Francis Cairns Publications

Liverpool Monographs in Hispanic Studies 9

José Donoso. The "Boom" and Beyond

Philip Swanson

LMHS 9. ISBN 978-0-905205-64-9. Cloth. viii+181pp. 1988.

The work of José Donoso, the renowned Chilean writer of fiction, is surveyed in this volume, which concentrates on his novelistic prodiction up to 1981. Philip Swanson analyses each novel in detail and plots the twin development of narrative technique and existential outlook. He sets this development within its natural context of the "boom" – the remarkable period of innovation initiated in the 1960s by South-American authors such as Cortázar, Fuentes, García Márquez and Vargas Llosa.

Swanson also analyzes the progressive breakdown in conventional structural patterns, which stemmed from Donoso's own disintegration of faith in order and existential certainties. The climax of this process was his most successful novel, El obsceno pájaro de la noche (1970). Donoso subsequently moderated such formal complexity in a transition towards resignation and acceptance. But this apparent counter-reaction, as Swanson argues, is not merely a regression to simpler forms, but disruptively subverts realism from within, and points a new way forward after the exhaustion of the experimental explosion of the 1960s and 1970s.


Bulletin of Latin American Research 8 (1989) 129-30 (Gerald Martin): "Philip Swanson's lucid textual study of Donoso's fiction between 1957 and 1981 sets his work in the context of the "boom", as is unavoidable, and seeks to show 'a consistent pattern of development which allows us to perceive an overall unity in the process of evolution'. ... This general picture, based on close and essentially thematic readings of the novels ... is patiently elaborated and convincing. Swanson's work is undoubtedly a useful addition to the literature in English on Chile's most important novelist of the past thirty years. and it will be especially helpful for undergraduate teaching.

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 66 (1989) 195-6 (Pamela Bacarisse)

Modern Language Review 87 (1992) 515-16 (William Rowe)