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By Night in Chile Paperback – December 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews


Bolano was unanimously declared to be the most important novelist of his generation by a meeting of Latin American writers. (The Nation, Marcela Valdes)

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During the course of a single night, Father Lacroix, a priest and a poet, relives some of the crucial events of his life. Thus we are given glimpses of Pablo Neruda, Ernst Junger, General Pinochet and various members of the Chilean intelligentsia. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions (December 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811215474
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811215473
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,222 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Author of 2666 and many other acclaimed works, Roberto Bolaño (1953-2003) was born in Santiago, Chile, and later lived in Mexico, Paris, and Spain. He has been acclaimed "by far the most exciting writer to come from south of the Rio Grande in a long time" (Ilan Stavans, The Los Angeles Times)," and as "the real thing and the rarest" (Susan Sontag). Among his many prizes are the extremely prestigious Herralde de Novela Award and the Premio Rómulo Gallegos. He was widely considered to be the greatest Latin American writer of his generation. He wrote nine novels, two story collections, and five books of poetry, before dying in July 2003 at the age of 50. Chris Andrews has won the TLS Valle Inclán Prize and the PEN Translation Prize for his Bolaño translations.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

94 of 102 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 29, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Roberto Bolano, alas, died this year. BY NIGHT IN CHILE is his only work translated into English (very sensuously and beautifully by Chris Andrews) despite the fact that he wrote nine novels, short stories and poetry in Spanish. Chilean by birth, but expatriated to Barcelona and Mexico City because of political issues, Bolano is an enormously gifted, unique voice. Hopefully Chris Andrews will continue to translate his other works for us as I know the reading public will demand more Bolano after reading this short novel.
In a brief but densely packed 130 pages, Bolano takes the voice of Fr. Urrutia who on his deathbed tries to organize the chaotic thoughts that have represented his life before he enters the ultimate climax of death. We learn of his childhood as a poor boy who longed to be a poet, his conversion to the priesthood, his contribution to the literary world of not only his own poems but literary criticism or other writers, and his rather bizarre ramblings of this life adventures - his 'assignment' to unravel the workings of the Opus Dei (with an hilarious metaphor of each church throughout Europe training a falcon to destroy the pigeons in order to keep the buildings free of pigeon excrement only to realize they were destroying the universal symbol of the Holy Spirit!), his conversations with the Chilean critic Farewell, meetings with Pablo Neruda, and his assignment to teach Marxism to Pinochet and the Junta after the fall of Allende, and more. All of this glowing stream of conscience is delivered in words and phrases that stand with the finest of writers - James Joyce, ee cumings, Ezra Pound, Neruda, Marquez - but at the same time they retain flavor which makes them uniquely Chilean. "...
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52 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Rhoda on September 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
The narrator of Roberto Bolaño's surreal novella By Night in Chile is an Opus Dei priest, Fr. Sebastian Urrutia Lacroix. Using the image of "the wizened youth," Bolaño brilliantly portrays the struggle for the survival of the human spirit trapped in Opus Dei for many years. His imagery is so vivid and provocative that the reader feels as if he or she is lifted up into his dream. "The wizened youth," or Fr. Sebastian's true self is being slowly destroyed by Fr. Sebastian's new Opus Dei identity. This interior battle captures the essence of the Opus Dei experience, as if Bolaño himself had been a celibate member. Initially, it appears as if Fr. Sebastian's newly-formed spirit is soaring toward the heavens; for example, he says "my prayers rising up and up through the clouds to the realm of pure music, to what for want of a better name we call the choir of angels, a non-human space but undoubtedly the only imaginable space we humans can truly inhabit, an uninhabitable space but the only one worth inhabiting, a space in which we shall cease to be but the only space in which we can be what we truly are." In reality, however, Fr. Sebastian's spirit, manipulated by his Opus Dei superiors, Raef and Etah (Fear and Hate spelled backwards) is slowly crushed over a period of many years because he denies the truth and his former self, "the wizened youth."

Fr. Sebastian is ordained an Opus Dei priest at the age of 14, at which time there isn't much of a struggle at all. In fact, Fr. Sebastian is happy to bury the memories of his unpleasant childhood; and is filled with "immaculate hopes" about his future as the protégé of the finest literary critic in Santiago, Farewell. Like so many others who join Opus Dei at an impressionable age, Fr.
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41 of 47 people found the following review helpful By M. J. Smith VINE VOICE on November 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
It is tempting when reading this volume, to check Chilean literary history or the politics of the Allende era ... but it is better to simply read the novel as a good read - at least for the first time. This is a novel that almost invites a study of its references and techniques, to the point one may gloss over the universal aspects of the story. While the novel is deliberately Chilean, the motifs of professional and ethical social climbing and compromising are universal. A young priest is "seduced" by the opportunity to be in the best literary circles - seduced into support of the right wing side of the Church and of politics. This volume is his own telling of his story, near the end of his life, in an attempt to excuse/explain/confess his choices throughout his life. The author's brilliance is in his compact telling of a universal condition in the very specific details of a particular life in a particular time.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Ettner on March 27, 2010
Format: Paperback
Over several years dozens of readers have posted to Amazon their thoughts about "By Night in Chile." Collectively, those reviews convey a sense of the difficulties and pleasures of this short novel.

"By Night in Chile" takes the form of a deathbed confession delivered by a Chilean priest, poet and conservative literary critic, Fr. Urrutia. The book's principal challenge to the uninitiated reader is that it is set in a time, place, culture and political atmosphere unknown to all but a few American readers. If you've read the positive reviews of readers who were enthralled by the novel, you understand their urge to place its challenges in context. For example, one reviewer, Rhoda, felt compelled to shed light on just one of the esoteric aspects of the book -- namely, how Opus Dei, an organization within the Catholic Church, misguides the fictional priest and bends the arc of his life toward fatal choices. An understanding of all the foreign details of this sort, and a familiarity with the real life figures who pop up in the priest's stream of memories (Pablo Neruda, Ernst Junger, Marta Harnecker) are useful, without doubt. But I believe such foreknowledge is not essential to an immediate enjoyment of the book, so long as you are the kind of reader who takes great delight in experiencing a literary tour de force that draws you toward a readily understandable moral, a simple truth.

"By Night in Chile" is a bravura performance by Bolaño in which the author has found a distinct way to enwrap and deliver each recollection, each story within a story, each aside, each shift in time, each gruesome discovery, and each blow to the soul, that passes through the dying priest's sometimes clear, sometimes feverish, mind.
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