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The most famous Chilean literature has come from Nobel Prize poets Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral, whose homes and birthplaces are now museums that attract literary pilgrims to Chile. Neruda's Heights of Machu Picchu, Canto General and the autobiographical Memoirs are widely available in English, however Mistral's works are harder to find.
Contemporary Chilean authors have earned an international reputation in the literary world. The most famous is novelist Isabel Allende, whose House of the Spirits, Of Love and Shadows, and Eva Luna have all been international bestsellers.
The increasingly popular Luis Sepúlveda has written stylish short novels like The Old Man Who Read Love Stories, and combines travel writing with imaginative fiction in Full Circle: a South American Journey.
José Donoso's novel Curfew recalls the latter days of the recent military dictatorship, while Antonio Skármeta's novel Burning Patience (drawing on Neruda's life as a Chilean icon) was the inspiration for the Oscar-winning Italian film, Il Postino (The Postman).
Two great Latin American poets appeared in Chile at the time when Vicente Huidobro's (1893–1948) creacionismo lost its force. These poets are Gabriela Mistral (1889–1957) and Pablo Neruda (1904–1973), who won Nobel Prizes in literature in 1945 and 1971, respectively. The poetry of Gabriela Mistral, including Desolación (1922), Ternura (1925), Lagar (1954), is forceful and passionate. Despite its disregard for form, it possesses—in its love song to its native Chile—a deep lyricism. Pablo Neruda is one of the great poets of 20th-century Latin America. His work incorporates varied currents and shows a rich range of lyrical and epic elements. From his initial romanticism of Crepusculario (1920–1923) and Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada (1923–1924), he shifted to an expressionist and surrealist stage with Residencia en la tierra (1925–1931 and 1931–1935), the epic España en el corazón (1937), and Canto general (1950). Neruda's work culminates in the 5 volumes of Memorial de Isla Negra (1964). Another major Chilean poet is Nicanor Parra (born 1914), with his unique "antipoemas", Poemas y antipoemas (1954), Versos de salón (1962).
Contemporary Chilean fiction is rooted in the naturalist novels of Eduardo Barrios (1882–1963) and Joaquín Edwards Bello (1886–1968), and continues through the realism of Manuel Rojas (1896–1973), an echo of whom is heard in the work of Fernando Alegría (1918). Carlos Droguett combined realism with a concern with form in his Eloy (1960). Enrique Lafourcade (born 1927) satirized the Rafael Leónidas Trujillo regime in La fiesta del rey Acab (1959) and Augusto Pinochet in "El gran taimado", a work which resulted in his self-exile for a time. The stories of Juan Emar (1893–1964), known by the pseudonym Álvaro Yáñez Bianchi, embrace both cosmopolitan and local trends. Emar's works include the story collection Diez (1937) and the unfinished posthumous novel Umbral (1996), which is perhaps the most daring work in 20th-century Chilean fiction. José Donoso (born 1924) is another major 20th-century writer; his works include El lugar sin límites (1966) and El obsceno pájaro de la noche (1970), which described the fallen world of Chile's bourgeoisie. Donoso's Casa de campo (1978) shows his great power of imagination. Another 20th century novelist is Jorge Edwards (born 1931), author of the novels El peso de la noche (1965), and Las máscaras (1967).
Roberto Bolaño is considered Chile's last great writer. His posthumous work 2666 is the culmination of his literary style. Nevertheless, there are many other writers who deserve a mention for their contribution to Chilean literature. The police novels of Roberto Ampuero, with the Cuban detective Cayetano Brulé as protagonista, are well-known. Another noted novelist is Jorge Marchant Lazcano, whose works combine history and customs. Alberto Fuguet has contributed to the internationalization of Chilean fiction with works like Mala Onda and Tinta Roja. Sebastián Edwards is known for his best-selling spy thriller El misterio de las Tanias. Hernán Rivera Letelier writes about northern Chile and the lives of miners. Marcela Serrano writes works with a feminist slant that sometimes involve the police, as in Nuestra señora de la Soledad. Novelist Isabel Allende is also well-regarded internationally. Her books sell well in United States and Europe and have been translated into several languages including English. The fiction of Diamela Eltit breaks the traditional novel patterns and is characterized by marginal characters submerged in a seedy world. The new generation of Chilean fiction writers also includes Roberto Ampuero, Marcela Serrano, Hernán Rivera Letelier, Pablo Azócar, Pía Barros, Jorge Calvo, Gregory Cohen, Jaime Collyer, Gonzalo Contreras, Marco Antonio de la Parra, Ana María del Río, Ramón Díaz Eterovic, Lilian Elphick, Martín Faunes, Arturo Marchant, Diego Muñoz Valenzuela, Darío Oses, Antonio Ostornol, Alejandra Rojas, Luis Sepúlveda, and José Leandro Urbina. Young Chilean writers (born in the 1960s) include Alejandra Costamagna, Nona Fernández, Andrea Jeftanovic, Alvaro Bisama, Roberto Brodsky and Marcos Solís.
Major poets include Óscar Hahn, Raúl Zurita, Teresa Calderón, Andrés Morales, Omar Lara, Waldo Rojas, Juan Luis Martínez, Sergio Badilla Castillo, Juan Cameron, and Malú Urriola. Other important poets come from the Quercipinión group, which has contributed to the renewal of poetry in the south of Chile. Gonzalo Osses Vilches and Santiago Azar y Damsi Figueroa are some of the freshest and most interesting voices in Chilean literature. Poets Germán Carrasco and Javier Bello are known for their visual and linguistic power. In recent years Chilean poetry has gained new vigor thanks to the emergence of a large number of poets who stand out in their powerful language and their avant-garde aesthetic that incorporates elements from pop music, film, visual arts, and philosophy. These poets include Héctor Hernández Montecinos, Camilo Brodsky, Diego Ramírez, Marcela Saldaño, Marcelo Guajardo Thomas, Carlos Henrickson, Paula Ilabaca, Marcela Parra, Pablo Paredes, Felipe Ruiz, and Galo Ghigliotto.
- Medina, José Toribio. Historia de la literatura colonial de Chile, vol. I. Imprenta El Mercurio (1878).
- Emerson Tropa. 1999. "La nueva narrativa chilena: otro intento de aproximación". Documentos Lingüísticos y Literarios 22: 61-65.
- Donoso, Pilar. " Correr el tupido velo ", Alfaguara, 2010. Premio Altazor 2011