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ARTISTS, AESTHETICS, AND FAMILY POLITICS IN DONOSO'S EL OBSCENO PÁJARO DE LA NOCHE AND JAMES'S THE GOLDEN BOWL Scott Pollard Every man who has reached even his intellectual teens begins to suspect that life is noforce; that it is notgenteel comedy even; that itflowers andfructifies on the contrary out ofthe profoundest tragic depths ofthe essential dearth in which its subject's roots are plunged. The natural inheritance ofeveryone who is capable of spiritual life is an unsubduedforest where the wolfhowls and the obscene bird of night chatters. Henry James, Sr., writing to his sons Henry and William I. The Chilean noveUst, José Donoso (1924-1997), was a member of Latin America's "Boom" generation. These authors, including JuUo Cortázar, Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel García Márquez, and Mario Vargas Llosa, came to the attention of the world Uterary community during the 1960s because of the sheer virtuosity of their narrative techniques. Many great works were produced in only a few years: Cortázar's Rayuela (1963), Fuentes' La muerta de Artemio Cruz (1962), García Marquez's Cien años de soledad (1967), Vargas Llosa's La casa verde (1965), and Donoso's El obscenopájaro de la noche (1970). The "Boom" authors rejected the realistic and naturaUstic schools (costumbrismo, criollismo) that dominated Latin American literature in the first half of the twentieth century, and embraced, instead, the high modernists of Europe and the United States. Donoso shared his feUow "Boom" authors' love of William Faulkner, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and Marcel Proust, but he also discovered their immediate precursor, Henry James, when he came to the United States in 1954 on a Guggenheim Fellowship to study at Princeton. He found the above quote, which serves as the epigraph ofEl obscenopájaro, whüe "poring through Leon Edel with a comb" (personal interview). The final, referential Une ofthe epigraph orients the novel within a larger intertextual field, tangentiaUy identifying Henry James, Jr. as one of Donoso's "literary fathers"; Donoso confirmed the influence of "mi querido James" in his interview with Emir Rodriguez Monegal upon publication of the novel. When Sharon MagnareUi interprets the epigraph, she initiaUy notes its formal quaUties, the weU-wrought balance between the unsubdued forest as represented by Mudito and Peta Ponce and the "genteel comedy [. . J as evidenced in Jerónimo and Inés" ("Baroque" 90). But then, speaking of "our wolf and bird," she tUts her interpretation: But, perhaps even more importantly, the epigraph underlines, as does the entire text, the noisiness ofthese two animals. The wolfhowls and the bird chatters, but no mention is made oftheir ability to communicate anything via the howling and chattering. All they produce are sounds, communVoI . 23 (1999): 40 ??? COHPAnATIST icative gestures, frills, supplemental, purposeless ornamentation, which echoes and reflects itself. [. . J This howling and chattering, however, are all we have, and they fill up the empty space ofthe night, but they do not communicate a message. MagnareUi sUdes the thoughtful words ofa nineteenth-century Swedenborgian into the postmodern realm of hyperproductive, unstable signification to foreshadow the neo-baroque novel to come. Anita MuUer takes an existential tut at the epigraph, which signifies "the absurdity of fighting for a spiritual Ufe or salvation in a degenerate and malevolent world" (93). El obsceno pájaro begins with the modernist fear that inteUect and culture are lost causes and the world already a wasteland. MagnareUi and MuUer recontextuaUze the words of Henry James, Sr. to begin buüding distinctly twentieth-century interpretive frameworks for El obsceno pájaro. They launch the epigraph into its own future as precursor text. Hector Calderón foUows suit, pursuing the narratological connection between James and Donoso by viewing James as precursor to the vanguard oftwentieth-century narrative: "Donoso's novel represents an evolutionary process in a genre where, after Henry James, the intervention of the author tends to disappear, just as the unified consciousness disappears , because of the psychoanalytic theories of Freud" (55). The resultant history is conventional, generic yet accurate: a description that appUes as aptly to James's relation to Donoso as it does to his relation to Joyce, Woolf, Faulkner, or Proust. The authors of the modernist...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-0887
Print ISSN
0195-7678
Pages
pp. 40-62
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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