Wednesday, December 13, 2006

On the Occasion of the Death of Pinochet (Hooray!) and the Perpetual Life of Chile's Artists

"Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets."

W.H. Auden's poem, "Epitaph for a Tyrant," foretold Augusto Pinochet's reign of terror moreso than it alludes accurately to Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, the nominal triad of Fascist Terror that influenced the poem when it was written in early 1939. In fact, the subtle, duplicitous, and deadly force of Pinochet was often exacted as a murderous undercurrent with its state killings, assassinations, abductions, and torture largely hidden from view, despite the furious upheavals of the military coup on that terrible Tuesday, September 11, 1973. Auden's take on the tyrant captures the hidden, deliberate machinations and silent, sweeping brutality of the Chilean regime. In contrast to Pinochet, a whole generation of Chilean artists, writers, and musicians, including Victor Jara (murdered in the Estadio Chile days after the coup), Inti-Illimani, and Roberto Bolano, testified to the perfection of the imagination, the flexibility of mind and image that defies the rigidity and ruthlessness of fascist power, and the incalculable suffering at the hands of the state. To the silence of their victimizers, they sung testimonials that screamed for the legitimacy of justice and for the benevolent side of human creation. This generation of artists, like all of Pinochet's victims, should be heralded for their sacrifice and for their extraodinary contributions. Theirs was an art of witness and we should remember them. Roberto Bolano's DISTANT STAR, published by New Directions, mentioned in a previous post, is a good place to begin excavating this history and this generation of artists. "Per dura, ad Astra!" --curley