viernes, 31 de diciembre de 2010

La aventura de Miguel Littín clandestino en Chile

La aventura de Miguel Littín clandestino en Chile (Debolsillo, 2006)
por Gabriel García Márquez
Colombia, 1986

"También los que se quedaron son exiliados".
(La aventura de Miguel Littín clandestino en Chile, 47)

Qué agradable, qué absolutamente agradable, para poder despedirme del año de lecturas de 2010 con esta pequeña joya de un librito. El año es 1985.  Luego de una larga ausencia en exilio en el extranjero, el cineasta chileno Miguel Littín, "que figura en una lista de cinco mil exiliados con prohibición absoluta de volver a su tierra", se resuelve a regresar a Chile para rodar un documental sobre "la realidad de su país después de doce años de dictadura militar" (7).  Pretendiendo ser un hombre de negocios uruguayo con papeles falsos y un acento uruguayo poco convincente, Littín pasa seis semanas clandestinamente en Chile trabajando con tres equipos de cine europeos para poner "una larga cola de burro para Pinochet" (22).  ¡Cómo me encantó esta obra!  Aunque se lee como una novela de espionaje narrada en primera persona, los momentos culminantes de este reportaje de no ficción subrayan la opresión del régimen Pinochet y la voluntad del pueblo chileno para vivir con dignidad a pesar de las dificultades políticas.  Punto: las llamadas "flores eternas" en la Plaza Sebastián Acevedo, donde Littín nos cuenta del "ramo de flores perpetuas mantenidas por manos anónimas" en honor de Sebastián Acevedo, un minero que "se había prendido fuego en ese sitio, dos años antes" como una protesta pública contra la tortura de su hijo e hija (86-88).  Punto: la dueña de la casa donde "había una imagen de la Virgen del Carmen" (la patrona y "generala" del ejército chileno) que responde a la pregunta de si ella "había sido allendista" así: "No lo fui: lo soy".  Y lo prueba por quitar la imagen de la Virgen para mostrar un retrato de Allende escondido detrás (104-105).  Punto: los grafiti a la casa de Pablo Neruda en Isla Negra, donde además de los mensajes de amor esperados se encuentran otros mensajes menos esperados: "El amor nunca muere, generales; Allende y Neruda viven; un minuto de oscuridad no nos volverá ciegos" (111-112).  Conmevedora por completo, esta obra es redimida por un final feliz para Littín y por lo que parecería ser un excelente trabajo de redacción por García Márquez, la figura del "autor" en las sombras.  (Debolsillo)

Clandestine in Chile (NYRB Classics, 2010)
by Gabriel García Márquez [translated from the Spanish by Asa Zatz]
Colombia, 1986

"Those who stayed behind are also exiled."
(La aventura de Miguel Littín clandestino en Chile, 47 [my translation])

How cool, how absolutely cool, to be able to close out my 2010 reading year with this little gem of a book.  The year is 1985.  After a long absence in exile abroad, Chilean film director Miguel Littín, "who figures among a list of 5,000 exiles absolutely forbidden to return to their country," resolves to return to Chile in order to shoot a documentary about "the reality of his country after twelve years of military dictatorship"  (7). Passing himself off as an Uruguayan businessman with false papers and an unconvincing Uruguayan accent, Littín spends six weeks undercover in Chile working with three European film crews to try and "pin the tale on the Pinochet donkey" (22).  My, how I loved this work!  Although it reads like a spy novel, the key moments in this first-person, non-fiction account poignantly underscore the Pinochet regime's oppressive nature and the will of the Chilean people to live with dignity in spite of the political difficulties.  Item: the so-called "eternal flowers" in the Plaza Sebastián Acevedo, where Littín tells us about the "bouquet of flowers perpetually maintained by anonymous hands" in honor of Sebastián Acevedo, a miner who "had set himself on fire on that site two years earlier" in public protest against the torture of his son and daughter (86-88).  Item: the homeowner with a statue of the Virgen del Carmen (the patron saint and "female general" of the Chilean army) who, when asked if she had been a Salvador Allende supporter, replied emphatically:  "Not I was; I am."  And then proved it by moving aside the Virgin's image to reveal a portrait of Allende hidden behind it (104-105).  Item: the graffiti at Pablo Neruda's house in Isla Negra, where alongside the expected messages having to do with proclamations of love could also be found messages of a less expected nature: "Love never dies, Generals; Allende y Neruda liveone minute of darkness won't turn us blind"  (111-112).  Devastating stuff all in all and yet redeemed by a happy ending for Littín and what appears to be an exquisite editing job by García Márquez, the reclusive "author" of the filmmaker's story  [note: all translations mine with page numbers based on the Spanish version of the work].  (  

 Gabo, Geraldine Chaplin y Miguel Littín, hacia 1980

12 comentarios:

  1. Glad that you enjoyed it. I neither liked it or disliked the book. It was such a curiosity for me. Seems that with more prior knowledge than me, you have a real (at least a little emotional) connection here that did not happen for me. Interesting though. Nothing I might have expected. Would not mind seeing that documentary but not sure if that is possible.

  2. This was definitely a great little book to end the year. I can't imagine how weird it would be to be kicked out of my own country, live over a decade abroad, and then come back to a dictatorship superimposed over everything I knew and loved. Plus on top of that, as you mentioned, it's also part spy novel, and part thriller. García Márquez manages to have a lot going on in only 116 pages.

