An unnamed narrator attempts to piece together the life and works of an enigmatic would-be poet turned military assassin during Pinochet's regime in Chile. In the early 1970s Alberto Ruiz-Tagle was a little-known poet living in southern Chile. After the military coup of 1973 that brought in the dictatorship of General Pinochet, he embarked upon a new career that involved him in committing murder and other brutalities, and subsequently led to his emergence as a lieutenant in the Chilean air force under his actual name, Carlos Wieder.
Some time later the narrator, now held in a prison camp, looks up and sees a World War II airplane writing the first words of the Book of Genesis in smoke in the sky. The aviator is none other Carlos Wieder, launching his own version of the New Chilean Poetry...
Roberto Bolano's novel is a chilling investigation of the fascist mentality and the limits of evil, as seen in its effects on a literary sensibility, as well as a gripping intellectual thriller.