Review Of "Understanding José Donoso" By S. Magnarelli

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The fourth study of a Latin American author in the excellent series “Understanding Modern European and Latin American Literature.” The purpose of these volumes is to provide specifically to undergraduate, graduate, and nonacademic readers alike a succinct introduction to the lives and works of prominent contemporary authors. In this respect Magnarelli carries out her task admirably. Using a sociohistorical approach, she examines Donoso's major works--Charleston and Other Stories (CH, May'78), Coronation (1965), El lugar sin límites (Mexico, 1966), This Sunday (1967), The Obscene Bird of Night (CH, Oct'73), Sacred Families (CH, Nov'77), A House in the Country (CH, Jul'84), and Curfew (CH, Oct'88). At the heart of her analyses is the identification of a number of thematic and formal aspects that, for her, inform all of Donoso's fiction. These include the dynamic, subjective nature of “reality,” selfhood, and the mask, the Chilean bourgeoisie, female power and the supernatural, children's rituals, the emergence of the irrational, and the circular nature of space in the author's texts. Her chapter on The Obscene Bird of Night will be of particular help to nonspecialist readers who have struggled with this very complex and demanding novel.


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