Clandestine in Chile
The Adventures of Miguel Littin
Publication Date: July 6, 2010
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In 1973, the film director Miguel Littín fled Chile after a U.S.-supported military coup toppled the democratically elected socialist government of Salvador Allende. The new dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, instituted a reign of terror and turned Chile into a laboratory to test the poisonous prescriptions of the American economist Milton Friedman. In 1985, Littín returned to Chile disguised as a Uruguayan businessman. He was desperate to see the homeland he’d been exiled from for so many years; he also meant to pull off a very tricky stunt: with the help of three film crews from three different countries, each supposedly busy making a movie to promote tourism, he would secretly put together a film that would tell the truth about Pinochet’s benighted Chile—a film that would capture the world’s attention while landing the general and his secret police with a very visible black eye.
Afterwards, the great novelist Gabriel García Márquez sat down with Littín to hear the story of his escapade, with all its scary, comic, and not-a-little surreal ups and downs. Then, applying the same unequaled gifts that had already gained him a Nobel Prize, García Márquez wrote it down. Clandestine in Chile is a true-life adventure story and a classic of modern reportage.
Gabriel García Márquez (b. 1928) was born in Aracataca, Colombia. He began working as a reporter while studying law at the University of Cartagena and published his first book, the novella The Leaf Storm, in Bogota in 1955. Among his best-known subsequent works are the novels One Hundred Years of Solitude, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Love in the Time of Cholera, and The General in His Labyrinth. In 1986 he wrote Clandestine in Chile: The Adventures of Miguel Littín, about an exile’s return to the repressive Chile of General Augusto Pinochet. The political revelations of the book led to the burning of almost 15,000 copies by the Chilean government. García Márquez has lived primarily in Mexico since the 1960s, and in 1982 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Asa Zatz was born in Mexico and has translated nearly one hundred books. He lives in New York.
Francisco Goldman is the author of four novels, The Long Night of White Chickens, The Ordinary Seaman, The Divine Husband, the forthcoming Say Her Name, and one work of nonfiction, The Art of Political Murder.
"The journalism which began Márquez's Nobel Prize-winning career is employed here not only to tell Littín's remarkable story, but offer a tragic summary of Chilean politics." —The Independent (London)
"Reissued nearly 25 years after its initial appearance, the book recounts a middle-aged caper, vainglorious yet genuinely gripping. Time has drained the adventure of its urgency, and our geographical and cultural distance blunts its force. Still, this remains a significant document. An invaluable preface by Francisco Goldman explains why." —The Boston Globe
“Clandestine in Chile is a memoir of Mr. Littin’s six-week adventure, as told to and recast by Mr. Garcia Marquez, and a sketch for what the latter calls the film behind the film, the personal story he finds more moving than the original film project. The idea is moving, indeed dazzling...[Gabriel Garcia Márquez] seems chiefly to have lent some of his own quietly lyrical cadences to certain images and chapter endings…he evokes well the haunting cold of autumn in Chile, and gently registers the exile’s nostalgias and surprises.” –Michael Wood, The New York Times
“Garcia Marquez has written a terse political thriller with shafts of insight into conflicts of identity.” –Newsweek
“In Garcia Marquez’s prose, Littin’s actions become truly heroic and the clandestine hero achieves the grandeur of all popular heroes…readers now have the story of a magnificent civil disobedience.” –The Globe and Mail (Canada)
“Garcia Marquez’s book is based on hours of taped interviews with Littin, and is retold in the first person, which gives it suspense and immediacy and brings embattled Chile vividly to life…it portrays a government without legitimacy, a people living in fear and a resistance movement determined to fight for change.” –The Sunday Times (London)
“A rousing adventure story, this is also the best reportage available about conditions in Chile today.”
“It is excellent journalism...this book remains an interesting historical document—smuggled across the Chilean border like contraband—of what life was like under the old dictator…I have never read a book that pokes quite such irreverent fun at the dangers of military power.” –The Independent (London)
“Fluid and full of surprises.” –The Washington Post
“Two foremost artists of Latin America meet in this breathtaking story…Clandestine is a fascinating literary journey…the book alone is celebration enough of human ingenuity and determination. I recommend it wholeheartedly.” –Marjorie Agosin, The Christian Science Monitor
“Marquez re-creates the story brilliantly from taped interviews with Littin and writes it in first person.” –Claire Scobie, The Sun Hearld (Sydney)
“An extraordinary if Chaplinesque adventure which would make good comedy if it did not take place against the background of one of the most repressive regimes in modern times…[it succeeds] as a reporting style swinging freely between effervescence and emotionalism.” –Courrier Mail