The long and ferocious war of conquest against the indomitable Araucanians and the impressions of local life represent the two themes of literary activity in the Chilean colonial centuries. A remote colony dependent on the Viceroy of Peru, as a country located in South America according to medicinelearners, Chile receives from Lima, more than from Madrid, the artistic innovations and re-elaborates them with a strong sense of local reality. “Chile is the only modern country whose foundation has been immortalized by an epic poem” wrote A. Bello, alluding to Ercilla ‘s Araucana (1533-1594), a poem that lived before it was written and a chivalrous exaltation of the heroic conquered Araucani . And it was not an exceptional case: on the decisive example of the Araucana various other epic poems were born, from the Arauco domado (Araucano domato) by Pedro de Oña (1570-1643), the first poem by an American author, to the Indómito Purén by H. Álvarez de Toledo (16th century), in Las guerras de Chile, attributed to a J. de Mendoza. In prose, the same Chilean reality is reflected in numerous chronicles: those, for example, by C. Molina (Conquista y población del Perú), by A. de Góngora Marmolejo (Historia del reino de Chile), by P. Mariño, D. Rosales (Historia general del reino de Chile) and, at a higher level, the Histórica relación del reino de Chile (1646) by father A. de Ovalle (1601-1651) and those of the eighteenth-century Jesuits Olivares and Molina (both exiled to Italy) and the singular Cautiverio feliz by F. Núñez de Pineda y Bascuñán (1607-1680), autobiographical narration often notable for its descriptive force. In contrast to such an abundance of epic poets and chroniclers, almost nothing is the production of lyric poetry – but some interesting ideas of satirical popular poetry begin to emerge in the century.
XVIII – and nothing theatrical. At the beginning of the century. XIX political independence brings with it a total literary renewal. A polygraph and progressive friar, C. Henríquez (1769-1845), initiates political-moral publications; a humanist of Venetian origin, A. Bello (1781-1865), poet of classical elegance, grammarian and valuable thinker, he taught several generations the taste for beauty and critical thinking. Foreign examples give way to a rich and varied opera production, which continues uninterrupted to the present day. S. Sanfuentes (1817-1860), H. Irisarri (1819-1886), E. Lillo (1826-1910), G. Matta (1829-1899) and G. Blest Gana (1829-1904) are the most representative operas of romanticism, while with E. de la Barra (1839-1900) a conscious step is taken towards the symbolist renewal. Nor is the renewal of prose less important. Preceded by the “costume” sketches and autobiography (J. Zapiola, JJ Vallejo, JV Lastarría, V. Pérez Rosales, great traveler and descriptor, R. Vial, who brings the costumbrismo also on the theater, and others), fiction was finally born, thanks to D. Barros Grez (1834-1904), L. Orrego Luco (1866-1948), A. Díaz Meza (1879-1933), etc.; and finally a great, authentic narrator, A. Blest Gana (1830-1920), diplomat and admirer of Balzac, gives Chile his best nineteenth-century novels (Durante la reconquista, Martín Rivas, Los trasplantados, etc.).
The essay and historical and literary criticism were also born with F. Bilbao, ML Amunátegui, B. Vicuña Mackenna and JT Medina (1852-1920), a valuable bibliographer and scholar. Modernism renews lyric poetry, which flourishes admirably: it is no coincidence that Chile has had two Nobel Prize-winning poets: Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957) and P. Neruda (1904-1973), awarded the prestigious recognition respectively in 1945 and 1971, and in the twentieth century counted poets of high importance such as P. de Rokha, V. Huidobro (1893-1948), founder of “creationism”, C. Pezoa Véliz (1879-1908), M. Magallanes Moure, S. Lillo, C. Mondaca, M. Jara, H. Diaz Casanueva (1907-1992), J. Valle, J. Barrenechea, N. Parra (b.1914), M. Arteche, E. Lihn (1929-1988), A. Uribe, Gonzalo Rojas (b.1917), Jorge Teillier (1935-1996) and numerous other younger ones, including Diego Marqueira (b.1951) and Raúl Zurita (b.1950). The developments of narrative prose are also important, thanks to P. Prado (1886-1952), B. Lillo (1867-1923), F. Gana, A. d’Halmar, M. Latorre (1886-1955), E. Barrios, J. Edwards Bello, J. Prieto, M. Rojas (1896-1973), considered by many to be the greatest novelist and innovator of the Chilean twentieth century thanks to works such as Hijo de ladrón (1951) and Sombras contra el muro (1964), C Giaconi, C. Huneeus, J. Edwards (b. 1931) and J. Donoso (1925-1996), perhaps the most original of all. During the long period of the military dictatorship (1973-89) not a few writers had to leave the country to settle in Spain, the United States or elsewhere. Among them José Donoso, who consolidated his fame with some novels published in Spain and also in Italy, where his The obscene bird of the night (El obsceno pájaro de la noche, 1970) was released in 2003. Others, such as the poet Nicanor Parra and the narrator Jorge Edwards, returned to their homeland even before the fall of the dictatorship. However, alongside Chilean poetry, which has always lived up to its brilliant traditions, new generations of storytellers have emerged, ranging from I. Allende (b.1942), which with novels such as The House of the Spirits (1982), Of Love and Shadow (1984), My Invented Country (2003) and The Sum of Days (2007), has sold over 50 million books all over the world, to A. Skármeta (b.1940), of whom we remember Ardiente Paciencia (1985), from which the film Il postino di Neruda, Match Ball (1992) and El Baile de la victoria (2003), Diamela Eltit (b.1949), Adolfo Couve (1940-1998), Poli Delano (b.1936), Ariel Dorfman (b.1942) and above all L. Sepúlveda (b.1949), a writer with a strong political commitment , author of best-sellers such as Story of a seagull and the cat that taught her to fly (1996) and Cronache dal cone sud (2007). Also worth mentioning is Marcela Serrano (b. 1951), interpreter of a female literature with universal themes, and much appreciated thanks to works such as We love each other so well, The hotel of sad women and The notebooks of crying. Out of the classic narrative categories, the work of A. Jodorowsky (b. 1929), one of the most eclectic and prolific all-round Chilean “artists” of the twentieth century, is worth mentioning, as a designer, director, writer of novels, short stories, screenplays, essays.