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The House of the Spirits; The Awakening 
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Post The House of the Spirits; The Awakening
The House of the Spirits
Isabel Allende

The Awakening



Mon Oct 31, 2011 1:38 pm
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Awakening
We are now nearing the bad climax that the whole book has been warning us about. This chapter begins with the awakening of Alba, Ernesto and Clara's granddaughter, who goes to university to study philosophy and music, against her grandfather's wishes, but becomes embroiled in communism. The cynicism with which Allende describes the idealism of the students has the air of utter realism. Their visions of changing the world are empty, mostly just rhetoric during a time of cloistered indoctrination that Allende says they will promptly forget when they join the real world. But the university is a parable for reality, a statement that the communist movement lacks realism, and will crumble in the face of state power.

Alba goes by the name of the French count, her fake father foisted by her grandfather. She conceals her aristocratic identity, but plays up her links with Pedro Tercero Garcia, her real father and symbol for revolutionary singer Victor Jara, and with the Poet, symbol of the humanist icon Pablo Neruda.

When I was at university in the 1980s I got involved in similar student politics without understanding the stupidity and ignorance of it. The description of the sit-in is a far more graphic version of anything I did, but illustrates the futility of confronting tanks with sticks and songs. Alba's communist boyfriend, Miguel, is the stereotype of the pale ideologue, full of passion and foolish dreams. Allende tells us "Miguel divided the group into squads and kept them busy all day with such efficiency that his authority went unnoticed. Decisions seemed to arise spontaneously from the groups." (p366)

There is a sad humor here that will remind everyone of the futile gestures of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Its bizarre anarchistic philosophy is designed for maximum incompetence, and Allende puts her finger on the hypocrisy of leftists who pretend to be syndicalist but are in fact Stalinist. Power requires organization.


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Fri Dec 30, 2011 6:56 am
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Awakening
An interesting character in this chapter is Professor Sebastian Gomez, the only faculty member who joins the student protest occupation. Gomez has crippled legs, and comes across as a mad dwarf, lost in a political dream of revolution. Allende uses him to depict the intellectual Trotskyites who inspire gullible youth with crazy quixotic ideas of revolution. He tells the students they will be joined by a mass uprising which will topple the government, and that the police would not dare to end their protest with force because that would be a sign of dictatorship, which he imagines is impossible. Miguel gives an eerily prophetic response that such claims seem plausible until events show they are hollow.

The quiet mockery of Gomez as some sort of destructive idiot shows Isabel Allende's ambivalence towards the revolution in Chile. The implication is that the communists brought on the dictatorship by going to far in their fantasy of class struggle. The recurring theme that revolution is impossible in Latin America because of its magical traditions was brought undone by the democratic socialism of the Salvador Allende regime, but the Pinochet reaction was hardly magical, rather it illustrated a perverted sickness of festering hatred unleashed in absolute power. The underlying theme is the danger of extremism of any sort.

During the occupation, "the only one who never complained was Sebastian Gomez, who seemed as indefatigable as Miguel, even though he was twice his age and looked tubercular... He was the ideologue who made his students burn with the flame that in most of them extinguished itself as soon as they graduated and joined the world they had once hoped to change. A small, spare man with an aquiline nose and sparse hair, he was lit by an inner fire that gave no respite." (p368)


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Sat Dec 31, 2011 12:15 am
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Awakening
I really want to discuss the final chapters, so will continue to post on this book.

Alba gets really heavy menstruation, apparently brought on by the stress of the occupation. One of the communist ladies comments that proletarian women do not suffer like that, even in child birth. Ms Allende seems to be mocking the steely left here. Alba ends up arranging to be released, only to find that the police officer who meets her is none other than Esteban Garcia, the bastard grandson who had led Esteban Trueba to find Pedro Tercero in the famous incident of the axing of the fingers. Garcia had previously molested Alba, and he now informs Miguel of Alba's true conservative identity, which is quite a shock to the communist, who is left to wonder why the favorite of the most reactionary politician in the nation should be playing revolutionary games. This meeting with Garcia is a premonition of the coup, and Alba goes on to tell us of the slimy nightmares she had about Garcia.

The theme here is that reality is interweaved, unrecognised and determinant. Chile had a functional traditional society that exploded with the unwillingness of the left to allow the patronising attitudes of the right. Alba, scion of the right, rejects her birthright on grounds of moral justice, but cannot escape her identity. We are now entering the descent into the maelstrom.


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Sun Jan 01, 2012 8:00 am
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Awakening
The theme continues of the secret unity of left and right. Alba and Miguel make an orgy love nest in the basement of the house of the spirits, the same place of the great-grandmother's head and the rug of Barrabas, symbol of the repressed national unconscious. Jaime says Miguel is nothing but a cafe terrorist, and a crazy one, for arguing for military revolution rather than electoral methods. Miguel has the steely resolve of Che Guevara, with all his idiocy. Jaime becomes best friends with The Candidate (Salvador Allende), and imagines he can conceal his conservative family roots, although the Candidate discovers Jaime's identity immediately.

Finally we again meet Amanda, for whom Nicolas Trueba had earlier procured an abortion, conducted by Jaime. Amanda turns out to be Miguel's sister, and a depraved junkie. She represents some dark aspect of the national psyche. Jaime tells her she will go through hell. How true.

I remember now who the tubercular cripple Sebastian Gomez reminds me of - Abimael Guzmán, the ideologue of Sendero Luminoso, the mad maoist shining path guerrillas of Peru.


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The following user would like to thank Robert Tulip for this post:
realiz
Sun Jan 01, 2012 8:32 am
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Awakening
Oh, man - I'm glad you said that, Robert ...

Miguel has the steely resolve of Che Guevara, with all his idiocy.

I was thinking of that myself - thinking, isn't this much like the Che Guevara stories?

Robert, thanks so much for providing us with your personal experience in this history.



Fri Jan 20, 2012 10:16 pm
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Awakening
Just finished up this chapter tonight - the book's getting really exciting now.



Fri Jan 20, 2012 10:18 pm
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