Jose Donoso



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Jose Donoso (Chile, 1925)

"El Obsceno Pajaro de la Noche/ Obscene Bird of Night" (1970) fractured and contradictory narrative

The nun Benita, who runs the convent, informs the old Raquel that their friend Brigida has died in her sleep. Raquel cries and rescues her granddaughter Malu's bridal nightgown that Brigida was fixing. Raquel makes sure that Brigida gets buried in her (Raquel's) family's mausoleum. The narrator is "Mudito", a mute whose real name is Humberto. Raquel has no news from Ines, who went to Rome.
The teenaged orphan Iris is pregnant. She was left an orphan when her father killed her mother. The old women call it a "miraculous pregnancy" because they believe that she is still a virgin. And the old women need a secret place for her to give birth. Mudito has the keys to all the rooms of the house and finds a room for their need.
The aristocratic Azcoitias have reserved one of their houses for use by the Catholic church for a century and a half. It is called Casa de Ejercicios Espirituales de la Encarnacion, and it is both orphanage, convent and old widows' home. Each male heir transferred the rights to the next male heir, but each male heir had a tendency to produce many daughters and very few males. The current head of the family, Jeronimo, is the last male heir: he has no boys. Therefore the Casa will not have a new owner of the family. The archbishop waits for Jeronimo to gift the Casa to the church so that the church can build a children's village. The people of the Casa know that they may have to vacate the house and that the Casa may be demolished to become the children's village. Jeronimo's wife Ines is in Rome to promote the beatification of ##
Rita is the old woman (still a virgin at her age) who realized that Iris was pregnant. Rita spoke to Brigida, who had had two stillborn babies before being left a widow. Brigida was the one who decided that it was a miracle, but the world didn't believe in miracles anymore, so Brigida decided that the whole thing must be kept a secret. The baby was going to be raised by them, the old women of the house, and Iris and the baby would be confined forever in the house. Before dying, Brigida has a vision of the "imbuche" that used to scare her as a child: a horrible doll used by witches that has all orifices sewed up. The secret of the pregnancy is shared only by the six women (Dora, Maria Benitez, Amalia, Rosa Perez, Rita and originally Brigida) and by the mute and deaf Humberto/Mudito. Only they know the room where Iris will be kept prisoner, a room full of broken statues of saints.
Mudito tells how he discovered that Iris was roaming around the house, and how he helped her get out of the house and explore the neighborhood. Iris, a mentally retarded teenager, fell in love with a poor man, Romualdo, whose job consists in handing out handbills in the street while wearing a papier-mache costume with a giant head. She was known as Gina and Mudito refers to Romualdo as "the Giant". Humberto is so obsessed with Iris that he pays Romualdo to wear the costume and distribute the handbills on his behalf. This way Iris/Gina hangs out with him and promises to spend a whole night with him. Once he heard that Iris was pregnant, Mudito stopped paying Romualdo for the giant head. Romualdo had bought a gold watch on credit and needed more money, so he started renting out the costume to anybody who wanted to sleep with Gina/Iris. Soon she became a famous attraction, known all over town. Diplomats, scientists, lawyers, politicians and so on came to rent the costume and sleep with her. Eventually, Humberto/Mudito saw that Jeronimo himself came. He wore the costume and had sex with Iris/Gina. This gave Mudito a new idea: let Jeronimo think that Iris' baby is his baby, so that the baby (Mudito's baby) would inherit the house (and the entire dynasty). Jeronimo recognizes Mudito because Mudito was his servant for a while and used to escort him to brothels when Ines was pregnant. Mudito is of humble origins, the son of a schoolteacher and grandson of a locomotive engineer, but now he has his chance to take his revenge on the rich aristocrat whom he has envied since he first met him as a child, just returned from Europe to get married to Ines. Eventually, the greedy Romualdo got into a fight with Gabriel's posse because Gina refused to have sex with Gabriel's younger brother Tito despite Tito paying to wear the giant head. The outcome of the fight is that the giant head got destroyed (The fight is narrated by the giant head itself while it's being destroyed).
The old women gossip that Iris' father has been sentenced to death a few months earlier for the murder of his wife, and is probably already dead. After the death of Brigida (the woman who invented the story of the miraculous pregnancy), a seventh woman joins the conspiracy: Damiana. She's a tiny toothless old woman whom Iris starts treating as a doll. Iris starts treating her like a baby, and Damiana reciprocates. Their embrace soon becomes a sexual embrace, with Damiana taking advantage of the retarded Iris to experience an orgasm The act is described by Iris, while the overall story is told by Mudito, who considers himself the seventh woman, who is hiding her real sex, whose name Humberto is written 9,300 times in the 100 copies of his books that Jeronimo hides in his library. Brigida died sometimes after Iris got pregnant and before the current events. Damiana plots with Iris. Iris told Damiana that the father is Romualdo and Damiana sneaks out of the convent to look for him so he can take responsibility for raising the baby. But Iris tells Mudito that in reality she has no intention of living with Damiana the lesbian and instead wants to find the real father. Iris is not so retarded after all: she knows that many men used Romualdo's giant head to sleep with her. Mudito is scheming too though: he tells Iris that he knows who the real father is, and that the real father is a rich gentleman, Jeronimo. Iris blackmails Mudito: she has figured out that Mudito is neither deaf nor mute. They are all scheming against each other: the old women want to steal the baby, Damiana wants Iris, Iris wants the real father, Mudito wants Jeronimoto raise his child. And the original scheme was Brigida's idea that Iris is a virgin. ##

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El Lugar Sin Limites/ The Place with no Limits/ Il Posto che non ha Confini (1966)
La Manuela è un vecchio travestito, capitato per caso in un posto di confine durante una festa per la vittoria elettorale del potente ed ambizioso don Alejo, e rimastovi a vivere nel locale bordello: la padrona d’allora fece, per scommessa, l’amore con lui e ne ebbe la ragazza che tutti chiamano "la Giapponesina", destinata anch'ella alla carriera di prostituta. Il rissoso Pancho, figlio di don Alejo, sfoga le sue frustrazioni di fallito prendendosela con il povero travestito, il quale teme la sua violenza.; anche la ragazza teme Pancho, che vuole approfittarne. La Giapponesina sogna un futuro migliore, ed anche la Manuela sogna di vendere la casa (che ricevette in cambio della scommessa) ed andarsene altrove; ma la Giapponesina rifiuta di vendere a don Alejo, e condanna suo padre a quella vita umiliante. A sua volta don Alejo è un cinico speculatore, anche se si camuffa da difensore del progresso: vuole soltanto far aumentare il valore di quelle terre. Una sera Pancho viene a prendere ciò che vuole: la Manuela si nasconde vigliaccamente, sperando che lui s’accontenti della Giapponesina, destinata, in ogni caso, a diventare puttana: quando poi sente urlare la ragazza, esce dal suo nascondiglio e va ad offrirsi al martirio; verrà ucciso a pugni dagli uomini di Pancho, mentre la Giapponesina pensa che sia il solito vizioso che non ha saputo resistere alla tentazione di far baldoria con Pancho. Favola truculenta raccontata con grande maestria di linguaggio.

See also Ripstein's movie

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