Reviews

The Obscene Bird of Night, by José Donoso

zalopunk's review against another edition

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5.0

Obra maestra

onisesasesino's review against another edition

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5.0

Magnífico.

taitmckenzie's review against another edition

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5.0

It's hard to describe exactly what the book is about, the back cover blurb says it's the story of the last member of an aristocratic family who is born a monster and locked up in a labyrinth of other monsters so that he never learns what he really is, but at the same time this is only a small part of what are many other interwoven plots in the book. However, what was almost more fascinating than the oftentimes decadent and disturbing content, is the way that Donoso manages of weaving the entire story together, so that each plot seems to reflect or multiply the other plots, making the novel itself the labyrinth that entraps monstrosities.

kingkong's review against another edition

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5.0

This book is very strange and cool and also, the Imbunche is a really messed up thing to invent, in fact the entire Chilote mythology is really far out (look it up on Wikipedia)

feralshojo's review against another edition

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3.0

5 stars for the writing, I love the stream of conciousness-y style.
I think I only got half of what was happening though.

alisonjfields's review

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challenging dark mysterious medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

5.0

One of my favorite weird, epic grotesques! 

speers19's review against another edition

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1.0

original and uh.......gripping at certain points but too much of a slog for me to finish the last third

5wamp_creature's review against another edition

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3.0

Challenging read? Understatement of the year. If you like fantastical magic-realism Spanish books in translation this might be for you. Requires all of your attention. For me, though, it’s not as good as Marquez or Borges.

dianac's review against another edition

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5.0

Magnífico.

funeraryarts's review against another edition

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5.0

From Chile and the cursed pen of Mr. José Donoso flows what I read appropriately described in a goodreads review as "Black Magical Realism", this book features some of the more twisted, depraved, terrifying, sad, grotesque and dark situations as well as characters and settings of any horror book I've read be it modern or classic. The imagery is absolutely relentless and much more frequently plunges the reader deeper into Donoso's carefully crafted horrifying visions rather than give him a glimpse of the light.

Between these pages live demented old crones, forgotten orphans, nuns whose faith has run ragged, the heartrendingly poor and deformed, social outcasts, an uncaring elite, merciless priests, the absent Christ and his saints, Chilean folk horrors, sexual deviants and a continuous barrage of whatever seems to scare the soul. Donoso's creativity for crafting ever more bleak characters and situations is awe inducing and his locales are an absolute delight to get to know as when one reminisces on a particularly haunting nightmare: crumbling monasteries, psychiatric hospitals, the filth and obscure streets of somewhere in Chile, the opulent dwellings of the rich, the derelict haunts of the poor, etc. His mind seems like a dark wellspring ever ready to pour a new obscenity on the reader.

The great caveat is this: just as genius stroke Mr. Donoso for characters and settings to tell his story so it did in the way he chose to convey it to us, he pulls no punches and uses a highly artistic voice mixing elements of stream of consciousness with regular storytelling, adding elements of unreliable narration, fever dreams, long winded sentences detailing the psychical suffering and happening of his characters, easily plunging the reader into their inner lives only to tear him out of there unceremoniously onto the next horror in wait.

Again and to reiterate this is not conventional narration in any way, a close comparison would be Faulkner's style in books like "As I Lay Dying" where each chapter is the thought of a particular character represented in a stream of consciousness way. Donoso takes this approach and goes wild because one character consciousness is clearly not enough for him for the transmission of his message in its total impact, he jumps between character consciousnesses without a clear indication in the text, he goes from the past to the present and his imaginings of the future with the same ease and disregard for the conventional linearity of time, his main narrator even switches genre identity from one moment to the next in response to his fluctuating psychological make up becoming male, female and sometimes neither.

The sign of his genius is that all this is done with the same evocative prose as the title of the book, the lyricism of his prose and the beauty of his sentences is astonishing. There is depth, meaning, allegory, symbolism, insight and intelligence in his writing which contrasted with the darkness of the subject makes his words shine more beautiful and his horrors the more disturbing. Despite the initial confusion brought by his style he brings every chapter to a satisfying ending, animates each character with a life of its own and in the end brings the threads of their lives to the climax he carefully laid down trough out the book to achieve.

This here is nothing short of a masterpiece.
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