Skip to main content

Donoso, José (1924–1996)

Donoso, José (1924–1996)

José Donoso (b. 5 October 1924, d. 7 December 1996), Chilean writer. Donoso was one of the most distinguished contemporary Latin American writers belonging to the generation of Gabriel García Márquez and Carlos Fuentes. Born in Santiago, Donoso began writing at the age of twenty-five. In 1951 he received a scholarship from the Doherty Foundation to study English literature at Princeton University. Upon returning to Chile he began a period of increased creative activity, writing short stories and publishing in 1955 his first book, Veraneo y otros cuentos, which won the Municipal Prize. His first novel, Coronación (1957) (Coronation, 1965) won the William Faulkner Foundation Prize for the Latin American Novel in 1962. He moved to Buenos Aires in 1958. Upon his return to Chile in 1960, he wrote for the weekly Ercilla and married María Pilar Serrano, a Bolivian painter. By the mid-1960s, Donoso was recognized as a major literary figure and was invited in 1965–1967 to the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. He published his novels Este domingo (1966) (This Sunday, 1967) and El lugar sin límites (1966) (Hell Has No Limits, 1972) and a book of stories, Los mejores cuentos de José Donoso (1966).

In 1967 he left for Spain, eventually settling in Barcelona, where he published in 1970 what it had taken him eight years to write, El obsceno pájaro de la noche (The Obscene Bird of Night, 1973). This acclaimed novel placed Donoso among the top Latin American writers of his generation. There followed a series of outstanding novels: Casa de campo (1978) (A House in the Country, 1984), which won the Critics' Prize in Spain, La misteriosa desaparición de la marquesita de Loria (1980), El jardín de al lado (1981), and La desesperanza (1986) (Curfew, 1988), among others. In his 1972 Historia personal del boom (The Boom in Spanish American Literature: A Personal History, 1972) Donoso scrutinizes with humor and grace Emir Rodríguez Monegal's discussion of the publishing phenomenon of the 1960s. Donoso also created a series of masterful short story collections, among them El charleston (1960) (Charleston and Other Stories, 1977), Tres novelitas burguesas (1973) (Sacred Families, 1977), Cuatro para Delfina (1982), and Taratuta (1990). He also wrote a book of poetry, Poemas de un novelista (1981) and dramatic versions of one of his short stories, Sueños de mala muerte (1985), and of his novel Este domingo (1990). The novellas Nuevas novelas breves and El mocho were published posthumously in 1997.

Donoso's fictional narratives stand out as the most important part of his production. His novels, The Obscene Bird and House in the Country, in particular, are the most valuable narratives of the contemporary period in Chile. They are also unique manifestations of the Spanish American novel, standing alongside García Márquez's Cien años de soledad (1967) and Carlos Fuentes's Terra nostra (1975). Donoso's literary expression represents the dark side of imagination, a grotesque recreation of myth, folklore, psychology, and the fantastic. The mixing of many voices constitutes the unmistakable stylistic feature of his narrative.

See alsoFuentes, Carlos; García Márquez, Gabriel; Literature: Spanish America.


Alfred J. MacAdam, Modern Latin American Narratives: The Dreams of Reason (1977).

George R. McMurray, José Donoso (1979).

Philip Swanson, José Donoso: The Boom and Beyond (1988).

Cedomil Goic, "José Donoso," in Latin American Writers, edited by Carlos A. Solé and María Isabel Abreu, vol. 3 (1989), pp. 1277-1288.

Additional Bibliography

Chesak, Laura A. José Donoso, escritura y subversión del significado. Madrid: Editorial Verbum, 1997.

Colvin, Michael. Las últimas obras de José Donoso: Juegos, roles y rituales en la subversión del poder. Madrid: Editorial Pliegos, 2001.

Magnarelli, Sharon. Understanding José Donoso. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1993.

                                        Cedomil Goic

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Donoso, José (1924–1996)." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . 25 Jun. 2019 <>.

"Donoso, José (1924–1996)." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . (June 25, 2019).

"Donoso, José (1924–1996)." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . Retrieved June 25, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.