on the Gothic side. The Obscene Bird of Night is a world seen through a prism of madness…
“He felt the n
Jun 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
About a hundred pages in, there is a scene where a shriveled elderly dwarf woman pretends to be the baby for an obese partially retarded teenage girl and the relationship between the two quickly turns disturbingly sexual.

Why relate this? Because it sets the tone for what this novel is like better than saying probably everything I'm going to say.

This novel is a mess. It's disturbing and beautiful and grotesque and horrific, but it's also a mess. Someone could probably go through book with a fin
Feb 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The dark terrors that roil in the benighted depths of the subconscious, bursting forth to poison midnight dreams and shadows, put their stamp on all of the mythologies that man wove from the preternatural mysteries that surrounded, oppressed, and exhilarated him from the furthest nebulous reaches of humanity's dawn. Their particular imprint on South American magic and witchcraft—and the chilling meme of the imbunche, a helpless infant with all nine orifices cruelly sewn shut in order to become t ...more
The Obscene Bird of Night is one strange, twisted, haunting, obscene book. It may well be the most difficult novel I've read so far. There were moments when I felt that I could connect to it and even understand it, but most of the time I felt like floating inside a grotesque nightmare, with walled-up windows and doors, not being able to find my way out. If, by chance, I was brusquely expelled into reality, I was compelled by an utter fascination to go back in and have my brains turned to mush.

Feb 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Forget about all of this magical realism claptrap and comparisons to Garcia Marquez et al.

Donoso has written a sharpened stick to jab in the world's eye, according to the principles Poe expounded in his famous review of Hawthorne's "Twice Told Tales." Poe's supposition that such "unity of effect" as is the author's goal cannot be sustained over the length of a work that takes more than one sitting to read is here completely refuted by Donoso's incredible sense of resonance. Everything here boun
themes of identity, humanity, reality, and belonging cycle through and circle the obscene bird of night. it's not really pleasant to read, though there are moments where a smile is not out of order. most often it's really bizarre, and misleading, horrific even as it is compelling. before philip k. dick died he was trying to write a book called the owl in daylight. i suspect he would have written his own version of the obscene bird of night. i think he would have understood this book. i cannot sa ...more
Apr 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: latin-america
I suspect that with a re-read of this book I'd probably give it a 5-star rating. I went into this book not really knowing what to expect, I was very intrigued by the title.

This was a strangely compelling book,though it took a while for me to get into it.It's a story full of magical realism, which I read that someone described as a dream/nightmare. A very fitting description.
I had no idea who the narrators were half the time but I did enjoy it a lot. I also came across one of the weirdest mythic
Sep 22, 2011 rated it liked it
Point of fact: It is not humanly possible to figure out what exactly is happening in the Obscene Bird of Night (OBN). This may very well be the leitmotif of magical realism, but here, we have a splintering of human reality so profound that the whole piece fractures into miniscule shards which are propelled disparately away from the epi centre in furious motion, so when the dust settles, there is simply nothing tangible left to commemorate the premise.

The skeleton of OBN is framed by the multiple
Joaquín Jiménez
Una de la madrugada y yo terminaba de contemplar la desgracia de Mudito, transformado en un imbunche por las viejas grotescas y arrugadas de la Chimba, Jerónimo abatido por la relación con su hijo, Inés evocando a la beata del pasado, y así, cada uno de los personajes viviendo un infierno personal del cual es imposible desprenderse, como un destino establecido desde antes.
Es un libro inabarcable, una fuente de agua a punto de resbalar y desbordarse en el piso. Con maestría, Donoso utiliza un mi
Por donde comenzar...
Una par de veces en mi vida he sufrido de parálisis del sueño, esa sensación de estar despierto pero seguir dormido, dentro de un sueño que se funde con la realidad, sin tener control de la situación. Sin poder diferenciar entre lo real y lo imaginario. Pero llega el momento en que uno de verdad se despierta, y la realidad le parece muy obvia, no sabe porqué fue tan estúpido para confundir un sueño o pesadilla con la realidad. En el Obsceno pájaro no existe ese despertar. No
Mar 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those interested in subverting the traditional forms of a novel.
I can say with confidence that I have never read a book like this before. I can say with less confidence that this is the case because no one has ever written a book like this before, noting that it is a definite possibility!

To describe the novel as being labrynthe-esque is to do a disservice to its complexity; it is as if I was deep below the surface of the ocean - unable to grasp which way was up, which way was down.

Typically, when I read something that I am unable to gain my bearings in, I g
Eddie Watkins
May 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: chilean-fiction
I read this quite a while ago and it's one of those books I keep telling myself to read again because I missed too much the first time through. All the memories I have of the book are probably false ones, but there is a general sense of elaborate deaths and elaborate reactions to deaths in somewhat tropical surroundings. There's also a sense of general bewilderment, but I do definitely remember that this is the book that made it very clear to me how much certain Latin novelists owed to William F ...more
Jun 04, 2015 marked it as to-read
Look at that cover! I want the edition with this cover!
Christina Wilder
I picked this up because A) the author is Chilean, like me, and B) I adore experimental literature. Still, this just got too weird for me at times, and that was distracting.

What I did enjoy was the symbolism, the array of characters, the overall comments on sexuality and feminine/masculine roles in society.

