The greatest Chilean novelist of his day was José Donoso and The Obscene Bird of Night was his masterpiece. It is one of the finest examples of magical realism and certainly one of the best books I've ever read.

It is also one of the most exasperating, for it pretty much defies explanation. But not quite. And that's what is so frustrating (frustrating and tantalizing at the same time).

It is the story of Mudito, a deaf and mute invalid who works as a janitor in a convent. It is the story of Humberto Peñaloza, a failed writer who works for an wealthy aristocrat named Don Jeronimo de Azcoitia. It is the story of a monstrous mutation, Boy, who is raised among monsters so he will never realize he is a freak. And it is all of these stories at once for it turns out that Mudito is Humberto and Boy is the offspring of Don Jeronimo.

Mudito/Humberto is the novel's narrator. It becomes clear early on that he is schizophrenic. He is also an unreliable narrator, so pretty much everything is speculative. The novel, however, is carefully put together. It is like an onion: peel away one layer and you find another beneath.

Donoso said he had several nervous breakdowns while writing this work and it is easy to see why.