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José Donoso Yáñez (October 5, 1924 – December 7, 1996) was a Chilean writer. He lived most of his life in Chile, although he spent many years in self-imposed exile in Mexico, the United States (Iowa) and mainly Spain. 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. He returned to Chile in 1981 and lived there until his death.

José Donoso
Donoso in 1981
Donoso in 1981
BornJosé Donoso Yáñez
(1924-10-05)5 October 1924
Died7 December 1996(1996-12-07) (aged 72)
OccupationWriter, journalist, professor
Alma materUniversity of Chile
GenreNovel, short story
Literary movementLatin American Boom
Notable worksHell Has No Limits,
The Obscene Bird of Night
Notable awardsNational Prize for Literature (Chile) 1990
Years active20th century
SpouseMaría del Pilar Serrano
ChildrenPilar Donoso

Donoso is the author of a number of noted stories and novels, which contributed greatly to the Latin American literary boom. The term 'Boom' was coined in his 1972 essay Historia personal del "boom".[1] His best known works include the novels Coronación [es], El lugar sin límites (The Place Without Limits) and El obsceno pájaro de la noche (The Obscene Bird of Night). His works deal with a number of themes, including sexuality, the duplicity of identity, psychology, and a sense of dark humor.

Early lifeEdit

José Donoso Yáñez was born on October 5, 1924, a son of the doctor José Donoso Donoso and Alicia Yáñez, niece of the writer Eliodoro Yanez, founder of the newspaper La Nación.(The Nation) He studied in The Grange School, where he was classmates with Luis Alberto Heiremans and Carlos Fuentes, and in Liceo José Victorino Lastarria (José Victorino Lastarria High School). 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.[citation needed]

In 1945 he traveled to the southernmost part of Chile and Argentina, where he worked on sheep farms in the province of Magallanes. Two years later, he finished high school and signed up to study English in the Institute of Teaching in the Universidad de Chile (University of Chile). In 1949, thanks to a scholarship from the Doherty Foundation, he changed to studying ancient English texts in the University of Princeton, where he had professors like R. P. Blackmur, Lawrence Thompson and Allan Tate. The Princeton magazine, MSS, published his first two stories in the English language: The blue woman and The poisoned pastries between 1950 and 1951.[citation needed]


In 1951, he traveled to Mexico and Central America. He then returned to Chile and started teaching how to teach at the Universidad Católica (Catholic University) and in the Kent School.

His first book – Veraneo y otros cuentos -- came about in 1955 and won the Premio Municipal de Santiago (Municipal prize of Santiago) the next year. In 1957 while he lived with a family of fishermen in the Isla Negra, he published his first novel, Coronación, in which he described the high Santiaguina classes and their decadence. Eight years later it was published for the first time in the United States by Alfred A Knopf and in England by The Bodley Head.

He started writing for the magazine Ercilla in 1960 when he found himself traveling through Europe, from where he sent his reports. After he continued as an editor and literary critic of that publication until 1965. Afterwards he collaborated with the Mexican Siempre.[citation needed]

In 1961, he married with painter María Ester Serrano, known as María Pilar Donoso (1926–1997), daughter of the Chilean Juan Enrique Serrano and the Bolivian Graciela Mendieta. Donoso had known her the preceding year in Buenos Aires.[citation needed]

In 1981, after his return to Chile, he made a literature workshop in the which, during the first period, many writers like Roberto Brodsky (El arte de callar, Bosque quemado), Marco Antonio de la Parra, Carlos Franz ('El lugar donde estuvo el paraíso, El desierto, Almuerzo de vampiros'), Carlos Iturra (Paisaje masculine), Eduardo Llanos, Marcelo Maturana, Sonia Montecino Aguirre (La revuelta), Darío Oses (Machos tristes), Roberto Rivera and, very fleetingly, Jaime Collyer (Gente al acecho, Cien pájaros volando), Gonzalo Contreras (La ciudad anterior, El nadador, El gran mal) and Jorge Marchant Lazcano, among others. In later century Arturo Fontaine Talavera, Alberto Fuguet and Ágata Gligo, attended, among others.

