May 23, 2009

Take Me Away Saturday

Take Me Away

Take Me Away is a new feature I am trying out for Saturdays. As a lover of books that take place in different cultures and are about different cultures, I thought this was a good way to share this love with you, my readers and friends!

Each week I will feature a different country or culture (ex. Cherokee, Jewish, etc. that do not have a specific country per se) and list some books that can transport you there.

I will keep a map of the countries we visit and a list of the specific cultures. This week I wanted to start with the country of Chile in South America. Click on the titles to go to the book's page on to read reviews and/or purchase the book.

Here is an easy to see, if not detailed, map of Chile:
To learn more about the country of Chile, click here.

By Night in Chile by Roberto Bolano
A deathbed confession revolving around Opus Dei and Pinochet, By Night in Chile pours out the self-justifying dark memories of the Jesuit priest Father Urrutia. As through a crack in the wall, By Night in Chile's single night-long rant provides a terrifying, clandestine view of the strange bedfellows of Church and State in Chile. This wild, eerily compact novel—Roberto Bolaño's first work available in English—recounts the tale of a poor boy who wanted to be a poet, but ends up a half-hearted Jesuit priest and a conservative literary critic, a sort of lap dog to the rich and powerful cultural elite, in whose villas he encounters Pablo Neruda and Ernst Jünger. Father Urrutia is offered a tour of Europe by agents of Opus Dei (to study "the disintegration of the churches," a journey into realms of the surreal); and ensnared by this plum, he is next assigned—after the destruction of Allende—the secret, never-to-be-disclosed job of teaching Pinochet, at night, all about Marxism, so the junta generals can know their enemy. Soon, searingly, his memories go from bad to worse. Heart-stopping and hypnotic, By Night in Chile marks the American debut of an astonishing writer.

Daughter of Fortune: A Novel by Isabel Allende
An orphan raised in Valparaíso, Chile, by a Victorian spinster and her rigid brother, young, vivacious Eliza Sommers follows her lover to California during the Gold Rush of 1849. She enters a rough-and-tumble world whose newly arrived inhabitants are driven mad by gold fever. With the help of her good friend and savior, the Chinese doctor Tao Chi'en, Eliza moves freely in a society of single men and prostitutes, creating an unconventional but independent life for herself. The young Chilean's search for her elusive lover gradually turns into another kind of journey, and by the time she finally hears news of him, Eliza must decide who her true love really is.

The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
Here, in an astonishing debut by a gifted storyteller, is the magnificent saga of proud and passionate men and women and the turbulent times through which they suffer and triumph. They are the Truebas. And theirs is a world you will not want to leave, and one you will not forget. Esteban -- The patriarch, a volatile and proud man whose lust for land is legendary and who is haunted by his tyrannical passion for the wife he can never completely possess. Clara -- The matriarch, elusive and mysterious, who foretells family tragedy and shapes the fortunes of the house of the Truebas. Blanca -- Their daughter, soft-spoken yet rebellious, whose shocking love for the son of her father's foreman fuels Esteban's everlasting contempt... even as it produces the grandchild he adores. Alba -- The fruit of Blanca's forbidden love, a luminous bearty, a fiery and willful woman... the family's break with the past and link to the future.

Alive by Piers Paul Read
On October 12, 1972, an Uruguayan Air Force plane carrying a team of rugby players crashed in the remote snowy peaks of the Andes. Ten weeks later, only sixteen of the forty-five passengers were found alive. This is the story of those ten weeks spent in the shelter of the plane's fuselage without food and with scarcely any hope of a rescue. The survivors protected and helped one another, and came to the difficult conclusion that to live meant doing the unimaginable. Confronting nature at its most furious, two brave young men risked their lives to hike through the mountains looking for help -- and ultimately found it.

Custody of the Eyes by Diamela Eltit
The mother of a troubled pre-teen boy gradually reveals her "state of collapse" in anonymous letters that she writes to an unnamed "you" in this 1994 novella from Chilean experimentalist Eltit. The woman, too fearful to sign her letters, writes from the midst of a horrific Santiago winter during the Pinochet dictatorship. Her addressee emerges, over the course of several missives, as the father of her son; she believes the man to be collaborating with authorities and neighbors in Stasi-like spying and denunciations. When she takes in homeless families who would otherwise perish, the narrator is gripped with the thought that "you" thinks she is taking in lovers, thus sealing her "case" before the shadowy court that, it seems, will judge her. Eltit creates a voice trapped, hysterically, in paranoia and desperation. Framed by several pages of the son's even creepier monologue, this is an elliptical, Kafkaesque cry of utter terror.

