Living here in Chile, so long after the military coup, one grows weary of hearing about Pinochet and the expatriate experience of those who were forced to exile from the nation and returned twenty or thirty years later. But one never tires of reading Chilean writer Luis Sepúlveda. This Chilean who was exiled from Chile and then came back has written a short novel that is at times funny, insightful, and has a kind of a mad cap theme like a Charlie Chaplin tale with a bit of Elery Query mystery. For example the scene in which young socialists try to get a failed chicken farming operation running again in the chaos which accompanied Allende, whose government was sabotaged by the CIA and the Chilean right wing, is laugh out loud funny. The Shadow of What We Were tells the story of a group of aging expatriate Communists who have returned to Chile to pull off one more robbery. Stealing, they reason, is not a crime, capitalism is what is criminal. The story is peppered with references with what life was like for people who were forced to exile from Chile during the military dictatorship, their kids growing up in foreign lands having learned nothing of their parents homeland, the expatriates having to deal with such far flung locales as Norway. Their scheme to steal is set back somewhat when the leader of the group is killed by a falling record player which is tossed from a window by an angry spouse. The novel’s only drawback is it supposes a knowledge of Chilean history that the reader might not possess.
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