Saturday, March 05, 2005

Jara's fingers, Neruda's library

Christopher Hitchens's introductory essay to the new English edition of Isabel Allende's House of Spirits reminds that Victor Jara's murderers smashed all his finger before they killed him, and that fascist soldiers trashed the library of Pablo Neruda, one of the great love poets of all time.

Hitchens is uneven - is his style becoming more a charicature of itself? - but the essential intelligence and moral complexity is still there.

In Isabel Allende's memoir My Invented Country, Hitchens points out, "she freely says that the economic programme by her famous uncle [Salvador Allende] was a calamitous one". And he charts her "enraged intimacy" well. He writes:

Salvador Allende never murdered or tortured anyone, and faced his own death with unexampled fortitude, and that has made all the difference.

His last words, spoken over a hissed and howling static from an improvised radio station, as the western-supplied warplanes were wheeling and diving over the dignified presidential palace...cited word-for-word in The House of Spirits:

"I speak to all those who will be persecuted and tell you that I am not going to resign: I will repay the people's loyalty with my life. I will always be with you. I have faith in our nation and its destiny. Other men will prevail, and soon the great avenues will be open again, where free men will walk, to build a better society".

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