a blog so you can keep with him

SBR 2: The Inferno

Alright, I’ve missed a day already in updating, but not in reading. So, this morning I’ll be posting SBRs (Spring Break Readings) 2 & 3. Today some friends and I are headed to a cabin for a few days, so I will probably be out of internet access and will emerge Thursday or Friday w/ 3 new SBRs. But first, The Inferno, which is my other assigned reading this break.

The Inferno, by Luz Arce, is an account of her time during Chile’s dictatorship, in transition from acting as a militant leftist during the Allende years to being captured after the coup. Arce, after rape, torture, and threats to her family, chooses to collaborate and provide names, eventually working for both CNI and DINE (secret intelligence and police under the dictatorship in Chile). The Inferno acts as a testimonial to these experiences, and is witness to the fear, brutality, isolation, and degradation Arce experiences. The book is scattered, yet precise – it is set as a series of vignettes, which draw on the scars of memory Arce holds to produce something unnervingly lucid almost twenty years after many of the events.

I’ve emerged from the book in a fair bit of conflict. I know I can’t condone what has occurred (and fortunately it’s not my place to), and yet I don’t know if I can’t see Arce as a culprit. She was a collaborator, an informant, and, eventually, an employee of organizations that sought to disappear, murder, censor and repress Chile. Yes, Arce is someone who has directly experienced the brutality and alienation of these groups, these people, but she also went on to do so herself. I guess, as a reader, I left the book unable to forgive Arce for her actions, yet still sickened and horrified by the situations she found herself confronted with. I am touched most by the moments she is able to find some humanity, whether in her first shower, or in seeing her son again; I rage most as she first sets down to write names on paper.

Death permeates everything in The Inferno. My hope is that in writing and exhuming this past, Arce is able to publicly confront the atmosphere of death in Chile under Pinochet.


Filed under: Books, Evergreen

One Response

  1. Mom says:

    It is so hard to say what anyone would do in the face of such horrific choices. Reminds me of how I felt after reading “Sophie’s Choice”. But it is easier to project what I would do from the comfort of my couch than in the reality of a situation. The desire for some sense of “normalcy” may be as strong as some morals.

    Have a great few days unplugged.

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