Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Casa de Ejercicios Espirituales de la Encarnación

Casa de Ejercicios Espirituales de la Encarnación. Home for elderly women in the fictional Chilean city of La Chimba. A large, rambling structure, the Casa has over the years become a labyrinth through two different but complementary processes of growth. Externally, additions of varying sizes and architectural styles have proliferated to the point that no one remembers what the original building looked like; internally, rooms have been divided and subdivided until even Humberto Peñaloza, the Casa’s caretaker, no longer comprehends its overall layout.

The Casa is variously depicted as a magic kingdom, a beehive, a prison, and a place to which both people and things go when they have outlived their usefulness. Clearly, it is a world of its own that is nonetheless intended to have some metaphorical relationship to the world as a whole. Its complex and labyrinthine character is further emphasized by the narrative’s frequent references to its many nooks and crannies, and to secret recesses in which witchcraft and other mysterious rites are practiced by its residents. Although it is supposed to be an institution that benevolently looks after those who live within, it is the inmates who have in fact taken control of the asylum, as the novel continues to develop its theme of the unpredictable and often irrational outcomes of human action.

La Rinconada


(The entire section is 574 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Baker, Robert. “José Donoso’s El obsceno pájaro de la noche: Thoughts on ‘Schizophrenic’ Form.” Revista de Estudios Hispánicos 26, no. 1 (1992): 37-60. A clear discussion of the sometimes confusing ways in which characters fuse with each other.

Diamond-Nigh, Lynne. “El obsceno pájaro de la noche: An Allegory of Creation.” Hispanófila 104 (1992): 37-45. Emphasizes the religious metaphors used in the novel.

Donoso, José. “A Small Biography of The Obscene Bird of Night.” Review of Contemporary Fiction 12, no. 2 (1992): 18-31. A fascinating discussion by the author on how the novel came into being, the various rewrites, and the various people and events which inspired their novelistic counterparts.

Rowe, William. “José Donoso: El obsceno pájaro de la noche as Test Case for Psychoanalytic Interpretation.” Modern Language Review 78, no. 3 (1983): 588-96. Focuses on the relationship between Humberto and Jerónimo in the novel and looks at the themes of narcissism and self-destruction.

Swanson, Philip. “José Donoso: El obsceno pájaro de la noche.” In Landmarks in Modern Latin American Fiction. London: Routledge, 1990. A tightly-argued essay which sets The Obscene Bird of Night in the context of Donoso’s other novels and concentrates on the different parallels constructed by the novel, such as those between Humberto and Mudito and between the yellow bitch and Peta Ponce.