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El obsceno pájaro de la noche by José…
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El obsceno pájaro de la noche (edition 1985)

by José Donoso

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427624,721 (4.11)57
Member:brigneti
Title:El obsceno pájaro de la noche
Authors:José Donoso
Info:Editorial Oveja Negra
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The Obscene Bird of Night by José Donoso

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» See also 57 mentions

English (5)  Spanish (1)  All languages (6)
Showing 5 of 5
One way to sum up the experience of reading this novel would be to suggest that Salvador Dali would be the perfect person to illustrate it. Does that give a hint as to the surreal journey of immersing oneself in this tale? Be prepared to suspend reality and abandon yourself to the rapid current of this novel. Once I did that I found that I was thoroughly entranced. I could say that this is the tale of one man's obsession with continuation of his proud family line regardless the cost, but that would be such an injustice. I think I come closer by saying that this is a parable of monsterhood. What is a monster? Is it defined by being threatening and ugly? Is it defined by intent, actions, or outcomes? When does protection of other become control over other? At one point the author indicates that "old women like Peta Ponce have the power to fold time over and confuse it, they multiply and divide it, events are refracted in their gnarled hands as in the most brilliant prism, they cut the consecutive happening of things into fragments they arrange in parallel form, they bend those fragments and twist them into shapes that enable them to carry out their designs." I think each of us must read the book and decide for ourselves why he may have done that! Fantastic literary experience. ( )
  hemlokgang | Feb 26, 2014 |
I’m less than 60 pages from finishing this book… and I don’t think I’ll ever finish it… I don’t want no more nightmares, every time I read this book I can’t stop reading it and when I do I don’t wanna go back to it! is so good!! but so fucking scary!!!
  Alfonso809 | Apr 3, 2013 |
This is the creepiest book I've ever read. Donoso uses his prose as a tool to keep you bewildered and guessing, but probably more importantly, to keep the world(s?) and story(ies?) he's constructing fluid. You'll be reading the story in first-person, and all of a sudden the person you thought was the "I" is suddenly referred to in third-person. Similarly, the narrator will be speaking of a particular character, and all of a sudden the character will become "you" instead of "Ines/Jeronimo/whomever." Obviously this gets confusing, but sentence-to-sentence, you follow everything. Donoso is a master at this: you can tell he's only muddling the parts he wants to muddle, and what he wants to communicate clearly you get.

So what I was left with was this constantly shifting story. Characters and narratives that seem separate will coalesce and dance around each other, and it's fascinating. What never leaves or becomes unclear are the moods and atmospheres that Donoso creates. And seriously, it's creepy. The book is filled with self-effacement and obsession. The narrator's "member" is powerful and potent, then limp and impotent, then a shriveled black "fig" of a vagina, etc. etc.

In the beginning, it was not hard at all for me to get through the book. Donoso creates an incredibly engaging and fascinating universe, bewildering though it is. But the book is long. Despite never losing interest and loving the whole thing, it's too intense and too confusing. You can't just breeze through the thing, so I had to rotate it out with some easier reads toward the end. But holy shit, really. ( )
4 vote dugenstyle | Jan 7, 2012 |
This masterpiece by the late Chilean author José Donoso centers around the Azcoitías, a family of Chilean aristocrats. However, the main character, Humberto Peñaloza, is an assistant to Don Jerónimo, the last male heir of this family, who is at times a deaf-mute, a nun, and the doll for an teenaged orphan in a convent who is having a miraculous pregnancy -- or not. The wife of the heir, Inés, cannot become pregnant, and there is great concern that the Azcoitía clan may fade into obscurity. Inés seeks assistance from Peta Ponce, the old woman who saved her life when she was a young child. Peta Ponce, who is feared to be a witch by Don Jerónimo, encourages Inés to lure Don Jerónimo to her own dark, dilapidated shack, and make love to him there. However, Humberto Peñaloza is also drawn to the shack at the same time, presumably by Peta Ponce's powers, as she is attracted to Humberto, and each man makes love to who he believes is Inés, although none of the characters, and certainly not the reader, is sure who makes love to whom. In any case, Inés becomes pregnant, but gives birth to a monstrous child, called Boy.

Don Jerónimo decides that Boy should view himself as normal, and he builds a fortress for Boy to live in. Humberto is given the task of rounding up the most dysmorphic "freaks" that can be found in the countryside, who become Boy's servants and companions.

Inés separates from Don Jerónimo, travels throughout Europe, has a nervous breakdown, and, upon her return to town, decides to take up residence in the Casa de Ejercicios Espirituales de la Encarnación, the church/orphanage/old widows' home that is owned by the Azcoitía family, but it becomes hers.

After Don Jerónimo "discovers" that Humberto has impregnated his wife during that fateful night and that he, in making love to Peta Ponce, has lost his manhood, Humberto is operated on by a doctor who is one of the "freaks". He is transformed into a dysmorphic deaf-mute, and banished to the Casa de Ejercicios Espirituales de la Encarnación.

The story only becomes more surreal from there!

It wasn't until I had completed about 1/3 of the book until I had a clue as to what was going on, probably because I wasn't giving the book the attention it deserved. However, once it came together for me, it was absolutely captivating. ( )
1 vote kidzdoc | Feb 5, 2009 |
This book will most obviously draw comparisons with Garcia Marquez's work, as Obscene Bird is also a great example of magical realism. Reading this book is like entering a slightly alternate universe...the ending of an aristocratic line and the attempts to stop that from happening, a commune of old ladies and a couple orphans awaiting a virgin birth that will be their ticket to heaven, a deformed child surrounded by "freaks" to alter his perception of "normal", witchcraft, and the blurring of legends/myth with reality. At times it does feel like a fucked-up fairy tale, but seems to ultimately tap into ideas concerning alienation. I really liked the old ladies, but also found myself exasperated with them, and that's something that seems to happen with most of the characters. I got sucked into the story pretty quickly, so was willing to be patient with the absurd twists that it took at times although I found the first half to be the stronger part. ( )
3 vote araridan | Apr 6, 2008 |
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José Donosoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lemm, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Every man who has reached even his intellectual teens begins to suspect that life is no farce; that it is not genteel comedy even; that it flowers and fructifies on the contrary out of the profoundest tragic depths of the essential dearth in which its subject's roots are plunged. The natural inheritance of everyone who is capable of spiritual life is an unsubdued forest where the wolf howls and the obscene bird of night chatters. - Henry James Sr., writing to his sons Henry and William
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