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José Donoso

José Donoso José Donoso[1†]

José Manuel Donoso Yáñez, known as José Donoso, was a renowned Chilean writer, journalist, and professor[1†][2†]. Born on October 5, 1924, in Santiago, Chile, he lived most of his life in his home country[1†][2†]. However, he also spent many years in self-imposed exile in Mexico, the United States, and Spain[1†]. His exile was initially for personal reasons, but after 1973, it also became a form of protest against the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet[1†].

Early Years and Education

José Donoso was born on October 5, 1924, in Santiago, Chile, to the physician José Donoso Donoso and Alicia Yáñez[1†]. He studied at The Grange School, where he was classmates with Luis Alberto Heiremans and Carlos Fuentes, and in Liceo José Victorino Lastarria[1†]. Coming from a comfortable family, during his childhood he worked as a juggler and an office worker, much before he developed as a writer and teacher[1†].

In 1945, he traveled to the southernmost part of Chile and Argentina, where he worked on sheep farms in the province of Magallanes[1†]. Two years later, he finished high school and signed up to study English in the Institute of Teaching at the Universidad de Chile (University of Chile)[1†]. In 1949, thanks to a scholarship from the Doherty Foundation, he changed to studying English literature at Princeton University, where he studied under such professors as R. P. Blackmur, Lawrence Thompson, and Allan Tate[1†][3†]. The Princeton magazine, MSS, published his first two stories, both written in English: “The Blue Woman” (1950) and “The Poisoned Pastries” (1951)[1†].

Donoso graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English from Princeton in 1951 after completing a senior thesis titled "The Elegance of Mind of Jane Austen. An Interpretation of Her Novels Through the Attitudes of Heroines"[1†][3†]. In 1951, he traveled to Mexico and Central America[1†]. He then returned to Chile and in 1954 started teaching English at the Universidad Católica (Catholic University) and in the Kent School[1†].

Career Development and Achievements

José Donoso began his literary career with his novel “Coronación” (“Coronation”), which became a bestseller in 1957[4†]. The novel, which deals with society’s deterioration, identity crises, and madness, set the tone for some of the author’s later novels[4†]. It presents the moral collapse of an aristocratic family and suggests that an insidious loss of values affects all sectors of society[4†][2†]. This novel won him the William Faulkner Foundation Prize in 1962[4†][2†].

His second and third novels, “Este domingo” (1966; “This Sunday”) and “El lugar sin límites” (1966; “The Place Without Limits”; “Hell Has No Limits”), depict characters barely able to subsist in an atmosphere of desolation and anguish[4†][2†]. His masterpiece, “El obsceno pájaro de la noche” (1970; “The Obscene Bird of Night”), presents a hallucinatory, often grotesque, world, and explores the fears, frustrations, dreams, and obsessions of his characters with profound psychological insight[4†][2†].

In the novel “Casa de campo” (1978; “A House in the Country”), which Donoso considered his best work, he examines in a Surrealist style the breakdown of social order in postcolonial Latin America[4†][2†]. He returned to live in Chile in 1982[4†][1†]. The author of numerous antigovernment articles, he was briefly detained in 1985 after he protested the dismissal of dissident writers from their teaching positions[4†][2†].

Donoso’s works deal with a number of themes, including sexuality, the duplicity of identity, and a sense of dark humor[4†][1†]. His contributions to the Latin American literary boom are significant, and his works continue to influence the field of Latin American literature[4†][2†][1†].

First Publication of His Main Works

José Donoso’s literary career was marked by a series of significant works that have left an indelible mark on Latin American literature[2†]. Here are some of his main works, along with details about their first publication:

Each of these works reflects Donoso’s unique style and his ability to explore complex themes with depth and nuance[2†]. His novels are characterized by their exploration of themes such as sexuality, the duplicity of identity, and a sense of dark humor[2†].

Analysis and Evaluation

José Donoso’s works are characterized by their exploration of themes such as sexuality, the duplicity of identity, and a sense of dark humor[5†]. His powers of sociopsychological penetration and his marvelous irony and skillful use of allegory, together with his masterful handling of existential themes and the abnormal or psychotic narrative perspective, place Donoso in the forefront of international fiction[5†].

