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A Voice in the Wilderness

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there's a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness. -- William O. Douglas

Monday, November 02, 2009

My Invented Country; by Isabel Allende - my review

My Invented Country offers an insider's perspective about Chile that is as intimate as it is real. I have read some of the criticisms about Allende's depiction of her homeland and I find them to be without merit. Her descriptions about the national character are quite touching and do not appear in the slightest to be done with any malevolence.

There were points in the book that brought out a chuckle while others - and there were many - caused me to laugh out loud. She has such a wonderful way of describing human nature without being hateful or malicious. The immediacy of her style conveys a sense of intimacy - it is reflective of the conversational style that is shared among friends. I am surprised her detractors missed that.

Her descriptions of the land, the collective mentality and their influence on her are compelling. She makes me want to visit Chile, partially to observe the nuances she points out and mostly because their culture seems fascinating. For me, there is a sense of familiarity with Chileans. Their perspectives are not so different from my own.

What I like most of all about Allende's writing is that she has a knack for drawing out the humorous. Her writing has an endearing quality that is is respectful and not at all caustic. The real reward comes when she discusses with a candor that is inviting and unguarded about how the country of Chile and its world-view have contributed to her abilities as a writer.

Toward the end of her book she references Milton Friedman and his influence (The Chicago School of thought) on the Totalitarianism of the Pinochet Regime. I must admit I was aware of the connection but it really hit home when I was reading Naomi Klein's book "Shock Doctrine."

While Klein does not delve deeply into the atrocities, she does touch upon the effects of Friedman and company had upon Chile and more importantly, their impact on America post 9/11.

I have always considered it ironic that Chile's 9/11 which marked the overthrow of Salvador Allende's elected government and the rise of Totalitarianism - clamping down on individual liberties in the name of security would also share similarly echoed sentiments during George W. Bush II's presidency and, under guidance of the same same Chicago School ideologue; Milton Friedman. Klein refers to the ideology as "Shock Doctrine" - Allende referred to it as, "savage capitalism."... Spooky.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable book that is easy to read but you have to be attentive because she has so much to say and her delivery is so entertaining that you can miss some real gems regarding her craft. The book may be about Chile but the real treat is how she shares her thoughts on her passion as a professional writer.


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