By Night in Chile

Mourning and Allegory in Roberto Bolaño's By Night in Chile

Roberto Bolaño's novel By Night in Chile itself is almost a parody of the "confessional narrative" style that Idelber Avelar accuses of having met its "historical limit" in his book The Untimely Present: Postdictatorial Latin American Fiction. By embodying the voice of a man who wishes to confess but cannot admit to doing wrong, Bolaño utilizes the paradox of allegorical fiction that Avelar identifies as an attempt to express topics and events that the writer does not possess the vocabulary to express, often because their nature is so unprecedentedly horrific; Avelar labels this technique the"dissolution of the signature" (Avelar, 152) or "the loss of the proper name" (Avelar, 101). In this sense it is closely tied to melancholia and mourning, the desire to grieve and remember, juxtaposed against the need to reconstruct a life beyond the defining loss. Avelar claims that allegorical fiction's liberal use of discontinuity, paradox and fragmentation make it not only a distinctly postmodern medium, but one especially well equipped to deal with this modern sense of melancholia. Contemporary writers of fiction grapple with an entire reorganization of the very ideas of past, present,...

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