Category: Chile

Roberto Bolaño/A G Porta: Consejos de un discípulo de Morrison a un fanático de Joyce [Advice from a Disciple of Morrison and a Fan of Joyce]

The latest addition to my website is Roberto Bolaño‘s and A G Porta‘s Consejos de un discípulo de Morrison a un fanático de Joyce [Advice from a Disciple of Morrison and a Fan of Joyce]. This novel was written before both writers were famous and tells the story of a Catalan writer, Ángel Ros, who is writing, not very successfully, a Barcelona Ulysses with one major difference, namely that his hero, Dedalus, is an armed robber. While Dedalus is an armed robber, so are Ángel Ros and his girlfriend, a South American called Ana. The two make no effort to conceal their identities and are soon wanted by the police, as, indeed, are others, as there appears to be a crime spree in Barcelona at the time. We follow Dedalus, Ángel and Ana and, frankly, it does no go particularly well for any of them. As Bolaño commented, it is very violent and while it is an interesting idea, it is not a great novel and would not be here, were it not for its authors.

Carlos Droguett: Eloy [Eloy]

The latest addition to my website is Carlos Droguett‘s Eloy [Eloy]. Ñato Eloy was a real-life Chilean bandit, killed by the police in 1941. This novel recounts the last twenty-four hours of his life, as seen from his perspective. He is hiding out in a shack, where an old man and young woman live. Both are naturally afraid of him but he eventually sends them away. The novel consists of his thoughts about his present situation (he is optimistic that he can escape), his past, with thoughts about his wife/lover Rosa and their son Toño, his past exploits and his earlier life, and his future, with plans for what he is going to do. We jump around these three and, at the same time, Droguett mixes in first-person, second-person and third-person narration for telling his tale, all to emphasise Eloy’s confused state of mind. This novel is still in print in Chile, where it is considered one of the foremost Chilean novels, and has been translated into seven languages but not English.

Alberto Fuguet: Tinta roja [Red Ink]

The latest addition to my website is Alberto Fuguet‘s Tinta roja [Red Ink]. Our hero is Alfonso Fernández Ferrer, who is fifty-one when writing this book but looks back at an experience in his early twenties. He had been studying journalism at university and he is sent for a four month internship at a Santiago (Chile) tabloid, where is sent to work on the police section, i.e. crimes and other violent deaths. His boss is Saúl Faúndez, a hardened journalist who likes drinking and women but has a gift for getting to the scene of the crime before the police and finding out what really happened. Alfonso learns a lot from him but we and he learn that there are a lot of bloody deaths in Santiago – murders, suicides and traffic accidents. Fuguet spares us no details as Alfonso gradually becomes immune till the crimes are not happening just to strangers but to those he knows. It is an interesting Bildungsroman but very bloody.

Alberto Fuguet: Mala onda (Bad Vibes)

The latest addition to my website is Alberto Fuguet‘s Mala onda (Bad Vibes). This novel had considerable influence in Chile, dealing as it does, with a rebel without a cause, seventeen-year old Matías Vicuña, who comes from a well-to-do Pinochet-supporting family and is disenchanted with his life, his family, his school and even, to some degree, his friends. He does drugs, drinks, plays truant, has casual sex (though he is in love with Antonia, who finds him too self-centred) and has no idea of what he wants or where is going. A brief fling on a school trip to Rio, reading Catcher in the Rye and an interest in his newly discovered Jewish heritage are the few things that seem to arouse him. The entire story is told against the background of the 1980 Chilean constitutional referendum, though Matías himself, too young to vote, is indifferent to it. As a teenage angst novel, it is like others we have read but interesting as a portrait of disaffected Chileans of the 1980s.

Diamela Eltit: Vaca sagrada (Sacred Cow)

The latest addition to my website is Diamela Eltit‘s Vaca sagrada (Sacred Cow). This is a feminist, post-modern novel by a Chilean writer who stayed in Chile during the Pinochet regime. She tells the story of a woman who has two messy, violent relationships, with violence on both sides, showing indirectly, in the relationships, the violence that is going on in Chile under Pinochet. The unnamed and unreliable narrator, who may be also the same person as Francisca, a woman we first meet when bloody and bruised, struggles with life, with alcohol, with men, with getting a job and with sex. She feels totally insecure, unsure, ready to tell lies for no reason, and ready to get involved in messy relationships but finding them no escape. It is not an easy read but Eltit is clearly intent on showing women’s bodies as the battleground in what is going on in Chile and that is what she does.

Enrique Lihn: El arte de la palabra [The Way of Speaking]

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The latest addition to my website is Enrique Lihn‘s El arte de la palabra [The Way of Speaking]. Lihn was primarily a poet but he wrote five novels of which this is the best known. It concerns a literary conference on the fictional island of Miranda, which has been described as a cross between Chile and Cuba. It is separated by a river from the mainland though it is called an island. It is not entirely clear where it is, even to those who visit it. It has an exotic flora and fauna and seems to rain heavily most of the time. Lihn mocks both the political nature of the island (and hence the politics of Chile and Cuba) but also mocks literary conferences and the second-rate writers he sees who attend these conferences. Gerardo de Pompier is the main writer we meet and we see him through his letters and diaries. He has not actually written a book at all and, when he writes a poem on the theft of his shoes from the hotel, it is firmly rejected by a local literary magazine. According to him, his basis for fame is his silence. Many of the participants behave fairly badly, two spending their time getting drunk and visiting prostitutes and the Paraguayan poet, Urbana Concha de de Andrade (yes, the de de is correct) chasing de Pompier and being chased by his friend, the writer and geologist Roberto Albornoz. There is a former prisoner of first the Nazis and then the Soviets, called Otto Federico Hitler, as well as the writer who has been a promising young Argentinian writer for the past thirty years. The paper they produce, El arte de la palabra [The Way of Speaking], is a mishmash of Saussurean linguistics and says nothing new and all the participants are roundly condemned by the Protector, the local dictator. It is great fun, as Lihn mocks everyone and everything. Sadly, it has not been translated into any other language.

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