The story behind the movie. A filmmaker's journey inside Pinochet's Chile
Clandestine in Chile: The adventures of Miguel Litt'in, by Gabriel Garc'ia M'arquez. Translated by Asa Zatz. New York: Henry Holt. 116 pp. $13.95. TWO foremost artists of Latin America meet in this breathtaking story. Gabriel Garc'ia M'arquez is a Nobel Prize winner and author of such memorable works as ``One Hundred Years of Solitude'' and ``No One Writes to the Colonel.'' Miguel Litt'in is one of Latin America's most outstanding film directors; his movie, ``The Jackal of Nahueltoro,'' dealing with pre- and post-Allende years in Chile, won worldwide acclaim.
Miguel Litt'in recounted to Garc'ia M'arquez the story of his undercover visit to his native land to make a film under Pinochet's nose. He accomplished this feat by passing himself off as a successful Uruguayan businessman, learning to speak with a Uruguayan accent. Garc'ia M'arquez, a past master at telling tales, as well as an accomplished journalist (he began his writing career as a reporter), retells the story of Litt'in's incredible journey in this book.
The narrative progresses in a sober, almost matter-of-fact tone, allowing the reader to go along, to imagine, to breathe the atmosphere charged with impending dangers and to experience, as near as reading permits, the ugly dictatorship of General Pinochet, entrenched in Chile since 1973.
Litt'in travels throughout the capital city of Santiago, a city enveloped in a false order and calm, especially during curfew hours when a ghostlike atmosphere settles over the city and terrifies the inhabitants.
He also visits other parts of the country, particularly the south. Two giant figures from Chile's past are constantly present: the slain president, Salvador Allende, and his friend, the poet Pablo Neruda, who died a few days after the coup. Litt'in visits Neruda's house in Isla Negra and Allende's grave in Valparaiso.
``Clandestine'' is a fascinating literary journey. Scenes recounted in the book parallel scenes filmed by Litt'in: intense encounters with friends and family; revealing moments that show what it is like to live under a dictatorship; the desire for freedom still burning bright after all the years of repression; and especially Litt'in's conversations with young people who have never known anything else but dictatorship.
Litt'in's almost eight-hour documentary will be released in Madrid later this year. This book can only increase interest in the film and help us to appreciate it more. But the book alone is celebration enough of human ingenuity and determination. I recommend it wholeheartedly.
Marjorie Agos'in's ``Scraps of Life: Chilean Arpilleras'' was recently published by The Red Sea Press. She teaches Spanish at Wellesley College.