My Tender Matador: A Novel by Pedro Lemebel
Centered around the 1986 attempt on the life of Augusto Pinochet, an event that changed Chile forever, My Tender Matador is one of the most explosive, controversial, and popular novels to have been published in that country in decades. It is spring 1986 in the city of Santiago, and Augusto Pinochet is losing his grip on power. In one of the city's many poor neighborhoods works the Queen of the Corner, a hopeless and lonely romantic who embroiders linens for the wealthy and listens to boleros to drown out the gunshots and rioting in the streets. Along comes Carlos, a young, handsome man who befriends the aging homosexual and uses his house to store mysterious boxes and hold clandestine meetings. My Tender Matador is an extraordinary novel of revolution and forbidden love, and a stirring portrait of Chile at an historical crossroads. By turns funny and profoundly moving, Pedro Lemebel's lyrical prose offers an intimate window into the mind of Pinochet himself as the world of Carlos and the Queen prepares to collide with the dictator's own in a fantastic and unexpected way.

A House in the Country by Jose Donoso
A family saga from one of Chile's best-known writers. An examination of violence and its sources.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Do you know of some books that take place in Chile that you want to share? Please leave a note in the comments!

Do you like this new feature? Want to see more? Wish I had never thought of it because it sucks so hard? Leave me a comment and let me know!


  1. Hi Rebecca: Thanks for stopping by my page and commenting on the loss of my beloved kitty. String had been with me for so long, just as your kitty has been with you. I adopted her in Florida...she moved with me to Cape Cod, MA, Nashville TN, then went through my divorce with me. And finally moved with me here to North Carolina. She was a little character...talked all of the time and was a constant presence in my home. I still have 3 other cats, but it is not the same. It helps to be able to commiserate with others...thanks for leaving your post. Have a great weekend. :)

  2. What a great idea, Rebecca. I really loved The House of the Spirits. Looking forward to your next Take Me Away post!

  3. This is a great idea! I know virtually nothing about Chile.

  4. Hey Rebecca, this is fabulous as I also love to read about other cultures or books that take place in other countries. One of my favorite writers is Gail Tsukiyama. Sometimes her books are in China, sometimes Japan. The map is a great idea too. Thanks so much.

  5. I really like this idea! I was just reading a review of a book whose characters have Chilean roots--mostly it takes place in the U.S. but I think there are flashbacks to Chile. The book is Gringolandia, and the review is on the Happy Nappy Bookseller.

  6. I love this idea! I've been wanting to read more international authors and I can come here for books. Thanks!

  7. Thank you so much for all of the great feedback!

    Claire- Thanks! I am glad you enjoyed it!

    Bermudaonion- I can't say I know much about it either. I have read Daughter of Fortune and Alive, but not the other ones, so I have some books I can learn some more from, too!

    Kaye- I will keep her in mind when I do China and Japan. Asian culture is one of my faves so I am surprised I had not heard of her. A new author to look into! Cool, thanks! And I had Jen from Jen's Bookshelf tell me on Twitter she liked the map idea, too, so that should be a go!

    Ali- Thanks for that link! And she had a link to a publisher for lots of Latin American authors so that was a great find, too!

    Vasilly- I have a tendency (for whatever reason) to read books about other cultures that seem to be written by Americans and Brits, so international authors are on my agenda, as well! I am glad you like the feature! :D

  8. Very nice list! I read Allende's memoir My Invented Country a few months ago, and it really made me want to read more books about or set in Chile.

  9. Nymeth- Thanks! I hope one of these books satiates your thirst for books in Chile. I haven't read My Invented Country, yet.

  10. My Tender Matador by Pedro Lemebel. I am only now finding out about dictators like Pinochet, and I feel bad and pissed about this. Like what in the world were they teaching me in High School and college. More so HS, since college can be very focused.

  11. Doret-

    History classes rarely teach us anything about history outside of how the country was formed, it seems. Everything is very pat. I learned nothing new from sixth grade through the end of high school in history classes. We always discussed the exact same events, just in more detail every year. It is very sad and shows that our education system needs a lot of improvement. Starting with the textbooks.

  12. I like your new Saturday idea. Even though you read a much greater variety of books than I do, I am finding the books you mentions interesting, and might just read something beyond my usual Urban Fantsy. Keep it up, and if you find any fiction (or nonfiction) about Panama (Central America) please include. Panama is my mother's home country and she never really taught us much about her life in Panama. (She was busy, learning english, going to school, working, bringing up four kids,...) She moved back to Panama 9 years ago, so we don't have much time together to learn about this country anymore. Sometimes I look for books about Panama, but haven't found anything that catches my attention yet.

  13. Wonderful idea! I so look reading of other cultures. I have "visited" Chile through reading. I have the read the Allende books but thanks for the other suggestions.

    I cannot wait to see where we will be visiting next week.

  14. This is an excellent feature and I can't wait to read more!! Let's travel :)

  15. I love this idea. I can't wait until next Saturday to see what you do next!
    (Sorry to comment on the earliest one of these put you know, you scroll to the bottom and then you comment...)


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