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By Night in Chile

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  9,584 ratings  ·  980 reviews
During the course of a single night, Father Sebastian Urrutia Lacroix, a Chilean priest, who is a member of Opus Dei, a literary critic and a mediocre poet, relives some of the crucial events of his life. He believes he is dying and in his feverish delirium various characters, both real and imaginary, appear to him as icy monsters.
Paperback, 118 pages
Published December 1st 2005 by New Directions (first published 2000)
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Sordel, Sordello, which Sordello?

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
Jim Fonseca
Mar 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Bolano gives us the stream of consciousness of a Jesuit priest reflecting on his life while he lies on his death bed in Chile. The priest was also a poet and a literary critic. Throughout his life he hung out with art-loving wealthy aristocrats. The priest even met the famous Chilean poet Neruda at a soiree and later attended his funeral. The aristocrat had his estate confiscated under Allende but then returned under Pinochet – and the priest is glad for him.

The priest also hangs out with a bea
Feb 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Jun 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016

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
Dave Schaafsma
“One has a moral obligation to take responsibility for one’s actions, and that includes one’s words and silences, yes, one’s silences, because silences rise to heaven too, and God hears them, and only God understands and judges them, so one must be very careful with one’s silences”--Roberto Bolaño

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
MJ Nicholls
Jan 28, 2012 marked it as dropped  ·  review of another edition
Oh shut up, Roberto. SHUT. UP. What is this cobblers? Why do you want me to read the rambling deathbed memoir of a Chilean priest who can’t let a sentence end and couldn’t find a paragraph break in a tower of cassocks? Why don’t you establish this character as an actual character? Why did you write a list of scenes or incidents that might be used in future novels instead of, to quote The Guardian—“a beautifully written analysis of Chilean literary life?” It gives me no pleasure to play devil’s a ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
Nocturno de Chile = By Night in Chile, Roberto Bolaño
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
May 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: favorites
What I have come to appreciate reading Bolaño's book is the fact that he takes you on several small journeys getting you from plot-point to plot-point. You almost don't realize that he is doing it until you finish one of these tangents and get led carefully back to the main storyline. That Bolaño trusts his talents enough to introduce characters that are only there to make a single point, that they exist in the novel just to die or to cease to exist just so some small nuance of Chile, the Church ...more
Jul 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
In Bolaño's stream of consciousness narrative, he presents the deathbed confessions of Father Sebastián Urrutia Lacroix, a Jesuit in Chile who also wrote as a literary critic and a poet. Through a spellbinding combination of feverish memories and anecdotes, dreams and nightmares recalled, and desperate justifications of past actions and inaction, Father Sebastián leads the reader through an evocative and disturbing picture of life and art in Pinochet's Chile. I found the novel mesmerizing. In on ...more
Apr 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This short novel is first and foremost a pleasure to read, due to its easy, flowing style; its consistently coherent and engaging stream of consciousness. Beneath the surface, it is about literature, decline, personal ambition and legacy, all bound in a meditation on the troubled history of Chile. The novel is a brief, bright explosion - of language, and of ideas - producing subtle resonances and a surprising, hidden complexity.
Jun 16, 2012 rated it liked it
With confidence & style, Bolano continues his attempt at crystallizing the exploits of the literati in Latin America—here more specifically, in Chile. In very little (this is a novel composed solely of TWO paragraphs!) the stream of consciousness vacillates between various moods and anecdotes—it is indeed very similar to the transcendental musings of Auxilio Lacouture atop her fortress of the UNAM in “Amulet”, a novel that is far superior, w-a-a-a-y more magical, than this one.

At times the Chile
"...with time, vigilance tends to relax, because all horrors are dulled by routine."
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
Dec 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
There are a pair of immediate observations concerning By Night in Chile. The first involvees its lyrical quality; this is more a cycle of poems than mere standard novella. Episodes unfold and the focus clips along back to the Narrator, who isn't as unreliable as I first guessed. The second acute sense from the book is one of dread. There are a number of darkened hallways, closed doors, and isolated hilltops in the book. One gathers gradually that it isn't sage to look around too closely.

Nov 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
Apr 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a poet Bolaño was! A single-sitting read, so artfully paced, so musical, it leaves you breathless.

