The Obscene Bird of Night

José Donoso

cover image of the book The Obscene Bird of Night

To say he’s the best Chilean novelist of the century is to insult him. I don’t think Donoso had such paltry ambitions.

Roberto Bolaño

Newly revised and updated by Megan McDowell, the unabridged, centennial edition of Donoso’s terrifying masterpiece finally sees the light of day

Available Mar, 05 2024

The Obscene Bird of Night

Fictionby José Donoso

Translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell, Hardie St. Martin and Leonard Mades

With a contribution by Alejandro Zambra

Deep in a maze of musty, forgotten hallways, Mudito rummages through piles of old newspapers. The mute caretaker of the crumbling former abbey, he is hounded by a coven of ancient witches who are bent on transforming him, bit by bit, into the terrifying imbunche: a twisted monster with all of its orifices sewn up, buried alive in its own body. Once, Mudito walked upright and spoke clearly; once he was the personal assistant to one of Chile’s most powerful politicians, Jerónimo de Azcoitía. Once, he ruled over a palace of monsters, built to shield Jerónimo’s deformed son from any concept of beauty. Once, he plotted with the wise woman Peta Ponce to bed Inés, Jerónimo’s wife. Mudito was Humberto, Jerónimo was strong, Inés was beautiful...

Narrated in voices that shift and multiply, The Obscene Bird of Night frets the seams between master and slave, rich and poor, reality and nightmares, man and woman, self and other in a maniacal inquiry into the horrifying transformations that power can wreak on identity. Now, star translator Megan McDowell has revised and updated the classic translation, restoring nearly twenty pages of previously untranslated text that was mysteriously cut from the 1972 edition. Newly complete, with missing motifs restored, plots deepened, and characters more richly shaded, Donoso’s pajarito (little bird), as he called it, returns to print to celebrate the centennial of its author’s birth in full plumage, as brilliant as it is bizarre.

Paperback(published Mar, 05 2024)

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Portrait of José Donoso

José Donoso

A prize-winning writer of novels, novellas, short stories, and poetry

To say he’s the best Chilean novelist of the century is to insult him. I don’t think Donoso had such paltry ambitions.

Roberto Bolaño

Donoso, as I have long believed, belongs to that small company of storytellers who write not for a region but for the entire world: a gigantic masterpiece.

Kurt Vonnegut

Donoso is one of the most important contemporary Spanish-language writers.

Mario Vargas Llosa

With this book Donoso becomes a world novelist.


One of the great novels not only of Spanish America but of our time.

Carlos Fuentes

Donoso has learned to multiply by myth and this gives his work a resonance and amplitude that puts him alongside Carpentier, Cortazar and Garcia Marquez.

Paul West, The Washington Post Book World

The storyline is like a great puzzle invested with a vibrant, almost tangible reality.

The New York Times

The Obscene Bird of Night is totally and unapologetically psychotic. It's also insanely gothic, brilliantly engaging, exquisitely written, filthy, sick, terrifying, supremely perplexing, and somehow connives to make the brave reader feel like a tiny, sleeping gnat being sucked down a fabulously kaleidoscopic dream plughole.

Nicola Barker, The Guardian

A challenging but wonderfully strange read.

NoViolet Bulawayo

Yes, a miracle, a climactic act of magic for a book that is itself both Miracle and Monster, like the best of this century’s American fiction. I have no idea what fate awaits it, but it certainly deserves to take its place alongside the major works of Asturias and Fuentes, Cortazar, Burges and Rulfo, Vargas Llosa and Garcia Marquez.

Robert Coover, The New York Times

Donoso must be counted as one of the spinal writers of the extraordinary boom in Latin-American fiction which spread through the reading world from the mid-sixties on.

Alastair Ried, The New Yorker

Jose Donoso is my favorite author of the Latin American boom (better than Gabriel Garcia Márquez).

Fernanda Melchor