The star of Roberto Bolano's hair-raising novel Distant Star is Alberto Ruiz-Tagle, an air force pilot who exploits the 1973 coup to launch his own version of the New Chilean Poetry, a multi-media enterprise involving sky-writing, poetry, torture, and photo exhibitions. For our unnamed narrator, who first encounters this "star" in a college poetry workshop, Ruiz-Tagle becomes the silent hand behind every evil act in the darkness of Pinochet's regime. The narrator, unable to stop himself, tries to track Ruiz-Tagle down, and sees signs of his activity over and over again. A corrosive, mocking humor sparkles within Bolano's darkest visions of Chile under Pinochet. In Bolano's world there's a big graveyard and there's a big graveyard laugh. (He once described his novel By Night in Chile as "a tale of terror, a situation comedy, and a combination pastoral-gothic novel.") Many Chilean authors have written about the "bloody events of the early Pinochet years, the abductions and murders," Richard Eder commented in the The N.Y. Times, reviewing By Night in Chile: "None has done it in so dark and glittering a fashion as Roberto Bolano."
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