However, one part stuck out to me, and not in a good way. At one point, (view spoiler)
Oct 08, 2016 added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I haven't decided on a rating for this because it's so unreal that I can't come to terms with it yet.
Ricardo Carrión Pavez
El obsceno pájaro de la noche es reconocida como la mejor novela del escritor Chileno José Donoso. En su tiempo, rompió todos los esquemas narrativos conocidos, abandona el orden, el realismo y nos sumerge en una especie de pesadilla; en un caos. El mismo autor la cataloga como una novela coral, de muchas voces, como una sinfonía; en vez de aflorar notas musicales, son ideas que se amplifican y se reducen, pero que siempre están ahí; afloran cuando el autor las llama, y a veces lo hacen al uníso ...more
John Sotiropoulos
Ψυχεδελικό και δύσκολο ανάγνωσμα, γραμμένο με ροή ονείρου, που για να βγάλει κανείς νόημα, ίσως πρέπει να διαβαστεί πάνω από μία φορά (και αν βγάλει και πάλι).
Teresa Islas
Mar 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A más de treinta años de su publicación, en El obsceno pájaro de la noche aún leemos las mejores páginas de Donoso, el "más literario de todos los literatos del boom", según Vargas Llosa. Es con esta novela, trabajada durante unos ocho años, que el autor cierra todo un ciclo temático que incluye Coronación, El lugar sin límites y Este domingo. En ella se explota la problemática del mundo de la ficción posmoderna, concebida como la coexistencia de diversas realidades discursivas igualmente posibl ...more
Lolly K Dandeneau
Aug 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book was for me a grosteque hallucination. It is not an easy read, I felt dizzy often and rendered speechless. It is heart breaking and horrifying. The deformed child is surrounded by other 'monsters' in seclusion. Abnormality becomes the ordinary, and my stomach spent a lot of time twisting until I felt quesy. Not many books induce such physical reactions. It is not for the weak, as you will plumment into a disturbing dream. For me, it is one of the greatest books ever penned!
Oct 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Flashes of seriously gorgeous prose... particularly in the closing section (and just about any time the monster/boy speaks). Not nearly as dark or disturbing as I expected or yearned for, and I think the rating suffered as a result. Still very enjoyable, with my full endorsement and recommendation.
The Crimson Fucker
I’m less than 60 pages from finishing this book… and I don’t think I’ll ever finish it… I don’t want no more nightmares, every time I read this book I can’t stop reading it and when I do I don’t wanna go back to it! is so good!! but so fucking scary!!!
Hugo Cantuarias
No es un libro de lectura fácil, el universo que crea Donoso es complejo y atractivo, lleno de monstruos y figuras espectrales que entran y salen del relato principal. hubo momentos en que me cansó un poco el exceso descriptivo de este mundo pero creo que era necesario para comprenderlo en su totalidad, la locura se toma el papel de narrador principal y nos pasea por barrios capitalínos que aún podemos reconocer y personajes que aún vagan por las calles y asoman por las ventanas de antiguas caso ...more
Jan 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a hidden masterpiece, equal parts horror, magical realism and myth building and breaking. It's hard for me to even try to describe what it's actually about. It starts with the basic narrative of a house of worship owned by an aristocratic family that's seen better days, now a home of a handful of nuns and a small population of old women servants and orphans, and our deaf-mute narrator who serves as kind of a caretaker. The narrative unspools and becomes a twisted, tangled web when the hi ...more
Claudio Saavedra
Dec 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Qué pedazo de libro. Brillante, confuso, tosco, de un lenguaje tremendamente chileno y una construcción de diálogos y personajes brutalmente auténtica. Es que la chilenidad de este libro se desborda por los costados. Es además uno de aquellos libros que, aunque uno trate una y otra vez de aislar un párrafo o frase para citar, no logra conseguirlo: el libro es demasiado bueno, complejo, enmarañado como para aceptar citas.

Curiosamente, este pedazo de literatura de Donoso no parece ser particularme
Espero terminar este mes la lectura. Ya es mucho, partí en enero de 2009. (abril 2009)

Sigo sufriendo, aunque ahora menos. Espero acabar con este pájaro ahora en mayo. (mayo 2009)

Al fin lo terminé. ¿Qué puedo decir después del calvario de cuatro meses de lectura, desde mis vacaciones hasta las jornadas laborales de hoy? Un librazo, una historia para disfrutarla, para haberla leído 30 años atrás. Una historia delirante de mundos mágicos y surrealistas, con el lenguaje intenso de Donoso, con chilen
Kristen Stopp
Jun 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Mind blowingly sad, surrealistic, beautiful, repulsive - I can't finish it. I am nearly to the end and I still don't know how exactly how I feel about what I've read up to this point. I'm afraid to continue; I don't know that I'm up to the task of processing what I've read once I've finished the last sentence. Powerful writing, maybe too powerful for me at the moment. I suspect I'll have this one on my "currently reading' shelf for a good, long while.
Feb 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Derek warned me that this, his 2009 Best Book of the Year, was also the most disturbing read of the year. In both capacities it did not disappoint. A surreal, nightmarish descent into the mind of fictional narration itself, which experiences the freedom of its abstraction and multiplicity as grotesque deformity. Oddly beautiful, if you can believe that, and absolutely captivating.
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José Donoso Yáñez was a Chilean writer. He lived most of his life in Chile, although he spent some years in self-imposed exile in Mexico, the United States (Iowa) and Spain. After 1973, he claimed his exile was a form of protest against the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

Donoso is the author of a number of remarkable stories and novels, which contributed greatly to the Latin American literary bo
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“No estoy enamorado de ti. Ni siquiera despiertas en mí una de esas nostalgias aberrantes que los hombres de mi edad sienten con la proximidad de una vida joven: eres un ser inferior, Iris Mateluna, un trozo de existencia primaria que rodea a un útero reproductor tan central a tu persona que todo el resto de tu ser es cáscara superflua.” 9 likes
“Yo no entiendo, Madre Benita, cómo usted puede seguir creyendo en un Dios mezquino que fabricó tan pocas máscaras, somos tantos los que nos quedamos recogiendo de aquí y de allá cualquier desperdicio con que disfrazarnos para tener la sensación de que somos alguien (...)” 8 likes
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