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A tale of violence, lofty ideals, and moral ambiguity, Fontaine’s best-selling novel is now available in a superb English translation
Set in the darkest years of the Pinochet dictatorship, La Vida Doble is the story of Lorena, a leftist militant who arrives at a merciless turning point when every choice she confronts is impossible. Captured by agents of the Chilean repression, withstanding brutal torture to save her comrades, she must now either forsake the allegiances of motherhood or betray the political ideals to which she is deeply committed.
Arturo Fontaine’s Lorena is a study in contradictions—mother and combatant, intellectual and lover, idealist and traitor—and he places her within a historical context that confounds her dilemmas. Though she has few viable options, she is no mere victim, and Fontaine disallows any comfortable high moral ground. His novel is among the most subtle explorations of human violence ever written.
Ranking with Roberto Bolaño and Mario Vargas Llosa on Latin America’s roster of most accomplished authors, Fontaine is a fearless explorer of the most sordid and controversial aspects of Chile’s history and culture. He addresses a set of moral questions specific to Pinochet’s murderous reign but invites us, four decades later, to consider global conflicts today and question how far we’ve come.
"Chilean author and poet Fontaine's searing examination of the consequences suffered by those who conspired against the Pinochet regime (1974-1990) raises timeless questions about the morality of torture."—Publishers Weekly
— Publishers Weekly
“How to represent evil and torture bearably, enhance or put into perspective a lasting and frequently trite and polemical literary topic, without the culture of complaint? Arturo Fontaine’s lucid and moving novel, whose original is a literary and critical best-seller amply praised by Vargas Llosa, Fuentes, and writers of later generations, opts for a poetic coming to terms with a much-too-human predicament: Would you sell your soul to save yourself and yours? The novel’s nuanced discussion of moral dilemmas like shame and betrayal are stressed in the abundant reviews of the original, and in great measure translator Megan McDowell relays La vida doble’s brilliance in conveying those quandaries, ascertaining Fontaine’s penchant for avoiding formulas.” —World Literature Today
— World Literature Today
“I don't think I've seen such a complex psychological study of devotion and betrayal undertaken with such poetic beauty.”—Bait for Bookworms
— Bait for Bookworms
“A word about this fine translation. . . . In Spanish, Fontaine makes use of a host of verbal registers and levels of diction. One of the most poignant aspects of Irene-La Cubanita-Lorena is her exacting feel for the Chilean landscape, her knowledge of exotic trees, her sense memories of a particular beach, her native immersion in Santiago. Megan McDowell achieves the subtle shifts in this woman’s voice as she tries to order her account; she maintains tautness in an account that must never (but could easily) flag, and clarity in a realm of horror.. . . . A word about this fine translation. . . . In Spanish, Fontaine makes use of a host of verbal registers and levels of diction. One of the most poignant aspects of Irene-La Cubanita-Lorena is her exacting feel for the Chilean landscape, her knowledge of exotic trees, her sense memories of a particular beach, her native immersion in Santiago. Megan McDowell achieves the subtle shifts in this woman’s voice as she tries to order her account; she maintains tautness in an account that must never (but could easily) flag, and clarity in a realm of horror.”
—Marguerite Feitlowitz, Los Angeles Review of Books
— Marguerite Feitlowitz
“[La Vida Doble is] a harrowing examination of political violence during the Pinochet period. . . a complex, open-minded investigation into the mentality of those involved on both sides.”—David Gallagher, New York Review of Books
— David Gallagher
Arturo Fontaine is professor of philosophy at the Universidad de Chile. He is the author of four volumes of poetry and three novels, and he regularly publishes essays on cultural topics. Megan McDowell is a translator specializing in Chilean and Latin American literature.