Deconstructing Culture/Violence in Distant Star and By Night in Chile

Mandeep Boro

Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Ettimadai Email:

 Volume 10, Number 1, 2018 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v10n1.07

Received September 27, 2017; Revised December 11, 2017; Accepted December 30, 2017; Published February 04, 2018.


In Roberto Bolaño’s Distant Star (1996), Carlos Wieder embarks on a journey to change the landscape of Chilean literature. Yet it is through physical torture, murder, violence and photographic exhibitions of mutilated dead bodies that he seeks to bring in the literary transformation. He is a poet but also a professional serial killer. Funded by dictatorial regime his poetic acts include writing macabre verses with smokes of airplane in the sky. In another novella By Night in Chile (2000) by the same author, intellectuals organize tertulias to discuss philosophy, politics, poetry, art while the military junta torture people in the basement of the same building. Thus, culture and violence overlap in these texts and they lead to the problematic core of our understanding/conceptualization of literary culture as the stories told in these narratives put the literary institutions in crisis mode and blur the line between what is called culture and violence. This paper explores these issues and argues that the Bolañian novels by narrating such stories surpass the limits of the law, transgress, devalue the traditional notion of literature and completely strip it off its aura by enmeshing arts and violence together. They thus deconstruct the popular myths related to literary culture.

Keywords: Roberto Bolaño, literature, culture, violence.