The star of Roberto Bolano's hair-raising novelDistant 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 multimedia 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 novelBy 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 theThe New York Times: "None has done it in so dark and glittering a fashion as Roberto Bolano."