A deathbed confession revolving around Opus Dei and Pinochet, By Night in Chile pours out the self-justifying dark memories of the Jesuit priest Father Urrutia.

As through a crack in the wall, By Night in Chile's single night-long rant provides a terrifying, clandestine view of the strange bedfellows of Church and State in Chile. This wild, eerily compact novel—Roberto Bolano's first work available in English—recounts the tale of a poor boy who wanted to be a poet, but ends up ...

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By Night in Chile

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A deathbed confession revolving around Opus Dei and Pinochet, By Night in Chile pours out the self-justifying dark memories of the Jesuit priest Father Urrutia.

As through a crack in the wall, By Night in Chile's single night-long rant provides a terrifying, clandestine view of the strange bedfellows of Church and State in Chile. This wild, eerily compact novel—Roberto Bolano's first work available in English—recounts the tale of a poor boy who wanted to be a poet, but ends up a half-hearted Jesuit priest and a conservative literary critic, a sort of lap dog to the rich and powerful cultural elite, in whose villas he encounters Pablo Neruda and Ernst Junger. Father Urrutia is offered a tour of Europe by agents of Opus Dei (to study "the disintegration of the churches," a journey into realms of the surreal); and ensnared by this plum, he is next assigned—after the destruction of Allende—the secret, never-to-be-disclosed job of teaching Pinochet, at night, all about Marxism, so the junta generals can know their enemy. Soon, searingly, his memories go from bad to worse. Heart-stopping and hypnotic, By Night in Chile marks the American debut of an astonishing writer.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Postwar Chilean politics and literature infuse this densely learned, richly evocative novel. In Chris Andrews's lucid translation, Bolano's febrile narrative tack and occasional surreal touches bring to mind the classics of Latin American magic realism; his cerebral protagonist and nonfiction borrowings are reminiscent of Thomas Bernhard and W. G. Sebald. — Mark Kamine
Kirkus Reviews
Moral weakness and political collusion are the subtly developed themes of this terse 2000 novel, a first US publication for the late, great Chilean author (1953-2003). It consists of a nightlong deathbed monologue, presented in a single run-on paragraph, as spoken by Sebastién Urrutia Lacroix, a Chilean Jesuit priest also well known as a poet and literary critic. Father Lacroix's hurtling memories begin with a lengthy account of his weekend visit, as a young seminarian, to the estate of eminent (and probably homosexual) critic Gonzalez Lamarca, a.k.a. "Farewell"-where the hopeful cleric is privileged to glimpse native poet Pablo Neruda "reciting verses to the moon," and even converse with the great man. Subsequent memories describe Lacroix's acquaintance with novelist-diplomat Don Salvador Reyes, himself a friend of German novelist (and WWII Wehrmacht officer) Ernst Juenger, Lacroix's history of publications and of travels under the auspices of the Catholic charitable works program Opus Dei-all shadowed by an unidentified "wizened youth" who seems to be the priest's sworn adversary and nemesis. We then learn of Lacroix's employment by sinister entrepreneurs Raef and Etah (whose surnames, reversed, spell "Fear" and "Hate")-first to "write a report on the preservation of [European] churches," then to instruct revolutionary General Augusto Pinochet and members of his junta in the principles of Marxism (a stunningly detailed sequence). Finally, Lacroix recalls soirées at the lavish home of novelist-socialite Maria Canales, whose American husband lends his basement for the imprisonment and torture of "subversives." This unusual fiction builds a devastating indictment of aesthetic withdrawalfrom moral responsibility out of Lacroix's increasingly despairing reminiscences, which deftly incorporate references to the biblical Judas Tree (where Christ's betrayer hanged himself) and the quisling-like poet-"patriot" Sordello, a victim of Dante's Inferno. And, in the chilling conclusion, we learn the identity of the "wizened youth." One of the great Latin American novels, in an exemplary translation. Not to be missed.
New York Times
“In Chris Andrews's lucid translation, Bolaño's febrile narrative tack and occasional surrel touches bring to mind the classics of Latin American magic realism; his cerebral protagonist and nonfiction borrowings are reminiscent of Thomas Bernhard and W. G. Sebald. The novel, Bolaño's first to be translated into English, is at once occasion for celebration and for mourning.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780811220514
  • Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 9/30/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 547,472
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet 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.

The poet Chris Andrews has translated many books by Roberto Bolaño and César Aira for New Directions.

