In 1985, filmmaker Miguel Littin disguised himself as an Uruguayan businessman, and snuck back into Chile after twelve years of exile. Accompanied by three international film crews, each supposedly there making films promoting Chilean tourism, Littin sought to assemble a documentary film that would show the world the dark truths of Pinochet's dominion. After Littin's safe exit from Chile after weeks of filming, he sat down with Gabriel Garcia Marquez to recount the experience, yielding approximately 18 hours of recorded conversation which became condensed into this 116 page book. Of oddness. And slightly annoying vanity.
So the story is told as if in Littin's own voice but is clearly stylistically the voice of Garcia Marquez. The tone is serious, asking the reader to believe in a danger facing Littin and his very large, very well-financed entourage that hardly exists. Littin's cab changes, hotel changes, fake passport and wife and other cloak and dagger type details take on the form of drama queen gone wild, and assume comedic qualities in which I found only small amusement. There is an emotional attachment here to home and hearth for which one can have some sympathy, but these details of the face of Chile become muted by the larger assertions of self concern. My family. My friends. My childhood. My film career. Et cetera. There is no terror, no horror, no real indication of Pinochet's crimes.
Now perhaps, as suggested by Francisco Goldman in the introduction to the NYRB edition, Garcia Marquez did not find it necessary to recount Pinochet's atrocities when they were already well-known. Or perhaps this was Garcia Marquez just using the weight of his fame as a writer of fiction to publish a threat, a slap in the face to Pinochet. A threat whose very existence prompted Pinochet and his cohorts to seize and burn 15,000 copies of the book upon publication. But let's be clear. This is no "classic of modern reportage" where Garcia Marquez returns to his journalism roots. This is personal, and as Goldman astutely concludes, more about the ways that an older generation of political dissidents align themselves with power especially as when compared to the more strident voice of someone like Roberto Bolano. I'll stop here before revealing anymore of my leftist leanings. This was not a bad book. This was a weird book. A curiosity you can run through in a short amount of time if interested.