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ALLENDE by Fernando Alegría

ALLENDE

A Novel

By Fernando Alegría

Pub Date: June 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-8047-1998-5
Publisher: Stanford Univ.

 A revised version (and first US appearance) of a work originally published in Spanish in 1989. Allende, of course, was the Chilean leader who made history in 1970 as the first democratically elected Marxist socialist in Latin America. Alegr°a, known for his writings on Chilean political figures, was a friend of Allende's and his cultural attachÇ in Washington. What Alegr°a has written is a political history of Chile from 1924 to 1973, with special emphasis on Salvador Allende and the events leading to the bloody coup of 1973. Here is the middle-class idealist, son of a lawyer, medical student and political activist, imprisoned while still a teenager by the Ib†§ez dictatorship; the canny parliamentarian who, despite his admiration for Fidel, Che, and Ho Chi Minh, opposed armed revolutionary struggle in Chile; the tireless fighter who overcame three previous losses to win the presidency in 1970; the bold president who nationalized the copper industry and expropriated latifundia but was defeated by ``a two- headed enemy,'' local saboteurs, and the Nixon Administration. Alegr°a has added disappointingly little to this familiar outline; his ``novel'' (so-called because of some imagined scenes and dialogue) keeps its distance from its hero, who could be a figure in a mural: ``one among several itinerant preachers of revolution...complete with dark suit and straw hat, red banner in hand, marching through solitary landscapes in an impoverished, rebellious country.'' And just as the extent of Allende's charismatic appeal is shrouded in generalities, so is his private life: his extramarital affair with his secretary is raised teasingly and then dropped, and how much the scandal threatened Allende's career is unclear. Even the drama of the coup is muffled. Alegr°a considers that he has written ``a conclusive biography of Allende.'' Not so.