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 23, 2009

    "By Night In Chile"- a literary dive into the rich culture of Chile and of the everlasting, but haunting memories of a Jesuit priest

    As Roberto Bolaño's first work available in English, this book reveals plenty of insight of Chile's culture and state during the Opus Dei period through the desolate memories of Father Urrutia. Lying on his death bed "propped up by his weak elbows", Father Urrutia goes through his life starting when he was a thirteen year old boy wishing to be sent to a seminary. His life fast forwards to his early twenties, a graduate from the seminary. Urrutia meets Chile's most respected book critic, Farewell. Following Farewell's footsteps, Father Urrutia becomes a conservative book critic. As the state of Chile turns from being wonderful and superior to strict and operated almost under as a dictatorship, Father Urrutia escapes by being offered a job in Europe to write a report of European churches. When he comes back he is then offered to teach the Opus Dei agents Marxism, a forbidden principle to his beliefs. The last years of his life are followed by plain outgoings, in which he looses hope for his country as a new generation of people replace his generation. Father Urrutia's memories become less and less enthusiastic as he gets closer to the memories of his present age.
    Roberto Bolaño's novel is a prose that I definitely recommend for any rainy day. Bolaño's crisp story of one man's memories provide not only a cultivating story, but the story dives into the rich culture of Chile's past that only a native could capture. "On a path winding through the fields I could make out two farmers wearing straw hats, who disappeared into some willows. Beyond the willows stood very tall trees that seemed to be drilling into the majestic Chilean, cloudless sky. And further off still rose the great mountains," ( Bolaño, 17). This scene described by Urrutia captures the romanticism that Urrutia feels toward Chile. The expression of nature adds to Chile's overwhelming beauty and endless geological features. The land's features of Chile hints at Chile's culture by emphasizing Chile's everlasting tranquility and harmony through the peaceful scenery of the mountains, trees, and by the farmers- the cabbage-patch kids of the land.
    As Chile's government enters the Opus Dei stage, Father Urrutia notes a change in Chilean society for the worse. Urrutia believes that Chile's culture gets lost as the government tangos with a possible cold war between an unknown Marxist nation. "Chile, my Chile. What on earth has come over you? I would sometimes ask, leaning out of my open window, looking at the glow of Santiago in the distance. What have they done to you? Have my countrymen gone mad? Who is to blame" (Bolaño,80). Through Urrutia's eyes, Chile's culture downfalls as the Opus Dei take over. Chile's culture is no longer the wonderful, enchanted country as it had once thrived as. Now, Chile's society and culture is desolate and mad filled with discouraging streets and unhappy citizens. Urrutia has no idea what the country has come to and he cannot figure how to restore Chile. Through Urrutia's nationalistic feelings of Chile, Chile is able to come alive with poetry and imagery. "By Night In Chile" successfully enables the readers to close their eyes and feel as though they are actually in Chile.
    Through Urrutia's memories, Chile gains respect in the literary world. I recommend this novel to anyone willing to read a novel about the collapse of someone's like in order to achieve the enlightenment of learning about Chile's

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 21, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A wondrous reverie - rich and strange....

    Roberto Bolano, alas, died in 2003. 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. "...I cannot have been properly awake, for deep in my brain I could hear the voices of popes, like the distant screeching of a flock of birds, a clear sign that part of my mind was still dreaming or obstinately refusing to emerge from the labyrinth of dreams, that parade ground where the wizened youth [himself as a child] is hiding, along with the dead poets who were living then, and who now, against the certainty of imminent oblivion, are erecting a miserable crypt in my cranial vault, building it with their names...." or: "...flocks of starlings....appeared again like a lightening bolt, ...and stooped on the huge flocks of starlings coming out of the west like swarms of flies, darkening the sky with their erratic fluttering, and after a few minutes the fluttering of the starlings was bloodied, scattered and bloodied, and afternoon on the outskirts of Avignon took on a deep red hue, like the colour of sunsets seen from an aeroplane, or the colour of dawns, when the passenger is woken gently........and lifts up the little blind and sees the horizon marked with a red line, like the planet's femoral artery, or of the planet's aorta..."

    These are but too brief abstracts of Bolano's luxuriant writing ( and Andrews' equally gifted translation!) that flow unceasingly from this richly succinct masterwork. This is easily one of the more rewarding new books I have read and I could not recommend it more highly. Read it all in one sitting..and I would gently wager you will imme

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