By Night in Chile
‘Literature is like phosphorus,’ wrote Roland Barthes, ‘it shines with its maximum brilliance at the moment when it attempts to die.’ This view of literature existing at the precipice of the posthumous comes alive through Roberto Bolaño's Father Sebastian Urrutia and his deathbed confessions that make up the long night of By Night in Chile. Told in a single continuous paragraph—a style that hints with the flavor of Thomas Bernhard—Bolaño keeps the pressure and te ...more
The priest also hangs out with a bea ...more
edited on 21.02.2020
I am dying now, but I 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. So, propped up on one elbow, I will lift my noble, trembling head and rummage through my memories to turn up the deeds that shall vindicate me and belie the slanderous rumors the wizened youth spread in a sing ...more
I am dying now, but I 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.
The opening lines suggests this is a flashback sort of novel, a reinterpretation the past at the end of a long life and an appeal to the reader to hear the narrator's confession. His name is Sebastian Urrutia Lacroix, a Chilean of mixed Basque and French ancestry, a Jesuit priest, a poet, a literary critic, a ...more
By Night in Chile is a novella, my second book by Roberto Bolaño after my reading last year of the 900 plus page 2666. It is tempting to say the former (an earlier) book is just a shorter version of 26 ...more
Reread. Re-5-starred. Reviewed, if ever so slightly.
But first, the obligatory digression.
Out, damned Scot! Out!—Lady Shakesbeth, wherever it was she said such things.
A fitful night’s recollections of a not quite literary life, a not quite political life, a not quite religious life—historically situated (Pinochet’s Chile), fantastically relived and recounted, sometimes at a meandering pace, other times at feverish pace, with belt-fondling, falconry, and pigeonshit. How postmodern can one get?
The story is narrated entirely in the first person by the sick and aging Father Urrutia. Taking place over the course of a single evening, the book is the macabre, feverish monologue of a flawed man and a failed priest. Except for the final sentence, the book is written without paragraphs or line breaks. Persistently hallucinatory and defensive, the story ranges from Opus Dei to falconry to private lessons on Marxism for Pinochet and his gener ...more
At times the Chile ...more
From BY NIGHT IN CHILE By Roberto Bolaño, translated from Spanish (Chile) by Chris Andrews, 2000 Spanish / 2003 English by @ndpublishing
The deathbed confession and memories of Catholic priest and literary critic, Sebastián Urrutia Lacroix - but also an indictment of the Church, the bourgeoisie, and the US government for their role in Augusto Pinochet's miltary junta in 1973.
Urrutia Lacroix, in his last moments o ...more
I picked this up in a bookstore because I had just finished November and I was not ready to say goodbye to discussions in which faith and politics intermingle. But a Night in Chile is very different from Jorge Gálan’s book. It deals with one priest and not a group of them, it’s set in Chile and not El Salvador, and it’s much more about literature and morality than it is about religion or politics.
The question Bolaño asks is one that everyone who has lived under a dictatorship is forced to c ...more
Nightmares were Bolaño’s speciality. Not the kind people have when they’re asleep but the ones they experience in real life.
As someone who only wrote about nightmares, obviously, he’s not everybody’s cup of tea.
Politics, whores, religion, drugs, literature and freedom, there was nothing he couldn’t turn into a nightmare.
Unsettling and disturbing, ‘By Night in Chile’ was a pretty decent nightmare packed with the kind of imagery that refuses to leave your mind for a long long time. ...more
The second effort at reading it was a huge success. At least, in matters relating to the act of reading it. For, I sat at a stretch and read it in a day. Although I loved the lan ...more
- Try to allow yourself some time to read it in a single sit. The book is structured as a single paragraph, so you better read it with as few interruptions as possible.
- The first third is rather slow, the very beginning is nice but then it goes into mincing Chilean literature. I guess most of you will recognize some names like Neruda, Parra and Donoso ...more
Father Sebastián Urrutia Lacroix is on his deathbed in the throes of a dementia-fueled episode, confessing outloud (or in his head), fluidly moving through various snapshots of his life, of which the most memorable are those that fill the dying priest with insuperable g ...more
It's very rich and dense, with startling images and cross-cutting motifs; many extratextual references too, but I hardly think they matter at this stage. Later, I will return to read the book again, as one will return to ...more
What it Means to Write a Novel After Novels Have Ended
Two thoughts about Bolano's "By Night in Chile."
1. A Different Model of How to Attach Politics to Literature
Like others of Bolano's books, Night in Chile is a concerted fusion of two worlds: the society of writers and poets (their parties, their conversations, their lifestyles), and the society of political control (in this case Pinochet's generals and his repressive regime). The na ...more
A stream of consciousness narrative of a young priest living a 'literary life' told at the end of his illustrious life. Some knowledge about Chile's history or some of its literary figures would definitely add value and enjoyment to a first reading, but isn't necessary.
The book felt a bit like a tour of Chilean and Western literature as a whole, broken up into individual vignettes that focus on individual ar ...more
I found it a help that I knew something about Chile and its history. This enabled me to concentrate more on the essence of the book, which is to do with duty, responsibility, freedom, complicity etc etc.
Although there were occasions when I found the writing style difficult, I am pleased that I read it. There were sections that were amusing as well as serious eg when the narrator was sent to Europe to research how various chu ...more
Bolaño moved to Europe in 1977, and finally made his way to Spain, where he married and settled on the Mediterranean coast near Barcelona, working as a dishwasher, a campground custodian, bellhop and garbage collector — working during the day and writing at night.