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CLANDESTINE IN CHILE by Asa Zatz Kirkus Star


The Adventures Of Miguel Littin

translated by Asa Zatz & by Gabriel García MárquezGabriel Garcia Marquez

Pub Date: June 1st, 1987
ISBN: 1590173406
Publisher: Henry Holt

In this slim yet fascinating foray into the nature of self-identity, Nobel Prize winner Garcia Marquez adopts the voice and tells the real-life tale of a banished film director who returned incognito to his native Chile to film life under the repressive Pinochet regime. Exiled from Chile in 1974 for his allegiance to the Marxist ideals of murdered Chilean President Allende, Littin, director of the esteemed El Chacal de Nahualtoro, sneaked into Chile in early 1985 disguised as a Uruguayan businessman. There, directing three legitimate European film crews as well as six crews from the Chilean resistance, he penetrated as far as Pinochet's private office. "To pin a great long donkey's tail on Pinochet" was, in large part, Littin's aim in this dangerous venture, but Garcia Marquez's rendering of the story, an elegant editing of 18 hours of talk between writer and filmmaker, focuses more on the disorientation of adopting a new identity, and on Littin's narrow escapes from detection, than on the political or moral aspects of the director's feat. Littin's transformation is radical: not only body changes such as tweezed eyebrows and scalp, weight loss, and glasses, but a major shift in behavior as well: "I had to learn to laugh differently, to walk slowly, and to use my hands for emphasis when I spoke." But as he travels through Chile meeting old family and pals who fail to recognize him--including his own mother!--he suffers increasingly under his role, at times endangering his mission through lapses or willful revolt. So with the police catching on, only hours behind him, it's with great relief that a confused Littin at last boards a plane to Mexico, leaving behind the weight of another's self. Minor Garcia Marquez, but still superbly crafted and worth exploring.