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On the fortieth anniversary of revolution and rebellion in Chile, a searching history of the rise and fall of the world’s first and only democratically elected Marxist president.
On September 11, 1973, President Salvador Allende of Chile was deposed in a violent coup led by General Augusto Pinochet. The coup had been in the works for months, even years. Shortly after giving a farewell speech to his people, Allende died of gunshot wounds - whether inflicted by his own hand or an assassin’s remains uncertain. Pinochet ruled Chile for a quarter century, but the short rise and bloody fall of Allende is still the subject of fierce historical debate.
In a world in the throes of the Cold War, the seeming backwater of Chile became the host of a very hot conflict - with Henry Kissinger and the Western establishment aligned with Pinochet’s insurgents against a socialist coalition of students, workers, Pablo Neruda, and folk singers, led by the brilliant ideologue Allende. Revolution and counterrevolution played out in graphic detail, moving the small South American nation to the center of the world stage in the dramatic autumn of 1973. Now the rising young scholar Oscar Guardiola-Rivera gives us a tour de force account of a historical crossroads, tracing the destiny of democracy, and the paths of power, money, and violence that still shadow Latin America and its relations with the United States.
What did you love best about Story of a Death Foretold?
The author does not just relate the events around the Presidency and overthrow of Salvador Allende, but engages with fascinating historical and philosophic questions. These include Allende's infamous decision not to provide arms to the workers in the last months of his presidency, and questions about what we mean by democracy and human rights. All the major events are covered here as well. The role of the U.S., Operation Condor, the "economic miracle" under Pinochet, the battle within the Chilean military that preceded the coup, and a detailed overview of Allende's policies. Other reviewers have red baited this book by calling it Marxist. I'm not really sure what the reviewer meant by that. The author is sympathetic to Allende. If you believe the coup against Allende was a good thing this is probably not the book for you unless you want to hear what the other side has to say. I'm very glad this fascinating and intelligent book is available on Audible.
What other book might you compare Story of a Death Foretold to and why?
The author refers to a lot of films in the text. Patricio Guzman's documentary The Battle of Chile would be an excellent companion to this book. This film provides not just the faces and voices of the major characters in the book, but communicates a sense of how important Allende's presidency was, and the fierce obstacles it faced.
What aspect of Danny Pardo’s performance would you have changed?
For a book with such sophisticated ideas I would have chosen a narrator with a less heavy Latin American accent.
If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?
It's already been made in a sense. "The Battle of Chile."
What disappointed you about Story of a Death Foretold?
If you expect history out of this you will be for the most part, left hanging. Rivera will give you a comically in depth, post-modernist, Marxist interpretation of a speech Allende gave, and how it created a new language of protest and blah blah blah, ad nausea. But there is little fact and even less statistics. Opinion, and unfounded declarations of Marxist values are considered prima-facie true, when politics, economics and Chilean history are much more complicated than he wants you to believe.
Would you ever listen to anything by Oscar Guardiola-Rivera again?
What didn’t you like about Danny Pardo’s performance?
It was acceptable.
You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?
It flickered to relevant history from time to time, and did discuss opposing points of view, but very briefly and hesitantly.
Any additional comments?
Another example of how academia is becoming a touchy-feely echo chamber of over-analysis and far-left dogmatism.