In the 1960s, Victor Jara was one of Chile's central cultural figures--a leading theatrical director and inspirational folk...

READ REVIEW

AN UNFINISHED SONG: The Life of Victor Jara

In the 1960s, Victor Jara was one of Chile's central cultural figures--a leading theatrical director and inspirational folk singer, a communist and fervent supporter of Salvador Allende. He was arrested, tortured, and murdered by the perpetrators of the 1973 military coup. His wife, an English dancer (first married to a Chilean dancer) who met Jara when he was her student in a movement class, has now produced a biography that is occasionally touching but most often not up to the events. For one thing, there is too much of Joan Jara here--perhaps because she seems intent on showing that she was not merely a wife but someone who chose to cut back her own career, and who lived a blissful domestic life with Victor as an equal. (This includes the non-anecdotal information that, unlike many Chilean men, Victor changed diapers.) She describes her husband's poor background, his flirtation with the priesthood, and the comfort he found in his guitar. He was one of several performers who cultivated indigenous Chilean music without commercial tinkering--preserving the original music and writing his own songs in an authentic mode. Joan Jara is better on Victor's involvement with this music than on his involvement with politics, where everything is black-and-white. Being a communist was natural for an artist like Victor in Chile, but Joan never seems to have realized (as he certainly did) the high stakes involved. When she goes to the morgue to identify his body--an identification made possible only because of the heroic good graces of a morgue worker--and finds him in a room crammed with corpses, the sense of sudden finality is very strong. To an extent, the tragedy obliterates the banal breakfast talk and common sentimentalities preceding; but only to an extent.

Pub Date: May 4, 1984

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Ticknor & Fields/Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1984