H enciclopedia 
es administrada por
Sandra López Desivo

© 1999 - 2013
Amir Hamed
ISSN 1688-1672



A Note Pinochet's Apocryphal (Literary) Deaths

Luis Correa-Díaz
These apocryphal deaths are literary instruments intended to correct (and perhaps to refute) history in a utopian manner. They are not intended for the reader to know what occurred but rather to imagine what might have happened if ..., in order to learn what really happened

Nulla potentia, scelere quaesita, est diuturna
Q. Curtius Rufus

The biography of
Augusto Pinochet Ugarte -former Commander-in-Chief, (R) Captain General of the Army (1973-1998), former Dictator/President (1973[4]-1990), and currently Emeritus Commander and Lifetime Senator
(1998- ) of the Republic of Chile- has not been delivered yet, although there are some texts of the kind: "Memories of a Soldier" / "Biography of a Soldier", subtitles of the two tomes Camino Recorrido (Santiago: Talleres Gráficos del Instituto Geográfico Militar, 1990), written by Pinochet as an apology of himself. Another of Pinochet's memoirs is the volume entitled El Día Decisivo, 11 de Septiembre de 1973 (Santiago: Estado Mayor General del Ejército, 1982), which contains several interviews and is described by the editors as "the product of Mr. President and Army Commander in Chief's personal experience [...], spontaneously narrated and based on documents and notes included in his account as supporting materials." The reader may find autobiographical references in this book, but all of them are intended to make of the General a great military genius and statesman. There is a further biographical chapter on Pinochet included in Biografía de S.E. el Presidente de la República de Chile y miembros de la Honorable Junta de Gobierno (Santiago: Esparza, 1984) by Manuel Araya Villegas, which can easily be seen as a partial and laudatory text.

The Spaniard Francoist Alvaro Pineda de Castro wrote Pinochet, verdad y ficción
(Madrid, 1981), and as its editor Alberto Vassallo de Mumbert says, "it is not only a biography, but also the complete radiography of an epoch in which the General's monumental figure rises to become a magnificent example of how love of Homeland, Independence and National Dignity must be expressed, and undoubtedly how a leader should rule his people with justice and affection, creating a government that pursues happiness for everyone"

[Hallelujah!] Pinochet's oldest daughter, Lucía Pinochet Hiriart, has also authored a very luxurious and tendentious "Illustrated Biography of My Father," the bilingual Spanish-English coffee-table book entitled Pionero del Mañana / Tomorrow's Pioneer (Santiago: Zig-Zag, 1996). Finally, in addition to some entries in encyclopedias -Británica, Encarta, among them-, and historical-political dictionaries -Historical Dictionary of Chile (1987) by Salvatore Bizzarro, or Biographical Dictionary of Latin American and Caribbean Political Leaders (1997), edited by Robert J. Alexander-, we can find Pinochet on the Internet, for example in Reseña biográfica del Comandante en Jefe del Ejército de Chile Capitán General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, ejército.cl/pinochet.htm.

Perhaps the major bibliographical critical effort is represented by Auge y ocaso de Augusto Pinochet, psicohistoria de un liderazgo
(Santiago: Ornitorrinco, 1988) by María Dolores Souza and Germán Silva, although its principal aim was to make, from a perspective combining psychological and sociological sciences, a "diagnosis of Augusto Pinochet['s personality]" in relation to an ampler theme, of absolute power, specifically "the pathologies of power." The genre of this book is defined by the authors as "psycho-biography and analysis of content."

However, a full critical biography of Pinochet has not been issued to date. Therefore, any biographer intending to embark on such a work might wish to take into account a creative masterful work on the subject by Pedro Gómez Valderrama (1923-1992), one of Colombia's foremost writers of the twentieth century. In 1976, just tree years after Pinochet's coup d'état, Gómez Valderrama wrote a collection of miniature narratives/essays entitled Las muertes apócrifas. This literary work narrates the hypothetical deaths of 12 historical personalities who have played a role either in the history of the Americas or Europe: Christopher Columbus, Vasco Núñez de Balboa, Simón Bolívar, and Henry Kissinger, Napoleon, Lucrecia Borgia, Marie Antoinette, The Marquis de Sade, Stendhal, Lenin and Mao Tse Tung.

The entry-niche number 11 corresponds to describe conjecturally the last and fateful chapter in the biography of "Augusto Pinochet Ugarte." The collection in general falls within the
genre of ultrafiction, and it could perhaps be regarded as an exercise in historical/literary thanatology: a series of necrological and necroscopic games which sometimes appear to adopt the form of provocative epitaphs, of autopsies performed culturally upon the corpse of those once living beings, and certainly always the form of an apocryphal obituary.

