Santiago de Chile, Chile, 1924 - Santiago de Chile, Chile , 1996

He studied English at the University of Chile and at Princeton (USA). Between 1967 and 1981 he lived in Spain, where he wrote some of his most important novels and consolidated his position as one of the central figures of the Latin American Boom. Novel, short story writer and essayist, his works give a masterful description of the decadence of Chile's aristocracy. Prizes he has received include the Chile's Premio Nacional de Literatura de Chile and Spain's Premio de la Crítica. In 1995, he received the Gran Cruz del Mérito Civil, awarded by Spain's Cabinet. For several years after his return to Chile in 1981, he directed a literary workshop, from which some of the most outstanding exponents of new Chilean fiction have emerged.

  • "José Donoso's literary methods, his perpetual meditation between sensation and perception and his enormous courage, allow him to play a delicate and melancholic quartet for strings, but also to stage a stunning, sombre and painful opera. We will continue to hear the music of his spheres." Carlos Fuentes
  • "Pepe was a consummate portrait-painter, sometimes ingenuous and at other times perverse, but always amusing." Cecilia García Huidobro 

Bibliography

This volume, edited by Cecilia García-Huidobro, focuses on the diaries from the first period (1950-1965), which record the Chilean writer’s early creative babblings and tireless self-exploration in search of a literary identity. In Diarios tempranos. Donoso in progress, we witness the miraculous intimate life of an author who is bubbling over with enthusiasm, who never gives up, who tries again and again and spurs himself on with a sentence that paints a full-body self-portrait: “I’m dying to write.”

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Novel

Written as a draft in 1973, set aside, and forgotten, The Lizard’s Tale was discovered among Donoso’s papers at Princeton University by his daughter after his death. Edited for publication by critic and poet Julio Ortega, it was published posthumously in Spanish under the title Lagartija sin cola in 2007. 

Defeated and hiding in his Barcelona apartment, painter Antonio Muñoz-Roa—Donoso’s alter ego—relates the story of his flight with Luisa, his cousin, lover, and benefactor, after his scandalous desertion from the “Informalist” movement (a witty reference to a contemporary Spanish art movement and possibly an allusion to the Boom as well), in which he had been a member of a certain standing. Frustrated, old, and alone, the artist looks back on his years in the small town of Dors, a place he unsuccessfully tried to rescue from the crushing advance of modernity, and on the decline of his own family, also threatened by the changing times. 

La novela transcurre en un pueblito chileno donde todo gira en torno a una mina de carbón. La obra cuenta la historia de distintos personajes marcados por la tragedia. Como la Elba y su hijo Toñito, quienes viven en una casita en las afueras, asediados por las mujeres de los mineros, cuya superstición los acusa de provocar un pavoroso accidente. O El Mocho, un tipo solitario que cuida una especie de palacio construido por los dueños de la mina. Y está La Bambina, dueña de una whiskería, ex artista de circo y vinculada sentimentalmente a El Mocho. 

Gustavo Zuleta, profesor de Literatura chileno, acepta una oferta para trabajar en una pequeña universidad de Estados Unidos. Mientras espera a su esposa, que llegará dos meses más tarde con su hijo recién nacido, Zuleta descubre los contrastes de la vida académica. De la mano de Ruby, una joven encantadoramente gorda y misteriosa, el protagonista es testigo de envidias y resentimientos, ambiciones de poder, relaciones sexuales e incluso de un asesinato múltiple. Donde van a morir los elefantes es una implacable metáfora de las conflictivas relaciones que los intelectuales latinoamericanos mantienen con la cultura norteamericana.

These striking novellas are the witty crystallizations of José Donoso's concerns over a lifetime of writing.

In them he poses many of the questions raised by his fellow Latin American writers, Fuentes, García Marquez, and Vargas Llosa: What is truth? How does one use history in fiction? How does an artist create? Taratuta is a mystery story in which a writer tries to track a slippery Russian revolutionary in history and in life. Still Life with Pipe shows the comeuppance of an ambitious man when he meets true art and can't escape its grasp.

