A Chilean writer named Julio and his wife Gloria are beset by worries, constantly bickering about money, their writing, and their son (who may or may not be plying the oldest trade in Marrakesh). When Julio's boyhood best friend, now a famous artist, lends the couple his luxurious Madrid apartment for the summer, it is an escape for both -- in particular for Julio, who fantasizes about the garden next door and the erotic life of the lovely young aristocrat who inhabits it. But Julio's life and career unravel in Madrid: he is rebuffed by a famous literary agent, who detests him and his novel; his son's friend from Marrakesh moves in and causes havoc; and Gloria begins to drink. In the face of pitiless adversity, Julio's talent inexorably begins to fade. With The Garden Next Door, Jose Donoso has rendered a carefully crafted and bitterly comic meditation on gardens, deceit, and the nature of a writer's muse.
José Donoso was a Chilean writer. While he lived most of his life in Chile, he also spent many years in self-imposed exile in Mexico, the United States (Iowa), and Spain. After 1973 he claimed his exile was also a form of protest against the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. He returned to Chile in 1981 and lived there until his death.