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.
what should have been obvious from the start. Farewell was the critic’s pseudonym. I tried to remember his real name. I knew that his first family name was González, but I could not remember the second, and for a few moments I was in two minds as to whether I should say I was a guest of Mr. González, plain Mr. González, or keep quiet. I decided to keep quiet. I leaned back against the seat and shut my eyes. The farmer asked if I was feeling ill. I heard his voice, faint as a whisper, snatched
the weeks before. One afternoon, when I was leaving the newspaper office, there was a car waiting for me. I was taken to the college to pick up my notes and then the car plunged into the Santiago night. In the back seat, sitting next to me, was a colonel, Colonel Pérez Latouche, who handed me an envelope which I decided not to open, and stressed once again what Mr. Raef and Mr. Etah had been at such pains to make clear: the importance of absolute discretion with regard to every aspect of my new
said, That’s how literature is made in Chile. I nodded and left. While I was driving back into Santiago, I thought about what she had said. That is how literature is made in Chile, but not just in Chile, in Argentina and Mexico too, in Guatemala and Uruguay, in Spain and France and Germany, in green England and carefree Italy. That is how literature is made. Or at least what we call literature, to keep ourselves from falling into the rubbish dump. Then I started singing to myself again: The Judas
used to it, I tell him. The wizened youth, or what is left of him, moves his lips, mouthing an inaudible no. The power of my thought has stopped him. Or maybe it was history. An individual is no match for history. The wizened youth has always been alone, and I have always been on history’s side. I prop myself up on one elbow and look for him. All I can see are my books, the walls of my bedroom, a window in the midst of shadow and light. I could rise from this bed now and start living again,
speaking of purity or while I’m on the subject of purity, one evening, when I was at the house of Don Salvador Reyes, with five or six other guests, Farewell among them, Don Salvador said that one of the purest men he had met in Europe was the German writer Ernst Jünger. And Farewell, who no doubt knew the story already, but wanted me to hear it from Don Salvador himself, asked him how and in what circumstances he had come to meet Jünger, and Don Salvador settled into an armchair with gilded trim