Curfew takes place during one twenty-four hour period in January 1985. Matilde Neruda, widow of the Nobel Prize-winning poet, has just passed away, and various factions are rallying to turn the event to their advantage: for Pinochet's junta, it represents a chance to assert political authority, while for the intellectuals who had basked in the Nerudas' light, it is an opportunity to grab the spoils of the estate. Against this backdrop of complex, often conflicting motivations, Donoso weaves a portrait of a society struggling to fashion a daily existence for itself, and of an intelligentsia vainly attempting to salvage the remnants of glory days long gone by. But Curfew is also a story of the tragic love between Judit Torre, an upper-middle-class radical who wants to escape her bitter past; and Mañungo Vera, a native son returning after a successful career as a European pop singer. In the zone between documentary-like realism and grotesque absurdity, José Donoso evokes the suffocating atmosphere of a country under dictatorship, and its quietly devastating effect on the actions of those who live there

El volumen contiene cuatro novelas cortas: Sueños de mala muerte; Los habitantes de una ruina inconclusa, El tiempo perdido y Jolie Madame. Los cuatro relatos fluctúan entre lo festivo y lo grotesco hasta lo más desazonador y lúgubre. El autor tanto recurre al humor negro más desaforado y esperpéntico como se adentra en el relato puramente fantástico, conjura los fantasmas de una juventud fascinada por lo cosmopolita o disecciona con saña el fondo atávico y ritual de cierta burguesía acomodada. 

A Chilean writer named Julio and his wife Gloria are beset by worries, constantly bickering about money, their writing, and their son (who may or may not be plying the oldest trade in Marrakesh). When Julio's boyhood best friend, now a famous artist, lends the couple his luxurious Madrid apartment for the summer, it is an escape for both — in particular for Julio, who fantasizes about the garden next door and the erotic life of the lovely young aristocrat who inhabits it. But Julio's life and career unravel in Madrid: he is rebuffed by a famous literary agent, who detests him and his novel; his son's friend from Marrakesh moves in and causes havoc; and Gloria begins to drink. In the face of pitiless adversity, Julio's talent inexorably begins to fade. With The Garden Next Door, Jose Donoso has rendered a carefully crafted and bitterly comic meditation on gardens, deceit, and the nature of a writer's muse.

Bellísima, ingenua, perversa y viuda, la joven marquesita de Loria deambula como un afrodisíaco de carne y hueso por el Madrid de los años veinte. Siempre con un pie en la otra cara de la luna, la marquesita aprende el poder maléfico de la seducción, ese encantamiento que roza la disolución o la muerte. La obra profundiza en el eros como instrumento de búsqueda.

La acción arranca un día de verano en que la familia Ventura, instalada en su casa de campo, organiza una excursión en busca de un lugar paradisíaco que, supuestamente, existe muy cerca de las grandes montañas. Los Ventura adultos y los sirvientes quieren imponer la idea de que la excursión solo dura un día, pero en realidad se acaban ausentando un año, tiempo suficiente para que la casa de campo deje de ser lo que fue.

Los personajes de los tres relatos son profesionales liberales: médicos, arquitectos, dentistas, modelos, gente acomodada que se reúne en fiestas, hace vida de café y restaurante, y pasa los fines de semana fuera de la ciudad. Pese a todo, la obra transmite la marca atormentada, esperpéntica, que caracteriza a Donoso.

