CURFEW by Jose Donoso


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Chilean novelist Donoso (Obscene Bird of Night, Sacred Families, A House in the Country) blends political realism with discursive flight in this depiction of one 24-hour period following the death of Pablo Neruda's wife. As with A House in the Country, Donoso's latest presents the spectacle of South American life against the metallic grid of politics, playing heightened introspection and humor against historical ""faction."" Here, the gathering of Donoso's characters is occasioned by the death of Pablo Neruda's wife Matilde. Arriving to pay their last respects, the mourners all too soon lose sight of that occasion and shift attention to politics, clique interest, old scores, and the proprieties of the radical left. For Manungo Vera, a folk singer returning to Chile after an exile-by-choice in Europe, Matilde's death is cause for laborious introspection about his past; for the corpulent invester Freddie Fox it's a question of who will bag the spoils of Neruda's library; for the activist Lis-boa, Matilde's upcoming funeral is a political event marking a moment of solidarity against Pinochet's regime; and for the official class-clown and drank Lopito, the event is simply another occasion to be a nuisance to his friends. There are echoes of Donoso's satirical Sacred Families in his portrayal of the foibles of an intellectual set, though he saves the heavy ammo for the crudely driven hard left, expressed here in the form of Lisboa, who, fearing the left will be deprived of its leadership role if the Church organizes a mass for Matilde, suppresses news of her conversion to Catholicism. Learning of Lopito's death at the hands of Chilean police, folk-singer Manungo wonders whether there is any point in staying in a country capable of killing such a pathetic non-threat--while a friend guiltily muses on the political usefulness of Lopito's murder. Though not sustaining forward momentum throughout, Donoso, as before, does hit with vignettes of shrewdly observed detail and a general evocation of an oppressive political climate.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1988
ISBN: 0802133819
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson