Alejandro Zambra's tales of love and anhedonia in post-dictatorship Chile
by Alejandro Zambra
translation by Megan McDowell
$15.00 List Price
The Chilean writer Alejandro Zambra was born in 1975, two years after the violent military coup that ousted Chile’s democratically elected, Socialist president, Salvador Allende. It would be impossible to overstate the shattering impact of that coup, not only on Chile but on the entire Left in Latin America. It was the darkest event in one of South America’s darkest decades.
I was staying in Mendoza, Argentina, at the time of the coup, only 112 miles from the Chilean capital, Santiago, but separated from it by the Andes, a monolithic, glacial divide. Conservative Chileans, who had shipped themselves over to Mendoza because they loathed Allende’s government, held impromptu Masses in the public squares, thanking God for General Augusto Pinochet, their savior. Less than a month later, most of them had returned to Santiago, while exiles from Pinochet streamed across the Andes: not only active supporters of Allende but almost any government workers (including a man whose job had been to organize teenage soccer matches, who stayed with me for a while), fleeing for their lives.
In an orgy of state terror, the military tortured and executed unknown numbers of citizens. The number of arrestees by most counts was at least 130,000. The national soccer stadium in Santiago was turned into a huge detention center, with tens of thousands of prisoners corralled at gunpoint in the bleachers and in the labyrinth of tunnels beneath them. The new government’s aim was to eradicate the Left by killing off anyone who dared to support it.
As a result of the 1973 coup, the seeds of a stark