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

The Terror



Mon Oct 31, 2011 1:35 pm
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Terror
I would like to round off discussion of The House of the Spirits by discussing the final chapters.

In The Terror, the military coup of 9/11 1973 is told from the perspectives of the Trueba family, primarily Jaime the doctor.

Wikipedia describes the coup as follows:
Quote:
1973 Chilean coup d'état
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1973_Chile ... '%C3%A9tat
Date 11 September 1973
The 1973 Chilean coup d'état was a watershed event of the Cold War and the history of Chile. Following an extended period of political unrest between the conservative-dominated Congress of Chile and the socialist-leaning President Salvador Allende, discontent culminated in the latter's downfall in a coup d’état organised by the Chilean military and unofficially endorsed by the Nixon administration and the CIA, which had covertly worked to spread discontent and opposition against the government. A military junta led by Allende's Commander-in-Chief Augusto Pinochet eventually took control of the government, composed of the heads of the Air Force, Navy, Carabineros (police force) and the Army. Pinochet later assumed power and ended Allende's democratically elected Popular Unity government, instigating a campaign of terror on its supporters which included the murder of former Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier. Before Pinochet's rule, Chile had for decades been hailed as a beacon of democracy and political stability in a South America hoarding military juntas and Caudillismo.

During the air raids and ground attacks that preceded the coup, Allende gave his last speech, in which he vowed to stay in the presidential palace, denouncing offers for safe passage should he choose exile over confrontation. Direct witness accounts of his death agree that he committed suicide in the palace. After the coup, Pinochet established a military dictatorship that ruled Chile until 1990; it was marked by numerous human rights violations.


Jaime has been a close personal friend of the President, and is called to join him in the Palace during the military attack. The entire event has an air of unreality, something that is impossible in a modern country. And yet we know the festering political hatreds were sufficient to allow the overthrow of the elected government, such was the polarization of Chilean society.

By presenting the events of the coup through Jaime's eyes, Ms Allende gives us a sense of the dignity of her uncle Salvador. The theme here is that the coup is an affront to the entire society, not just to the left. Esteban Trueba had led calls for the coup, but when it happens he is treated like dirt, because the terror planners regard all parliamentarians with contempt. Far from taking his advice, the soldiers take his car.

The events seem surreal, but they are historical.


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Sat Jan 14, 2012 4:06 am
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Terror
good post Robert. I've not had net and/or electric for a few days, so will re-read that chapter


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Sat Jan 14, 2012 4:17 am
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Terror
The Wikipedia quote above says "direct witnesses" say Allende killed himself. In this chapter, Jaime is told that he can save his life if he states on television that Allende killed himself, but he refuses, and as a result gets bashed and killed.

The wiki links do not support the assertion of the article that there were witnesses to Allende killing himself. It seems Ms Allende does not believe it. This is the sort of political statement on Wikipedia that is open to challenge and removal.


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Sat Jan 14, 2012 5:18 am
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Terror
This chapter really is the climax of the book, and brings together the threads of the message the author is conveying.

The Trueba family represent legitimate diversity. In the madness of politics, they are ignored, even while Esteban has become a leader of reaction, and this mad situation brings extreme views to the surface. The truebas form a prophetic voice, a group of Cassandras who are condemned to be ignored.

One of the most telling comments in the book is where Esteban's popularity increases the more he is attacked by the left wing press. We see here a sort of inchoate conservatism, an inarticulate mass opinion that celebrates leaders who stick it up to the politically correct. Nothing that left wing people say can get through to this sort of mass sentiment once it is aroused.

It is really hard to tell if this conservative populism is irrational or if it speaks to a deeper common sense.

The election of the socialist government was greeted with blind fury by the conservative 'right to rule' brigade. The trouble here is that no one has automatic mandate by virtue of social position, but must earn popular legitimacy through sound policy. Over the years the right has allowed the left to grow by treating popular concerns with contempt, until the situation spills over with the election of a left wing government.

The contempt shown towards Esteban by the fascist regime is an ominous picture of the nature of extremism. If I own a savage dog and keep it on a leash in a yard, I should not be surprised if it attacks some one when given the chance. The whole scene is very reminiscent of the rise of Hitler in Germany. He tapped into a broad fear following the Bolshevik Revolution that communism aimed to destroy western civilization, and that only a crazy extremist like him could take the fight up to the communists. Pinochet spoke to the same tribal sense in Chile. It is extraordinary that Pinochet continued to be feted by Margaret Thatcher.


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Sun Jan 15, 2012 5:50 am
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Terror
I re-read the section, and understand the points of the Pinochet rise to power. But it’s a cracking good story, too. How Esteban refuses to believe that the dictatorship killed his son, the kindness of the one soldier towards Jaime who had saved his mother’s life. The way the streets were cleared of rubbish, and walls put up to hide shanty towns, the ‘disappearance’ of begger children. (What did happen to them, or is that obvious?) The military even adjusted the maps, ‘seeing there was no reason why the North should be placed on top. . . .’ The bit about the rejoicing of the middle classes because now men had to wear their hair short, and women not wear jeans, reminded me of another book I’m reading ‘A Thousand Splendid suns’ by Khaled Hosseini, where under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan men had to wear beards the length of a fist, women were not allowed out unless covered up with burqua, and men had to pray five times a day, (just as Esteban was expected to worship at the cathedral in thanks for the coup). And the bit about the two day mourning for the poet, dated two days before, just total farce. ‘For the first time in his life, Senator Trueba admitted he had made a mistake’ Wow! And the reconciliation with Blanca ‘I haven’t been a good father to you, my dear’
I wonder how she manages to get so much into one chapter, and still hold everything together. Totally Brilliant.


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Robert Tulip
Mon Jan 16, 2012 2:12 pm
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Terror
A Thousand Splendid Suns - excellent book, Heledd - I enjoyed that one immensely. I'm not sure, but I think we did do this book here at Book Talk ... anybody remember that?

It was popular around the same time as Kite Runner. ATSS was more or less from the women's POV and KR from the men's. Though it wasn't the same story but both were accounts of a similar regime/culture.



Sat Jan 21, 2012 7:19 pm
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Post Re: The House of the Spirits; The Terror
OK - I'm about to read this chapter - be back later.



Sat Jan 21, 2012 7:20 pm
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