Each of Donoso’s novels had its special success, and the writer’s prestige grew with each stage of his career[5†]. Despite a slow beginning (he came to the novel at age thirty-three), Donoso published no novel that could be classed a failure by critics or the public, and several of his works have received awards[5†]. The most acclaimed being “The Obscene Bird of Night” (a favorite of reviewers and literary critics) and “A House in the Country”, which received the Spanish Critics’ Prize[5†].

Donoso’s interest in psychological analysis transcends the usual naturalistic characterization[5†][6†]. Social determinism underlies the formation both of his characters and his narratives[5†][6†]. His works portray most of the characters as products of their environment[5†][6†]. Time in his works is treated in a more fluid handling, reflecting the philosophical and literary theories of Henri Bergson and Marcel Proust while intensifying the latent Freudian and existential concepts[5†][6†].

In conclusion, José Donoso’s literary contributions significantly influenced the Latin American literary boom[5†]. His unique style and his ability to explore complex themes with depth and nuance have left an indelible mark on Latin American literature[5†].

Personal Life

José Donoso was born in Santiago, Chile, on October 5, 1924, to the physician José Donoso Donoso and Alicia Yáñez[1†]. He was educated in an English school in Santiago and later attended the Instituto Pedagógico of the University of Chile[1†][7†]. In 1945, he traveled to the southernmost part of Chile and Argentina, where he worked on sheep farms in the province of Magallanes[1†].

In 1951, he traveled to Mexico and Central America[1†]. After studying at Princeton University, where he received a B.A. degree in 1951[1†][2†], he taught at the Catholic University of Chile and the University of Chile in the 1950s[1†][2†]. Toward the end of the decade, he worked as a journalist[1†][2†]. After lecturing at the University of Iowa from 1965 to 1967, he took up residence in Spain[1†][2†].

Donoso lived most of his life in Chile, although he spent many years in self-imposed exile in Mexico, the United States, and Spain[1†][8†][9†]. Although he had left his country in the sixties for personal reasons, after 1973 he said his exile was also a form of protest against the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet[1†][8†][9†]. He returned to Chile in 1981 and lived there until his death on December 7, 1996[1†][2†][8†][9†].

Conclusion and Legacy

José Donoso’s work has left a profound impact on Latin American literature. He was one of the key figures in the Latin American literary boom, a movement characterized by innovation and experimentation in narrative techniques[4†][2†]. His novels and short stories, known for their dark surrealism, black comedy, and social satire, explored the lives of decaying aristocrats in a morally disintegrating society[4†][2†].

Donoso’s work was not just limited to his own writing. He also served as a professor and was involved in the academic community[4†]. His influence extended to his students and the writers and readers who came after him[4†][2†].

On the 20th anniversary of his death, the Hispanic Division honored the great Chilean writer José Donoso[4†]. His legacy continues to inspire and influence writers and readers alike[4†][2†].

Donoso, like Marcel Proust, William Faulkner, and the stream-of-consciousness writers, gave literary testament to the belief that ultimate human reality is disclosed not in rational observation, historicity, or scientific proof but in the workings of human emotion and imagination[4†][10†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - José Donoso [website] - link
  2. Britannica - José Donoso: Chilean author [website] - link
  3. eNotes - José Donoso Biography [website] - link
  4. 4 CORNERS OF THE WORLD - International Collections at the Library of Congress - The Legacy of Writer José Donoso [website] - link
  5. eNotes - José Donoso Analysis [website] - link
  6. eNotes - José Donoso Long Fiction Analysis [website] - link
  7. The Modern Novel - José Donoso [website] - link
  8. Pantheon - José Donoso Biography - Chilean writer, journalist and professor (1924 – 1996) [website] - link
  9. Goodreads - Author: José Donoso (Author of The Obscene Bird of Night) [website] - link
  10. eNotes - José Donoso Critical Essays [website] - link
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