This haunting jungle of a novel has been hailed as "a masterpiece" by Luis Bunuel and "one of the great novels not only of Spanish America, but of our time" by Carlos Fuentes. The story of the last member of the aristocratic Azcoitia family, a monstrous mutation protected from the knowledge of his deformity by being surrounded with other freaks as companions, The Obscene Bird of Night is a triumph of imaginative, visionary writing. Its luxuriance, fecundity, horror, and energy will not soon fade from the reader's mind. (Verba Mundi)

 

" It would be a crass understatement to say that this book is a challenging read; it's totally and unapologetically psychotic. It's also insanely gothic, brilliantly engaging, exquisitely written, filthy, sick, terrifying, supremely perplexing, and somehow connives to make the brave reader feel like a tiny, sleeping gnat being sucked down a fabulously kaleidoscopic dream plughole. —Nicola Barker

"El obsceno pájaro de la noche is a dense and energetic book, full of terrible risk-taking, populated with legendary saints and witches, mad old crones and a whole estate-full of freaks and monsters, and narrated by a disturbed deaf-mute'' —Robert Coover, The New York Times Book Review

"The story is like a great puzzle . . . invested with a vibrant, almost tangible reality.” The New York Times

"Although many of the other “boom” writers may have received more attention—especially Fuentes and Vargas Llosa—Donoso and his masterpiece may be the most lasting, visionary, strangest of the books from this time period. Seriously, it’s a novel about the last member of an aristocratic family, a monstrous mutant, who is surrounded by other freaks so as to not feel out of place."
Publishers Weekly

Esta es una novela sobre la soledad. La soledad es la que echa a la sirvienta Violeta en brazos del joven Álvaro cada vez que sus padres se marchan los domingos. Y son la soledad y la incomunicación las que mueven los sutiles hilos de las relaciones matrimoniales y extramatrimoniales de Álvaro y Chepa. Con un dominio extraordinario del lenguaje, el novelista chileno expresa los engaños con que los protagonistas intentan huir de su pavorosa soledad, en medio de una sociedad que reprime y destruye los sentimientos y deseos espontáneos.

With its stark atmosphere, powerful characterizations, and dazzling alterations of perspective in time and gender, José Donoso's early masterwork, Hell Has No Limits, anticipates the qualities of better-known works of this Chilean magic-realist.

Originally published in 1966, this grimly vivid novel evokes the sweetness and despair during one fateful day in the collective existence of Estación El Olivo, a decayed community marked for doom as surely as Donoso's central character, the transvestite dancer/prostitute la Manuela, whose virginal daughter operates the brothel out of which she/he works. La Manuela is menaced both by his would-be protector, the local politician/land baron who wants to raze Estación El Olivo for his expanding vineyards, and by a coldly vengeful trucker, nursing a lifetime of hurts, deprivation, and suppressed sexual ambiguity. The lives of this trio—past and present—are indelibly forged in the novel's stunning climax, which combines a shocking act of violence in the present with a bizarre erotic encounter from decades before.

 

 

Andrés Ábalos, solitario y cincuentón, es el desconcertado testigo de los últimos días de una abuela nonagenaria que se debate entre la niebla y los relámpagos de la demencia. Esperpéntica a la vez que realista, esta obra prefigura los temas que marcarán la obra de Donoso: decadencia, identidad, transgresión y locura.

Short stories and novellas

Selección de narraciones breves. Varias ya se habían publicado en volúmenes precedentes, pero otras permanecían inéditas hasta esta edición.

El volumen reúne seis relatos breves: El hombrecito; Ana María; El charlestón; La puerta cerrada; Paseo; y Santelices.

Donoso's first volume of stories appeared in 1955 and included Veraneo (Summer Time), Tocayos (Namesakes),  El Güero (The Güero) ; Una señora (A Lady); Fiesta en grande (A Grand Party); Dos cartas (Two Letters) and Dinamarquero (The Dane's Place).

Poetry

Reúne la escasa producción poética del chileno. Muchos de esos poemas -“refugio ante las monstruosidades de la prosa”, según el autor- fueron escritos durante los años que vivió en Calaceite, un pueblito de la comarca turolense del Matarraña, donde la familia Donoso encontró refugio y espacio creativo entre 1972 y 1976. El núcleo se convirtió en un foco cultural de gran nivel, gracias al paso por allí de Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Luis Buñuel, Rosa Regás, Jaime Gil de Biedma o Carlos Barral.

