potentia, scelere quaesita, est diuturna
The biography of Augusto Pinochet Ugarte -former Commander-in-Chief,
(R) Captain General
of the Army (1973-1998), former Dictator/President
(1973-1990), 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
Talleres Gráficos del Instituto Geográfico Militar,
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,
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,
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:
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
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
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.
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
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
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
with/without his 'iron glove' presence.
to being an historical short-story/essay on the Unidad Popular
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.
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.
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,
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.
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
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
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.
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."
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.
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].
by David Robinson