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.
Dhanaraj Rajan
I found the book initially intimidating. It is a book that contains just two paragraphs and the second paragraph is just a line that appears at the last page of the book. Besides there were names, obviously from Chilean literati, of which I knew nothing. I had tried this book once earlier and abandoned it after 25 pages.

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
El Avestruz Liado
Dec 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Does the world needs another review of "By Night in Chile"? Of course not, so let me just give a few pieces of advice for the prospective reader:

- 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
Steven Godin
Aug 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Since 1973, Bolaño has lived outside Chile and most of his fiction has reflected that. His previous novel, The Savage Detectives was a work as peripatetic as his own existence. He himself was clearly a little underwhelmed by the contemporary Chilean scene, and perhaps with good reason. By Night in Chile, for me anyway, is not a typical Bolaño novel, thus I didn't like it as much when thinking of 2666, The Savage Detectives, and the brilliant collection of short-stories in Last Evenings on Earth. ...more
Samuel Gordon
May 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
Short and disorienting. So many memorable scenes that merit a second reading. It's one of those rare books that say a lot more in a hundred pages than tomes by lesser authors ever could. It's always interesting for me to read about Chile's turbulent political past, one can't help but draw parallels with recent events in the country or even with other conflicts in far away places like Syria. ...more
Read By RodKelly
I'm in love. Bolaño is a genius, a wizard, a paragon of writers, master of constructing the essence of people and places, stacking details that build toward a sensation that is at once hallucinatory and bizarre, lucid and sublime.

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
Barry Pierce
This can be seen as Bolaño's Death of Ivan Ilyich. A dying man recounts his earlier years spent with Neruda et al. This seems to be one of Bolaño's most popular works according to this website and I just cannot think why. The entire novel is one solid block of text, the narrator rambles a lot and it's basically a poor man's version of Amulet. While the prose is as excellent as ever I did find myself fading in and out of this narrative, nothing stuck. It's a pity really. Bolaño is better than thi ...more
Lee Klein
Jan 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Hovered between three and four stars but the super-bold/perfect last line thoroughly cocked it up to four, plus I'll need to read it again in a single sitting (or two) instead of several. Dull at times (not dull - like watching a perfect snowfall while sitting on a slow-moving train, mesmerizing like that) but sometimes trained falcons protect cathedrals from pigeons and their shit (ah! the last line is even better now!). Long sentences, steady tone, recollected in uneasy tranquility, like Bernh ...more
Ade Bailey
Jan 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I thought this very good. It's my first encounter with this writer, and although I have seen reviews suggesting his 'difficulty', I have no hesitation in recommending this to anybody. (I thank Mike Puma for suggesting it as probably the most suitable introduction to the author).

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
Jim Elkins
Aug 29, 2016 added it
Shelves: chilean
A Different Model of How to Attach Politics to Literature
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
Professor Weasel
May 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
A very memorable, powerful book that asks the very difficult but important question: what is the relevance (if any) of literature to Real Life, especially when said Real Life involves political turmoil? (Specifically a military coup when people are being tortured and killed in basements while literary parties are taking place upstairs.) Is it brave and wise to read Thucycides and Plato when a democratically elected president is being overthrown, or just stupid and detached? With this novella, na ...more
Nov 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Quick, beautiful read that I'd highly encourage anyone to try and finish in one sitting.

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
Christopher Robinson
I knew next to nothing about the contents of this book when I started in on it, just that it consisted of a single long paragraph and concerned a priest recounting his collaboration with the Pinochet regime. Good enough for me. And so I proceeded. It ended up being quite a ride, beautiful and funny and dark and horrible and depressing all at once. Fantastic writing, also, of course. It’s Bolaño after all. I’ll single out one particular section as being my personal favorite: there is a very long ...more
Katia N
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Bolano was saying "I write to remember the past stories, laugh at them or turn them into the different stories, inventing the new end". And it is so true for all his books I've read so far. He is a poet in everything he writes. And he writes mainly about other writers, poets, literary critics. He also adheres to the tradition, called by a fashionable word "intertextuality" of mentioning and discussing other books and blurring the artificial division between fiction and non-fiction (This traditio ...more
Jul 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I know of Bolaño, this is the first book that I've read by him.

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
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For most of his early adulthood, Bolaño was a vagabond, living at one time or another in Chile, Mexico, El Salvador, France and Spain.

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.


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