  3. Bummer that I didn't get to read it. Only because I had no chance to purchase in the midst of the move. Should've done in advance. But will catch up with y'all. Thank goodness you liked it, or it might've ruined your year! Happy 2011, Richard dear!

  4. Gabo's writing technique is a good parallel to Littín's film editing. He condensed an 18-hr. conversation into this book. Littín shot 100,000 ft. of film (25 hrs.) which he trimmed down to a 2-hour movie. I'm quite curious to watch it too and see the "Uruguayan." But I'm sure I will not find a copy here.

    I'm wondering too if Bolaño has read this book. It's very likely. Makes me think of Neruda's cameo in By Night in Chile. And the way Littín was saved from incarceration by a fan has a kind of counterpart in Distant Star – the Bolaño "character" being recognized by a classmate in prison and set free. Though Bolaño claimed the latter incident to be true.

  5. I really enjoyed this book to felt Marquez caught Littins fear of his return and built the tension whilst in Chile wonderfully ,all the best and happy new year to you richard

  6. *Book Temptress: I've begun wondering if the apparent lack of availability of the documentary is a marketing thing (no assumed public for it) or a comment on how it hasn't held up over the years. In any event, after reading a few more of your comments here and there, I can appreciate your reaction to feeling some of Littín's drama was trumped-up (I myself was very moved it by it, though, definitely).

    *E.L. Fay: My copy was 190 pages--the NYRB edition must be in microprint! Anyway, I thought García Márquez/Littín did a great job of bringing home what you say about how weird an experience that must have been for the filmmaker. Emotionally and identity-wise, which I think you brought up in your post.

    *Claire: I had thought the book might be something of a trifle because of its short length and the fact that it's hardly ever mentioned as a standout even among García Márquez fans, but that was a bad assumption on my part. Loved it--thanks so much for selecting the read! Happy 2011 to you again, Claire, it was so nice to see you reappear here and elsewhere in the past couple of days. I missed you!

    *Rise: I didn't want to dwell on Gabo's authorial technique in my post because of how moved I was by Littín's experience, but I think it would be fascinating to hear what people thought of his "writing" job. How much of the book was his and how much of the book was Littín's? Love what you say here about the editing thing that I only hinted at but also love what Frances has said elsewhere about the voice of the material being all García Márquez's in some ways (often to Littín's detriment, in her opinion). Your dialogue with Bolaño's writings in relation to Clandestine in Chile has been one of my fave parts of the group read so far, so I'm so glad you were able to join us for this title--thanks!

    *Stu: Happy New Year to you as well! Agree with all you say about the fear and the building of tension in the book. Also loved the personal nature of the story even though, as Frances so memorably put it in her post, Littín seemed to be a "drama queen" from time to time during his visit. Looking forward to your post on the work!

  7. Sorry to be late to the party - went out of town for New Years & was surprised by the lack of wi-fi!

    Sounds like this one is/will be an interesting discussion - I come down somewhere between you & Frances in that I thought the "spy novel"/political aspects of the book fell quite flat but it was saved by what an interesting weirdo Littín himself was, which kept me intrigued throughout the book. But now that I think about it, I also agree with Frances that the key to a more resonant reading of the political aspects may be prior knowledge of the Pinochet regime.

  8. I enjoyed those poignant moments that you mentioned, and the surreal atmosphere of the story, and the weirdness of Littin. Good stuff.

  9. *Emily: I think your appreciation of the book for its character study of a weird Littín is an interesting one--at the very least, it's now got me wondering how/where García Márquez and Littín might have differed in their core reactions to Littín's experience. A week after reading/thinking about the work, also can relate better to your and Frances' critique that the "drama" just wasn't there and/or felt manufactured somewhat to you: since Littín didn't get arrrested, though, it's hard to know how much was in his head and how much was real danger surrounding him. However, having some knowledge of the Pinochet horrors definitely predisposed to me to being sympathetic to Littin's fears...

    *Sarah: Apologies to you and Emily for not replying to your comments earlier--I thought I had! Anyway, glad you liked the poignant/surreal/weird cocktail García Márquez and Littín prepared. Looking forward to seeing what you make of his films at some point.

  10. I read this a few months back (proof copy, sans introduction) and quite liked it, but it wasn't "political" the way I expected it to be. What struck me was his observation of the youth, that they'd grown up under these circumstances, so necessarily any sense of political outrage would have to take a different form than the drama he lived and knew. He really was an outsider. As you say, it's difficult to know what's in his head and what's the reality of the situation, but it's that tension that made it so interesting for me.

  11. I was intrigued by this title before reading your review, as it sounds quite an interesting story. I have minimal familiarity with the history of the Pinochet regime, but I am always interested in stories of people rebelling against repression. (David and Goliath stories, I guess.)
    I would like to add more non-fiction into my reading (my recent experiences with NF have been quite enjoyable), and I think this would be a good one to add.

  12. *Isabella: That point you mention about Littín's take on the youth was one of the many things that really got to me in the book: how "patriotic" those kids were to Allende's vision of Chile even though they were only in grade school when the coup happened. Absolutely mindblowing! Will have to reread your post on the book, but I'm glad it worked for you.

    *Amanda: Even though the book received kind of a split decison from our group, I think even those who disliked it a little found it interesting as a curiosity. And it's very short. And some of us found it very affecting. I'm with you on the nonfiction thing, too--I used to read more of it than fiction pre-blogging, but I was horrified by how little nonfiction I read last year when I was compiling my end of the year stats. That should change this year in a big way...