By his own account, he was skinny, nearsighted, and bookish: an unpromising child. He was dyslexic and was often bullied at school, where he felt like an outsider. He came from a lower-middle-class family,  and while his mother was a fan of best-sellers they were not an intellectual family. The only interesting article in it was about a house that had once belonged to Dylan Thomas I got out of that hole thanks to a pair of detectives who had been at high school with me. He was notorious in Chile for his fierce attacks on Isabel Allende and other members of the literary establishment.
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The narrator of Distant Star is one of them: a young Chilean in the far south of the country, enamoured of poetry, political debate, and the two Garmendia sisters. In the vertiginous first chapter of Distant Star, we descend rapidly from the student world of literature and hopeless poetic passions to the ghastly realities of military repression and disappearances. From that moment on, the narrator, like so many of his fellow countrymen, is a haunted man. He is picked up as a "terror ist suspect", and spends several months in a concentration camp.
He then begins a wandering life in Europe that is forever defined by this historical moment. As he wanders, he hears more of Ruiz-Tagle, who now calls himself Carlos Wieder and has re-invented himself as an officer in the Chilean airforce. He is continuing his poetic career, however, using the small planes he pilots to write messages in the skies over Chile, combining violent and patriotic slogans in a way reminiscent of the Italian Futurists.
This skywriting adds still further to the romantic reputation of the young officer, so that when he announces that he is holding a photographic exhibition in his apartment, influential figures from the armed forces and Chilean high society show up for the opening.
What they discover is the opposite of what they had been expecting: instead of romantic, heroic images they are suddenly confronted with the horror that has been inflicted in their name in Chile. The narrator meanwhile is still struggling to make ends meet and to make sense of what has happened to him and his generation through literature. His destiny is suddenly reconnected with that of Wieder when a Chilean private detective turns up at his home in Spain.
He helps the detective, and between the two of them they track Wieder down to his hiding-place, also in Spain. The detective does what he has been hired to do, and the two men walk away into the night. His own personal history mirrors that of the narrator: he left Chile in the s, living first in Mexico and then in Europe. As in his previous novel Chile by Night, in this novel his approach to horror and the sense of guilt felt by those who survive it is full of irony and artifice, and it is this oblique, wry style which has appealed to many Hispanic writers unhappy with the lazy, indulgent fantasies of magical realism.
There as here, the shadow of Jorge Luis Borges is obvious. It is also full of a strange kind of gallows humour, as we are swept along by stories that are invented and presented entirely convincingly, only to be suddenly brought up short by a reminder that this has not been done innocently.
The narrator of Distant Star is one of them: a young Chilean in the far south of the country, enamoured of poetry, political debate, and the two Garmendia sisters. In the vertiginous first chapter of Distant Star, we descend rapidly from the student world of literature and hopeless poetic passions to the ghastly realities of military repression and disappearances. From that moment on, the narrator, like so many of his fellow countrymen, is a haunted man. He is picked up as a "terror ist suspect", and spends several months in a concentration camp. He then begins a wandering life in Europe that is forever defined by this historical moment.
Distant Star – Roberto Bolaño
Turn up any stone in Chile, the poet Pablo Neruda used to say, and five poets will crawl out. The fictional narrator of Distant Star, with little surprise is one of them: a young Chilean to the far south of the country caught up in turbulent times, enamoured of poetry, political debate, and the two stunningly beautiful Garmendia sisters. Unfortunately for him - and very soon, for them as well as others, the sisters only have eyes for another of the aspiring poets in their poetry workshop, the aloof and mysterious figure of Alberto Ruiz-Tagle Carlos Wieder , a vaguely aristocratic young man who does not share the others political beliefs, freedoms, or bohemian lifestyles whilst also hiding a menacing secret. In the vertiginous first chapter of Distant Star, we descend rapidly from the student world, of late nights, literature, and hopeless poetic passions, to the ghastly realities of military repression, murders, disappearances, and an all together uncertainty on what the future holds. Mostly looking back at earlier times, the narrator, now living in Barcelona, like so many of his countrymen is a haunted man.
Written in the skies
Plot summary[ edit ] The book is narrated from a distance by Arturo B. The narrator first encounters Ruiz-Tagle in a college poetry workshop led by Juan Stein, where Ruiz-Tagle presents himself as a well-dressed, financially secure, self-taught writer with an unnaturally cool, distant, and calculated demeanor — in sharp contrast to the economically poor, messy, leftist, activist tendencies of the narrator and most other poetry fans then enrolled at the University of Concepcion. Ruiz-Tagle also shows a surprising detachment from his own work, giving measured, intelligence criticism and receiving it without flinching. Ruiz-Tagle also shows a disquieting lack of interest in having more than superficial social relationships with most of his fellow aspiring poets. The next sighting comes as the narrator stands in a prison camp for political undesirables, gazing up at a World War II Messerschmitt skywriting over the Andes. The aviator is none other than Ruiz-Tagle, now serving in the Chilean air force under his actual name, Carlos Wieder, and writing nationalist slogans in the sky.
Distant Star Summary