In the section (entry) on Pinochet, the author critically and playfully creates four hypotheses that tell of the deaths of the General, who was in good health until recently, and certainly twenty years ago at the time Gómez Valderrama published Las muertes apócrifas. For this reason, this miniature narrative embodies the form of remarkable po/et(h)ic prophecy, as we neatly find confirmed in the last of the hypotheses, where through a kind of verbal and gnoseologic cleansing of the process through which the prophecy is arrived at, we reach, no more, no less, a moment of predictive perfection in which his death is foretold (for him and us) as being "that to which he was [simply] predestined." (Cuentos completos 353). The hypotheses or proposed apocryphal formulations by Gómez Valderrama involve an examination of and a literary judgment on each of the following:

a) the epic conjecture: the historical moment (the military coup d'état of September 11th, 1973) in which the protagonist's dictatorial person emerges, deceitfully heroic;

b) the elegiac conjecture: the more important allegorical and political consequence, the death and recovery of democracy in Chile, as an exemplum of the
Latin American paradigm of those and other years in imagine parva;

c) the detective novel conjecture: the establishment of an authoritarian regime whose inquisitorial delirium ends up by turning against the government itself; and, as just mentioned,

d) the (strictly)
tragic conjecture: the final/fatal destiny of Pinochet and the future of Chile and the rest of Latin America with/without his 'iron glove' presence.

In addition to being an historical short-story/essay on the Unidad Popular party (of that dream of the 'Chilean road to Socialism'), on the subsequent military dictatorship, and on the recovery of freedom by the Chilean people, in the same way as many others in Latin America achieved the same goal at that time, Gómez Valderrama's text is also a kind of schematic and coded critical biography of Pinochet, the only one to exist as such today.

Nevertheless, in it we find, silent and unspoken between the lines, a heartfelt epitaph for Salvador Allende Gossens, upon whose death rose victorious the "ultimate soldier" who today is living out the final chapter of his life in London fighting one of the last of his battles against the world and his own heroic image. His end will therefore be no different from that already foretold by the Colombian writer three years after the assassination of Allende, in what constitutes a form of political justice meted out from the conjectural space/art of literature.

This noble and risky search for justice through the perspective of (historical) literature in no way proposes to assassinate anyone, not even figuratively. As Jacques Derrida warns in his dedication pages to Specter of Marx (New York and London: Routledge, 1994), both the life and death of a person are so absolutely unique that they cannot be taken from whom they belong, not even symbolically, however artistic the attempt. For this reason, Gómez Valderrama, a good lawyer as well as a writer, never got close to committing a symbolic assassination or of thinking of death as punishment. His (literary) justice is not of a kind which would grant our imagination the absurd license to execute someone, not even his specter.

But rather these apocryphal deaths are literary instruments intended to correct
(and perhaps to refute) history in a utopian manner. They are not intended for the reader to know what occurred but rather to imagine what might have happened if ..., in order to learn what really happened (to us).

The gamble involved also had to do with the future, but Gómez Valderrama has demonstrated, in a few lines and through his miniature narrative, that his art of conjecture is one of admirable and erudite vision. Between October 1998 and March 2000 Pinochet was under house arrest in London, and this in itself opened another chapter with a broader theme for further discussion, one not altogether without a certain disquieting sense of postmodernity, of a kind suggested by Eduardo Galeano in his article "El ojo del cíclope" (1999) on the globalization of justice and the role which might be appropriate for Latin America in such an international debate.

Pinochet's detention in London generated, as one might expect, an avalanche of opinions in the press, salient among them declarations by
Carlos Fuentes, Ariel Dorfman (both in El País, November 1998), and Isabel Allende. The creative and historical text by Gómez Valderrama seems to have masterfully anticipated all of this (including the possible trial in Chile now), and will therefore be among the essential texts to be consulted when this (hi)story is told.

Isabel Allende begins her 'verdict,' significantly titled "Pinochet Without Hatred" (New York Times Magazine, January 17, 1999: 24-27), with the following reflection: "Many years ago, I was asked whether I planned some day to write a novel about Pinochet. No, I said, because as a character he was insignificant. I need to retract that statement: one can say anything about him except that he is insignificant. The General has held Chile in his grip for 25 years and is still the most influential figure in the country. A decade after he stepped down from the presidency, the old dictator still holds the democratic Government hostage."

The representation of the Chilean idiosyncrasy in this quote unfortunately remains true to this day, but now the point I wish to stress is a different one.

Although Isabel Allende or another
author might one day write that 'novel' -though I maintain that it would be better to write a critical biography, which could easily be turned into a novel, and why not, if all biographies (and all historical accounts) are, in the end, like novels-, it should not be forgotten that the short story (the first sketch of any novel according to Gómez Valderrama's meta-theoretical observations) has already been written, a polygeneric story, whose apocryphal nature neither diminishes in the least its rigorous historical authenticity nor invalidates its premonitory judgment of Pinochet through literature, but quite the contrary, allowed very early the Colombia author to offer us the opportunity of being more just and honest with ourselves and with others, if only by means of virtual reality. [You should not forget, in this context, that literature has always been a virtual space, or believe that there is anything new under the techno(logical) sun which illuminates our days and nights equally].

Translated by David Robinson





H enciclopedia