My favorite things Chile

by on August 13, 2008 at 5:48 am in The Arts | Permalink

1. Fiction: I’ve already covered Roberto Bolaño plenty on MR; The Savage Detectives is his masterpiece but it’s all worth reading.  The massive 2666 is due out later this year.  José Donoso’s The Obscene Bird of Night, while hardly read in the U.S., seems to me one of the most gripping novels of the 20th century.  If you read the Amazon reviews you’ll that others who have read it agree.  This is one of the least read first-rate novels I know.  It’s not easy going, however, and it’s taking me a long time to read through a mish-mash of the English and Spanish-language texts.  To top it all off, Isabel Allende has many fun books, most notably The House of the Spirits, which almost everyone will enjoy.  Chile is much stronger in literature than most people think.

2. Popular music: Ricardo Villalobos is the lead figure of Chilean techno, which is now I hear quite a vibrant genre; Taka Taka is quite a good mix album.  What else can you point me to?

3. Poetry: My favorite Neruda is Canto General, his retelling of Whitman’s America but covering the entire hemisphere.  A masterpiece.  Estravagario is excellent and while I haven’t read Residencia de la Tierra, it is considered another one of his classics.  The love poems are very nice though perhaps not his best material.  In any case he is one of the three or four best poets of the twentieth century.  Gabriela Mistral is talented but I cannot say I love her work.

4. Playwright: Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden is good.

5. Favorite small town: There are so many, but how about Villarica, Punta Arenas, or that small port place next to La Serena whose name I cannot remember?  Chile is one of the world’s best countries for lovely small towns.

6. Movie, set in or made in: Sorry folks, but I can’t think of a single one.  What am I missing?

7. Seafood dish: Curantos.

8. Pianist: It’s hard not to pick Claudio Arrau, but, despite his musical intelligence, I don’t actually enjoy most of his (to me) lugubrious recordings.  I have heard he was much better live in concert.

9. Painter: Roberto Matta is the obvious choice.

The bottom line: Writing, writing, and more writing.  More generally, Chile is one of the very nicest countries on Earth.  The key is to get around to those small towns.

1 raver August 13, 2008 at 6:01 am

Not as good as Villalobos (his new single “Enfants” is so good) but still another very good Chilean techno
artist: Matias Aguayo! Check his album “Are You Really Lost”.

2 David Young August 13, 2008 at 7:01 am

The movie “Missing” was set in Chile during the Pinochet-era terror. It starred Jack Lemmon as a man in search of his son who had gone missing during the round-ups of left-wing activists.

3 John F August 13, 2008 at 8:16 am

Villalobos has a bunch of collabs he’s done (Sense Club, Ric Y Martin, vs Jay Haze, Bajo Tierra) most of which are available through Perlon (

As for other Chilean musicians I really like the Bucci brothers: Andres (who also goes by Jog and Chord and collaborates in the groups Detalles and Plan V) and Pier (who’s in all sorts of groups).

You can’t also forget Senor Coconut- Uwe Schmidt worked for a long time as Atom Heart but then tired of the scene. So he went to Santiago and became Senor Coconut. He does this Electro salsa which is very tongue-in-cheek. He has an album completely composed of salsa Kraftwerk covers and another where he covers MJ’s “Beat It” and Sade. Good stuff.

4 Gannon August 13, 2008 at 8:30 am

The best about Chile is that age of consent for heterosexual relationships is 14, unless there is abuse of authority (teacher, stepfather).
Pinochet is hard to understand. He had to fight communists, which were planning a revolution. In order to stop them, Pinochet, like Fujimori, had to use means ouside the law. The law is usually unable to stop communist revolutionaries.

5 Brian August 13, 2008 at 8:55 am

The Motorcycle Diaries was filmed in Chile – the Che Guevara
biopic starring Gabriel Garcia Bernal.
That’s probably the most recent notable Chilean film outside of Chile.

6 Alex J. August 13, 2008 at 9:24 am

Movie: “Sexo Con Amor” I’m not claiming that it’s good, just that it’s Chilean.

7 Pablo August 13, 2008 at 9:47 am

Fiebre de Locos
Taxi Para Tres

8 Mario August 13, 2008 at 9:55 am

I can’t believe nobody has pointed out La Ley, possibly the most popular Chilean band of the last twenty years. Check out their MTV Unplugged album, one of the best of the series in my opinion…

9 ben August 13, 2008 at 10:12 am

I’m slightly saddened that ‘coffee with legs’ wasn’t on your list.

10 ricardo August 13, 2008 at 10:40 am

check out the film “Machuca”

11 Johan von Boisman August 13, 2008 at 11:11 am

“Sexo con Amor”, as somebody already mentioned. Certainly very entertaining.

“black pimpernel” about the Swedish ambassador at the time for the military coup

12 juan August 13, 2008 at 12:32 pm

Poetry: you are forgetting Nicanor Parra, one of the most outstanding Chilean poets. Quite distinct to Neruda, Parra is sharp, analytical, and funny. I recommend Hojas de Parra, though a good compilation may be a good point to start. Also worth checking is Enrique Lihn

Popular music: You should listen to the protest songs from the 60-70s. Violeta Parra (Nicanor’s sister) and Jara are the most obvious picks. The last work by Vioeta titles Las Ultimas Composiciones is a must. Los Jaivas does a nice job mixing Andean music and rock. More recently, Los Bunckers does a British-like pop with folk roots (they are big fans of Violeta Parra).

13 Aaron August 13, 2008 at 1:19 pm

… is gay.

14 John Voorheis August 13, 2008 at 2:14 pm

Ricardo Villalobos is only nominally Chilean. He lives in Berlin, which is one of the hubs of techno music. On the Berlin-Chile Axis, you’ll also find Luciano and Cristian Vogel. Not that place has any particular bearing on techno music. Juan Atkins, CArl Craig and Jeff Mills (and all the original Detroit Techno guys) made music that represented a post-industrial Detroit. Since then, its a faceless, placeless genre.

15 anon August 13, 2008 at 4:09 pm

The link to The Obscene Bird of Night actually goes to The House of the Spirits. Right link is here:

16 karl August 13, 2008 at 11:20 pm

Persona non grata by Jorge edward is the best book by achilean author. Edward , Nerudas secretary , was expelled both by Castro and Pinochet.
His “Origin of the World”,inspired by paint in the Musee dOrsay, By Courbet, is also a must read.
Donoso has a book ” donde van a morir los elefantes” a satire on the american unvesities
Isabel Allende is a third class author
On Neruda i guess you dont know his “Ode to Stalin”. In his “confieso que he vivido” he said he raped a tamil woman

17 Dain August 14, 2008 at 1:10 pm

Argenis Brito does the vocals for the Senor Coconut material, and is also an awesome producer in his own right.

MC Tea Time is hot.

Miss Dinky makes beautiful electro-techno with a strong melodic element.

For glitchy, laptop produced and kind of art punky material check out Original Hamster.

Chile is the dopeness.


18 Donald A. Coffin August 19, 2008 at 3:45 pm

I’m certain it was not filmed in Chile, but Costa-Gavras made a film based on a real-life “disappearance” of a young US citizen, Missing, in 1982. Jack Lemmon, Sissy Spacek. A pretty good movie, too.

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