Non-fiction

Este es un testimonio personal en el que aparecen los compañeros de ruta del escritor: Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Carlos Fuentes, Julio Cortázar... El autor explora sus primeros libros, las primeras letras, los primeros golpes. 

Biography / Memoirs

An obsessive kaleidoscope about the ghosts of creation.

We’ve grown so accustomed to casual show business confessions that we’ve come to believe that diaries are a place for recording one’s darkest secrets. However, in the case of a full-blooded writer like José Donoso, his notebooks naturally contain an abundance of work troubles, creative dilemmas, trial writings, corrections, and crossed-out text.

Since his youth, Donoso was a tireless diarist, and roughly eighty notebooks in his own handwriting are preserved today. These are divided into two collections, one at the University of Iowa and the other at Princeton. In her book, Correr el tupido velo (Drawing a Thick Veil), his daughter, Pilar Donoso, covers the diaries from the second period. This volume, edited by Cecilia García-Huidobro, focuses on the diaries from the first period (1950-1965), which record the Chilean writer’s early creative babblings and tireless self-exploration in search of a literary identity. In Diarios tempranos. Donoso in progress, we witness the miraculous intimate life of an author who is bubbling over with enthusiasm, who never gives up, who tries again and again and spurs himself on with a sentence that paints a full-body self-portrait: “I’m dying to write".

'El resurgir de José Donoso': Cecilia García-Huidobro presenta los 'Diarios Tempranos de José Donoso: A veinte años de su muerte' en Casa América. 6/06/2017

'Donoso, Barcelona y el boom', por Jorge Herralde, Qué Pasa, 14/07/17

'Una selfie desgarrada', por Cecilia García-Huidobro, Culturas-La Vanguardia, 03/06/16

A partir de viejas fotografías de finales del siglo XIX, de rumores oídos en los patios y pasillos de su niñez, y de sus propias e infatigables obsesiones, José Donoso reconstruye la historia de su familia desde que el primer Donoso puso pie en el Reyno de Chile hace cuatrocientos años. Terratenientes altivos e ignorantes, políticos brillantes o advenedizos, intelectuales, médicos chalados y beatas pueblan unas páginas donde la pluma del escritor tiñe la historia con la tinta de su imaginación.

Other genres

José Donoso es coautor, junto con Pilar Donoso, de esta traducción.

El volumen reúne artículos y entrevistas escritos a principios de la década de 1960, cuando Donoso era aún joven, y su mirada hacia el entorno y sobre todo, hacia la literatura, era fresca, punzante, directa, incisiva, e incluso abiertamente polémica y agresiva. A lo largo de la obra, Donoso pasea por Europa y Chile, por los libros, la música, la pintura, la escultura, las personas y los personajes, siempre con un tono satírico.

Reúne en un solo volumen una selección de la obra periodística del escritor desde 1960, año en que empezó a publicar en la revista Ercilla. Una década después escribió crónicas para la Agencia EFE, actividad que le abrió las puertas de diversos medios periodísticos en Argentina, Colombia, México, Brasil, Ecuador, Perú, Bolivia, Venezuela... Cecilia García Huidobro organiza temáticamente los artículos. 

Prizes

  •  1965 - Faulkner Foundation Prize
  • 1969 - Premio Pedro de Oña
  • 1986 - Caballero de la Orden de las Artes y de las Letras
  • 1987 - Comendador de la Orden de Alfonso X el Sabio
  • 1990 - Chile's Premio Nacional de Literatura
  • 1990 - Premio Mondello (Italy), for his body of work
  • 1991 - Prix Roger Caillois (France)
  • 1994 - Orden al Mérito Docente y Cultural Gabriela Mistral (Chile)
  • 1994 - Caballero de la Gran Cruz de la Orden del Mérito Civil (Spain)