(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Most of the action of the novel takes place in the Abalos mansion, occupied by Misiá Elisa Grey de Abalos and her three women servants, and in the working-class neighborhoods where Mario, who loves the young servant Estela, struggles to maintain his human dignity. The Abalos house represents the enclosed space of repressed characters; the outside constitutes that space where they would find liberation. Coronation consists of three parts; the first, “The Gift,” introduces the characters who gather in the upper-class house to celebrate a birthday party. The guest of honor is Misiá Elisa, a demented lady in her nineties. Despite her old age and her confinement in bed, Misiá Elisa dominates all those who frequent the house, including Andrés, the orphaned grandson whom she and her husband reared. Still a bachelor in his fifties, Andrés lives comfortably on his inheritance and occupies his idle life by collecting fancy walking sticks and carrying on philosophical conversations with his lifelong friend Carlos Gross. Misiá Elisa also controls three women servants who live in the mansion: Estela, a young girl whose sole duty is to care for the aging lady; Rosario, who has cooked for the Abalos family for nearly half a century; and Lourdes, also an aging housekeeper.

The second section, “Absences,” follows the fates of Andrés and Mario, Estela’s boyfriend, as they both undergo a major crisis in their lives. Andrés is aroused from his complacency by...

(The entire section is 604 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Finnegan, Pamela May. The Tension of Paradox: José Donoso’s “The Obscene Bird of Night” as Spiritual Exercises. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1992. Finnegan examines the novel as an expression of man’s estrangement from the world. The novel’s two alter-egos, Humberto/Mudito, perceive and receive stimuli, yet they regard the world differently, even though they are interdependent. In a series of chapters, Finnegan follows Donoso’s intricate treatment of this idea, showing how the world composes and discomposes itself. A difficult but rewarding study for advanced students. Includes a bibliography.

McMurray, George R. Authorizing Fictions: José Donoso’s “Casa De Campo.” London: Tamesis Books, 1992. Chapters on Donoso’s handling of voice and time, his narrative strategies (re-presenting characters), and his use of interior duplication and distortion. Includes a bibliography.

McMurray, George R. José Donoso. Boston: Twayne, 1979. An excellent introductory study, with chapters on Donoso’s biography, his short stories, The Obscene Bird of Night, and Sacred Families. Includes chronology, detailed notes, and annotated bibliography.

Magnarelli, Sharon. Understanding José Donoso. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1993. See especially chapter 1: “How to Read José Donoso.” Subsequent chapters cover his short stories and major novels. Includes a bibliography.

Mandri, Flora. José Donoso’s House of Fiction: A Dramatic Construction of Time and Place. Detroit, Mich.: Wayne State University Press, 1995. Chapters on all of Donoso’s major fiction, exploring his treatment of history and of place. Includes detailed notes and extensive bibliography.