I have a love-hate relationship with Marquez. I totally adore the novella Chronicle of A Death Foretold. I am not so fond of the 2-star Love In the Time of Cholera and find 100 Years of Solitude unfinishable – or maybe that should read unstartable, as I abandoned it after 50 pages. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Marquez’s fictional retelling of a real event, News of A Kidnapping, is another 5-star read. So I was more than keen when online book group, The Wolves, announced their December 2010 read.
Clandestine In Chile is the story of Miguel Littin, an exiled film director, who returned to direct a clandestine film about life in and resistance to Pinochet’s dictatorship. It was a mission fraught with danger, requiring six foreign film crews, support of the underground resistance and a complete change of identity for the director whose arty, dishevelled appearance and Chilean vocabulary and accent needed to morph into a that of a smart Uruguayan businessman. It also involved a change of spouse, and it transpired that Littin and his new wife were less than compatible!
Written in a fictional first person depicting events from Littin’s viewpoint, it soon became clear that the same tensions would have surfaced if I’d have filled the shoes of Littin’s false wife. Putting my own freedom, perhaps even life and limb, in danger when my “other half” can’t be bothered sticking to established protocols, meeting and check-in points. A cavalier attitude that is guaranteed to make my blood boil. As the mission continues and the police begin to close in, the cavalier turns careless. I could not believe what he did with the empty cigarette packets! I suspect Marquez felt as I did, so keen is he to assert in the author’s foreword that he did not always see eye-to-eye with Littin but was careful to perserve authenticity of the protagonist’s voice.
Personal antagonisms aside, there’s a lot to be learned about Chile in this book, particularly if, like me, you knew next to nothing at all. However,I never got a real feeling for life under Pinochet – that detail is obviously saved for Littin’s film. Due to the fact that the end is a foregone conclusion, neither was this read the thrill I was expecting having read News of A Kidnapping, (now added to the reread pile). One thing is sure – the kindling of my curiosity re the film. It doesn’t seem to be available in the UK. Does anyone know where I can track it down?