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Literature / Distant Star

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Distant Star is a 1996 novella by Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño about an aspiring artist, Carlos Wieder, that turns out to be an intelligence mole of the military after a military coup. To be precise, the 1973 Chilean coup d'état. Soon after, he starts doing incomprehensible art in the sky with his plane. The military at first is fascinated by his art, but after a while Wieder starts doing more risqué things which displeases the military government.

The story took off from a chapter from Bolaño's previous book Nazi Literature in the Americas, where he considered one of the stories too undervalued, so he decided to expand the story of the character in Distant Star.


This book provides examples of:

  • Author Avatar: Arturo B., the narrator of the story.
  • Canon Welding: Arturo B(elano), along with other characters, appear also in other Bolaño stories.
  • Direct Line to the Author: Even though Arturo B. is obviously an Author Avatar of Bolaño, the book opens with Bolaño claiming that he helped Arturo B. to write the book (mostly by serving food/drinks and checking references while the character wrote furiously).
    "So we took that final chapter and shut ourselves up for a month and a half in my house in Blanes, where, guided by his dreams and nightmares, we composed the present novel. My role was limited to preparing refreshments, consulting a few books, and discussing the reuse of numerous paragraphs with Arturo and the increasingly animated ghost of ^Pierre Menard."
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  • I Have Many Names: Alberto Ruiz-Table, Carlos Wieder, Jules Defoe.
  • Mad Artist: Carlos Wieder, big time.
  • The Mole: Alberto Ruiz-Tagle aka Carlos Wieder.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: The Pinochet regime has no problem helping Wieder torture and kill for his art, so long as he restricts his choice of victim to their political enemies. However, they expel him after he uses pictures of his victims in a gallery, not for moral reasons, but because it would bring unwanted public attention to their crimes.
  • Retired Monster: Wieder killed a lot of people in his search for a new form of art, but when Arturo and Romero find him in Barcelona he's tired and looks much older than his age.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Arturo and Bibiano think of Juan Stein, their old college teacher, as some sort of Memetic Badass, believing that he participated in leftist guerrilla groups all over the world. They never find out if what they thought of him was true or not, though not for lack of trying.
  • Snuff Film: A weird non-film example. Wieder kills people and uses them as "inspiration" for his art. At one time he even organizes an photography exposition; all the photographs are of some of his victims.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Arturo feels pity of Wieder and tries to convince Romero not to kill him. However, Arturo doesn't feel that because he thinks Wieder might be Not So Different, but because he's old and pathetic.
  • Talkative Loon: Norberto in the detention center.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Carlos Wieder falls in with neo-nazis after he is forced to leave Chile.
  • Twin Threesome Fantasy: Alberto Ruiz-Tagle only opens himself to the Garmendia twins, and at least one of them feels something for him. Then it takes a dark turn.


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