By night in chile
This is the story of a boy who yearned to be a poet but became an Opus Dei priest Father Sebastian Urrutia. His love is for the literary arts and continues writing poems even as he continues his work as a priest. He is challenged to preserve churches in Europe and encounters odd priests who have a prejudice for pigeons, maintaining falcons in order to keep the pigeons away. One of the priests posits that falconry is the destruction of the symbol of the Holy Spirit. Father Urrutia is sent to teach Marxism to General Pinochet and his Junta secretly.
He occasionally goes to the house of a literary lady Maria Canales who has a penchant for hosting parties to artists and authors. As the story progresses, it is revealed that the American husband of the hostess collaborates with the Chilean secret service so that they can detain and imprison suspected subversives. They are kept in the basement of the house where his Chilean wife had these parties. The author masterfully weaves the story and exudes the creative and destructive forces of Chilean politics and literature. He uses magical realism in order to stimulate readers’ minds using graphic style of writing as well as satire and sarcasm.
This paper looks at the entity of Urrutia who remains indifferent of the plight of man as well as the destructive apathy of Chilean literature amidst corruption and literary collapse. Bolano uses this narrator to point out the air of complacency that pervades the artists, officials and other people who are accountable to history because of the show of indifference. Father Urrutia is not interested in politics at all since he is basically a priest and literary critic and a priest first and foremost but the political events at that present time seem to get a hold at the upper class circles of literati whom he associates with.
His has a comical reaction to the election of Allende (and Pinochet’s subsequent coup) since as the people of Chile march to the streets in sweeping social change, Urrutia indulges himself in classical Greek literature so that he is able to escape the political confusion that may derail him from his own personal pursuits. Pinochet succeeds and restores some kind of order. Urrutia is able to breathe as he senses peace at hand. Thus the priest seemingly has distantiated himself from this kind of responsibility and escapes in his own world.
He thinks that it distracts him from his art. He is of the thinking that he needs to find something if he does indulges in the confusion of politics if he is to pursue it at all. Thus, he is alienated from the times. Basic to being an effective person is the fact that we are able to make decisions and freely choose from among alternatives. One’s likes and dislikes are partly the wisdom of one’s organism, partly the result of helpful learning that protects one and keeps one out of trouble, and partly the result of harmful learning.
Harmful learning includes certain kinds of accidental learning brought about by chance circumstances, as well as conditioned responses that were once appropriate but are no longer so. These obsolete ways of thinking and feeling make it hard for one to act in healthy and satisfying ways now. But when one pays attention to one’s liking and disliking, one naturally becomes more fully aware of likes and dislikes of what one wants to do and do not want to do. One discovers that these sometimes contradict with what one should like and dislike, if one is aware of what is happening inside him.
As Urrutia refuses to recognize the kind of apathy that he has for being involved with the exigencies of the times then, he cannot identify with the people around him. The author states that Urrutia maintains that “One has a moral obligation to take responsibility for one’s actions, and that includes one’s words and silences, yes, one’s silences, because silences rise to heaven too, and God hears them, and only God understands and judges them, so one must be very careful with one’s silences. I am responsible in every way. My silences are immaculate. Let me make that clear. Clear to God above all.
” (Bolano, 1) Thus, his silence can be a kind of cowardice and stubbornness that characterize his motives. Maria Canales’ house is the host of a soiree and a few of Chile’s well-bred and worldly poets gather to drink cocktails. There is a kind of denial about the urgency of the times as one guest accidentally discovers man manacled who has been tortured because he was an anti-Pinochet dissident. The guest discovers this was done by Canales’ husband, Jimmy Thompson. Urrutia thus looks deeply at the implications of this and how it reflects on the inappropriate choice of Canales as the party is done in the same house.
“Because, normally, when she had a soiree, the basement was unoccupied. I asked myself the following question: Why then, on that particular night, did a guest who lost his way find that poor man? The answer was simple: Because with time, vigilance tends to relax, because all horrors are dulled by routine. I asked myself the following question: Why didn’t anyone say anything at the time? The answer was simple: Because they were afraid. I was not afraid. I would have been able to speak out but I didn’t see anything, I didn’t know until it was too late. Why go stirring up things that had settled down after a few years? ” (Bolano, 122).
Every guest in the party ignores and dismisses this as people get to know about the tortured man at the basement of the house where the party was being held. It is a pity that a priest like Urrutia could justify this inhumanity saying that this is some sort of a goal of literary history, “That is how literature is made, that is how the great works of Western literature are made. You better get used to it. ” (Bolano, 128). Urrutia as an indifferent man is like that of the tortured man and the symbolism that this entails is replete all throughout the story because other people are also indifferent to the plight of the people.
Bolano is able to create Urrutia as a pessimistic embodiment of the moral apathy of the writers during the regime of Pinochet. The kind of true responsibility is lacking in Urrutia because response-ability according to Perls, is often a misused word that refers to “the ability to respond: the ability to be alive, to feel, to be sensitive. ” (GTV, 100). It does not mean “obligation. ” It does not mean “duty. ” It is actually a trait that directs a person to do a task without asking why. One does it automatically and because he has been committed to doing that no matter what happens.
Discretion is a trait that characterizes the career of Urrutia and his views become distorted as guilt overwhelms him. Author Eder of The New York Times maintains that “His avowals fall suddenly mute; his omissions blare revelation. ” (Eder). WORKS CITED Bolano, Roberto. By Night in Chile. New Directions Publishing Corporation (December 2003) Eder, Richard. Books of the Times: A Priest who Lived Trhough the Grim Pinochet Era. The New York Times. Retrieved June 5, 2008 at: http://query. nytimes. com/gst/fullpage. html? res=9B00E2DB1030F935A25752C0A9629C8B63&n=Top%2FFeatures%2FBooks%2FBook%20Reviews