At the same time, he continued publishing novels, even though they didn't receive the same repercussions as preceding works: La desesperanza (1986), the short novels Taratuta and Naturaleza muerta con cachimba (1990) and Donde van a morir los elefantes (1995). Póstumamente aparecieron El mocho (1997) and Lagartija sin cola (2007).[citation needed]


José Donoso died in his house in Santiago Chile 7 December 1996. On his deathbed, according to popular belief, he asked that they read him the poems of Altazor of Vicente Huidobro. His remains were buried in the cemetery of a spa located in the province of Petorca, 80 kilometers from Valparaíso.[1]


  • Veraneo y otros cuentos, 1955, contains 7 stories:
    • Veraneo, Tocayos, El Güero, Una señora, Fiesta en grande, Dos cartas y Dinamarquero
  • Coronación (novel, 1957)
  • El charleston, 1960, contains 5 stories:
    • El charleston, La puerta cerrada, Ana María, Paseo y El hombrecito
  • El lugar sin límites (novel, 1966)
  • Este domingo (novel 1966)
  • Los mejores cuentos de José Donoso, selection by Luis Domínguez, Zig-Zag, 1966; contains:
    • Veraneo, Tocayos, El Güero, Una señora, Fiesta en grande, Dos cartas, Dinamarquero, El charleston, La puerta cerrada, Ana María, Paseo, El hombrecito, China and Santelices
  • El obsceno pájaro de la noche (novel, 1970)
  • Cuentos, Seix Barral, Barcelona 1971
  • Historia personal del boom (memories, 1972)
  • Tres novelitas burguesas, 1973, contains:
    • Chatanooga choochoo, Átomo verde número cinco y Gaspard de la nuit
  • Casa de campo (novel, 1978)
  • La misteriosa desaparición de la marquesita de Loria (novel, 1981)
  • El jardín de al lado (novel, 1981)
  • Poemas de un novelista (poetry, 1981)
  • Cuatro para Delfina, 1982, contains four brief novels:
    • Sueños de mala muerte, Los habitantes de una ruina inconclusa, El tiempo perdido and Jolie Madame
  • Veraneo y sus mejores cuentos,Santiago, Zig-Zag, 1985, contains ten stories:
    • Veraneo, Tocayos, El Güero, Una señora, Fiesta en grande, Dos cartas, Dinamarquero, Paseo, El hombrecito and Santelices
  • La desesperanza (novel, 1986)
  • Artículos de incierta necesidad, 1998, selection of his articles published for magazines compiled by Cecilia García-Huidobro
  • Taratuta y Naturaleza muerta con cachimba (short novels, 1990)
  • Donde van a morir los elefantes (novel, 1995)
  • Nueve novelas breves, Alfaguara 1996, contains the books Tres novelitas burguesas, Cuatro para Delfina más Taratuta and Naturaleza muerta con cachimba
  • Conjeturas sobre la memoria de mi tribu (fictional memories, 1996)
  • El mocho (novel, posthumous edition, 1997)
  • Cuentos (anthology, Alfaguara, 1997)
  • Lagartija sin cola (novel, posthumous edition, 2007)

Further readingEdit


  • The self in the narratives of José Donoso: Chile, 1924–1996 / Mary Lusky Friedman., 2004
  • The veracity of disguise in selected works of José Donoso: illusory deception / Brent J Carbajal., 2000
  • José Donoso's house of fiction: a dramatic construction of time and place / Flora María González Mandri., 1995
  • Understanding José Donoso / Sharon Magnarelli., 1993
  • Studies on the works of José Donoso: an anthology of critical essays / Miriam Adelstein., 1990
  • José Donoso, the "boom" and beyond / Philip Swanson., 1988
  • The creative process in the works of José Donoso / Guillermo I Castillo-Feliú., 1982
  • José Donoso (Twayne's World Authors Series) / George R McMurray., 1979


  • Racionalidad e imaginación: transposiciones del cuerpo y de la mente en los cuentos de José Donoso / Sergio Véliz., 2001
  • Las últimas obras de José Donoso: juegos, roles y rituales en la subversión del poder / Michael Colvin., 2001
  • Donoso sin límites / Carlos Cerda., 1997
  • José Donoso, escritura y subversión del significado / Laura A Chesak., 1997
  • José Donoso: desde el texto al metatexto / Enrique Luengo., 1992
  • El simbolismo en la obra de José Donoso / Augusto C Sarrochi., 1992
  • José Donoso, impostura e impostación / Ricardo Gutiérrez Mouat., 1983
  • José Donoso: incursiones en su producción novelesca / Myrna Solotorevsky., 1983
  • Ideología y estructuras narrativas en José Donoso, 1950–1970 / Hugo Achugar., 1979
  • José Donoso: una insurrección contra la realidad / Isis Quinteros., 1978
  • José Donoso: la destrucción de un mundo / José Promis Ojeda., 1975


  1. ^ Ortega, Julio (21 August 2003). "Los papeles de José Donoso". Retrieved 12 August 2018.

External linksEdit