Expatriate's novel of Chilean revolution

I Dreamt the Snow Was Burning, by Antonio Skarmeta. London: Readers International Inc. 220 pp. $7.95. Antonio Skarmeta is a Chilean short-story writer and novelist who lives in West Germany. He belongs to the younger generation of writers who began to publish in the 1970s, and he is also part of the group of writers forced to leave their homeland after the 1978 coup. Skarmeta's short stories are very popular among Latin American readers, and now one of his most important novels, ``I Dreamt the Snow Was Burning,'' is available in English translation.

First published in Spain in 1975, this novel is an important contribution to the writings of Chileans in exile. Skarmeta's book deals with the period of Salvador Allende's presidency, from 1970 to 1973. This epoch is idealized through the eyes of the novel's protagonist, Arturo, a young working-class soccer player.

The main character moves from a small town in southern Chile to Santiago, a metropolis where he encounters his first love, experiences failures and successes, and gains a growing political consciousness.

Through the novel's colloquial and almost picaresque style, the reader learns about the development and fall of the Allende regime.

There is the excitement of his campaign and victory, then the struggle and suffering as the opposition begins to undermine the economy and destabilize the government. Skarmeta does not try to be objective. Neither does he try to analyze the shortcomings of Salvador Allende's reign.

His protagonist feels that the Allende administration represents his social class, and the dreams for a more just society are shattered when Allende is overthrown.

The plot encourages familiarity and identification with the life of the protagonist, his initial optimism with the new government, and its dramatic ending, which coincides with his own.

Arturo is taken prisoner by the military junta, revealing how political events change the lives of ordinary people. The passions and dreams of the working-class youth are woven into the fabric of Chile's tragic political upheaval.

Born in Chile, Marjorie Agosin now teaches in the department of Spanish at Wellesley College.

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