Santiago de Chile, Chile, 1952

Arturo Fontaine graduated in Philosophy from the University of Chile and the University of Columbia (New York), where he was a student of Arthur Danto, the famous art critic. While there, he took an active part in the literary workshop directed by Manuel Puig, with whom he struck up a friendship, and also in the seminars given by poets, including Derek Walcott, Joseph Brodsky and Seamus Heaney. On his return to Chile, he participated in José Donoso's workshop and at the same time taught seminars on Aesthetics at the University of Chile. Novelist, essay-writer and poet, he is considered to be one of the authors who best represents the new Chilean fiction. His literary articles have been published in magazines such as Letras Libres, El Mercurio and Nexos. In August 2017 is elected member of the Academia Chilena de la Lengua.

  • “Stories that are close to our experience and absolutely up-to-date. His style is acute, concise, intelligent, infected with unease, due to the ongoing changes in situations. A literary seam that is full of unheard-of possibilities.” Jorge Edwards, El País
  • “The tremendous Arturo Fontaine set off with the vigour and ambition of a Balzac, and reached the finish line in one piece.” Alfredo Bryce Echenique
  • “One of today's most outstanding Latin-American prose writers." Camilo Marks
  • “No-one portrays the transition from Chile's political and social reality to its literary reality as well as Arturo Fontaine, with the tensions, clashes, uncertainties, loyalties and betrayals of a society in flux.” Carlos Fuentes, El País
  • “A pure-bred novelist.” Ángeles Mastretta

Bibliography

Novel

A tale of violence, lofty ideals, and moral ambiguity

Set in the darkest years of the Pinochet dictatorship, La Vida Doble is the story of Lorena, a leftist militant who arrives at a merciless turning point when every choice she confronts is impossible. Captured by agents of the Chilean repression, withstanding brutal torture to save her comrades, she must now either forsake the allegiances of motherhood or betray the political ideals to which she is deeply committed.

Arturo Fontaine’s Lorena is a study in contradictions—mother and combatant, intellectual and lover, idealist and traitor—and he places her within a historical context that confounds her dilemmas. Though she has few viable options, she is no mere victim, and Fontaine disallows any comfortable high moral ground. His novel is among the most subtle explorations of human violence ever written.

Ranking with Roberto Bolaño and Mario Vargas Llosa on Latin America’s roster of most accomplished authors, Fontaine is a fearless explorer of the most sordid and controversial aspects of Chile’s history and culture. He addresses a set of moral questions specific to Pinochet’s murderous reign but invites us, four decades later, to consider global conflicts today and question how far we’ve come.

"[A] masterpiece...(A) lucid and moving novel... Fontaine's eloquent and coherent achievement... surpasses his national and Latin American cohort...Peerless as testimony, infinitely, memorable as a reassessment of memory's role in narrative, La Vida doble is a model and in myriad ways a closing statement for authenticating historical periods. ...A whirlwind of self-estrangement, ideologically virtuous obsessions, bold sexuality, unalloyed grief, bottomless invectives... and, above all, page-turning psychological suspense." Will Corral, World Literature Today 

"The first pages of La Vida Doble are so powerful, of such truly convulsive dramatic composition, that it seems almost impossible for the story to maintain the tension until the end. Nonetheless, the truth is that almost all the novel’s action scenes regain the electrifying atmosphere of the beginning, making the reader live through extraordinary suspense and emotion. . . . A novel that as a whole shows great ambition, a very serious documentary undertaking, and a great dexterity in structure and style. It should be read in one sitting, and one emerges from its pages quiteshaken." Mario Vargas Llosa

Doubling the Double Life: Arturo Fontaine's Novel of Chilean Terror, by Marguerite Feitlowitz, Los Angeles Review of Books

 

 

 

This is the story of the awakening of a teenager from a wealthy family: Emilio Cavajal. Most of the time he resides in Santiago de Chile, where he studies in a religious college, but he also spends long periods of time in a farm inherited from his father's family. There, in contact with nature and with day laborers, he perceives class differences for the first time and witnesses how social order starts to dissolve.

La novela retrata la acelerada transformación que Chile experimentó en los años ochenta. El auge, el desplome y la reconstrucción de diversos grupos empresariales en aquella época. Un tiempo caracterizado por la coexistencia entre una modernización económica acelerada y la resistencia de las élites a cualquier cambio político y social profundo. 

“...an ambitious and profound novel which covers all the secrets of Chilean society.” Mario Vargas Llosa

Poetry

Colección de brevísimos poemas de amor, algunos de los cuales aparecieron anteriormente en la revista Letras Libres.

After the success of his novel, Fontaine surprised everyone with something totally different: poems along the lines of a negative mysticism, i.e. poems-prayers to a god that doesn’t exist. “No podemos decir la palabra/por eso todas las demás”. Tu nombre en vano is a thoughtful book which explores religiousness from the point of view of its absence and is constructed in the tradition of the psalms and mystic poetry.

Poemas hablados is a collection where the monologues of different persons take precedence. 

“Fontaine wants to restore the light, the shadow and the lost sense of intimacy, weaving together the most vulnerable elements into his text: memory and speech." Roberto Merino

Este primer poemario de Fontaine recibió una excelente acogida de la crítica, que lo definió como “lo indescifrable transformado en hechizo poético” o habló de “una estructura eterna y momentánea, apocalíptica y serena, tenebrosa y diáfana”. 

Prizes

  • 2017 - Elected member of the  Academia Chilena de la Lengua 
  • 2011 - Premio Las Américas for La vida doble
  • 1988 - Premio Literario Alonso de Ercilla, from La Época newspaper