The best books about Augusto Pinochet

Many authors have picked their favorite books about Augusto Pinochet and why they recommend each book.

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My Tender Matador

By Pedro Lemebel, Katherine Silver (translator),

Book cover of My Tender Matador

Lemebel was a courageous and flamboyant activist during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Having lived in Chile myself, I think this book captures the erotic Chilean soul in all its humor, grief, and idealism at an important historical moment. The hopelessly romantic and delightfully ironic seamstress/protagonist Queen of the Corner lives on a rooftop in one of Santiago’s poorest barrios and hosts discussion groups by local leftist students who keep leaving behind really heavy boxes, ostensibly full of books, as they prepare a vague plan that will have enormous implications. The group’s ringleader Carlos is a charmer ala Che Guevara, and the Queen is soon head over heels in love as a friendship and a tender unrequited love affair begins. A story of remarkable humanism that mixes the erotic with revolution.

Who am I?

I’ve been writing stories and poems with erotic themes since I first entered the spoken word scene in 1980s San Francisco. As a young queer boy, raised in the highly eroticized Catholic Church, I was actually comfortable talking about and writing about sex and eros as I’d been stigmatized by it, and it got me fascinated with what the big deal was and why writers were afraid to approach it or why they did so in a corny/predictable/idealized and/or often dishonest and clumsy way. Soon I was teaching erotic writing and have been integrating it into my writing in honest, fresh, and enlivening ways—and helping others do soever since.

I wrote...

A Horse Named Sorrow

By Trebor Healey,

Book cover of A Horse Named Sorrow

What is my book about?

Part road novel, part elegy for a San Francisco long gone, A Horse Named Sorrow introduces us to the quirky callow youth, Seamus Blake, tending to his dying lover, Jimmy, at the close of the 20th Century. An orphan in the sense of the land of misfit toys that was San Francisco, Seamus, confounded by grief and the riddle of life, sets out on a journey cross-country by bicycle to return Jimmy’s ashes to Buffalo, NY, honoring his lost boyfriend’s final request to take me back the way I came.’ Along the way, the story becomes a journey into the underworld, an American book of the dead, and a meditation on grief, love, sexuality and eroticism, family and genocide as Seamus befriends two native men.

Swedish Tango

By Alyson Richman,

Book cover of Swedish Tango: A Novel

The former movie star “was now in a country where no one even knew his name.” The cry of every refugee, the eerie sense of being transparent, dispensable, irrelevant emerges powerfully from Alyson Richman’s intricately plotted and touching narrative: a fictional tale of World War Two refugees from Finland and France and asylum-seekers from Pinochet’s Chile whose new lives cross in Sweden.

Who am I?

In my work as a news reporter and war correspondent, I met people on the worst day of their lives. I always wondered: What now? How will they get on with life? My own parents faced that dreadful dilemma. Penniless refugees, their families murdered in the Holocaust, unemployed in London, how on earth did they find the strength to carry on? One day at a time, they just did what they had to do. That is the subject of my fiction, always trying to answer that existential question: How do we live with trauma, and still find love and happiness?

I wrote...

Promised Land: A Novel of Israel

By Martin Fletcher,

Book cover of Promised Land: A Novel of Israel

What is my book about?

Promised Land begins when fourteen-year-old Peter is sent west to America to escape the growing horror of Nazi Germany. But his younger brother Arie and their entire family are sent east to the death camps. Only Arie survives.

The brothers reunite in the nascent Jewish state, where Arie becomes a businessman and one of the richest men in Israel while Peter becomes a top Mossad agent heading some of Israel’s most vital espionage operations. One brother builds Israel, the other protects it. But they also fall in love with the same woman, Tamara, a lonely Jewish refugee from Cairo. And over the next two decades, as their new homeland faces extraordinary obstacles that could destroy it, the brothers’ intrigues and jealousies threaten to tear their new lives apart.

The Pinochet File

By Peter Kornbluh,

Book cover of The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability

The 1973 coup in Chile violently destroyed the freely elected Marxist government of Salvador Allende and installed the brutal 17-year dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. For years afterward suspicions swirled that the U.S. was behind the event. But evidence was largely anecdotal. What is so impressive about this book is Kornbluh’s persistence deploying the Freedom of Information Act to obtain thousands of classified documents related to the coup. Kornbluh connects the dots and reveals the smoking guns. Through facsimiles of actual cables, telexes, and phone memos (many still highly redacted) this dossier allows you to draw your own conclusions about what really happened in Chile.

Who am I?

I’m always delighted when a reader asks, “Did you work for the CIA?” It tells me I achieved the verisimilitude I was striving for in Under a False Flag. I’m also proud that my novel has been included in a university-level Latin American history curriculum. That tells me I got the history right. No aspect of modern history is more intriguing or controversial than the role covert action played, for better or worse, in the Cold War. With the exception of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which took us to the brink of nuclear disaster, the Cold War in Latin America was mostly fought in the shadows with markedly ambivalent achievements.

I wrote...

Under a False Flag

By Tom Gething,

Book cover of Under a False Flag

What is my book about?

October 1972. Will Porter joins the CIA’s secret war against Chile’s Marxist president, Salvador Allende. Working undercover, Will’s job is to manage the dirty money being used to disrupt the Chilean economy and to fund the growing opposition. A budding friendship with university student Ernesto Manning and his freethinking sister Gabriela complicates Will’s job and threatens to blow his cover. In a turbulent world of deceivers and deceived, Will must choose between friendship and betrayal, truth and lies, love and duty. Based on historical events, this compelling novel brings to life a tragic moment that changed the course of a nation.

Reagan and Pinochet

By Morris Morley, Chris McGillion,

Book cover of Reagan and Pinochet: The Struggle Over U.S. Policy Toward Chile

So much ink has been spent on the Nixon administration’s early 1970s plotting and policies during the regime of democratic socialist president Salvador Allende. This exquisite book is a sharp reminder that, while far less studied, the Reagan administration was deeply involved in a Chile run by the very political actor who ousted Allende: General Augusto Pinochet. Yet, contrary to what we often assumed, the Reagan team eventually embraced a policy aimed to get Washington’s erstwhile ally out of power. 

Who am I?

I've been interested in U.S.-Latin American relations ever since my junior year in college when I studied abroad in Chile, a country that had only two years prior been run by dictator Augusto Pinochet. Often referred to as America’s “backyard,” Latin America has often been on the receiving end of U.S. machinations and expansions. In terms of the history of American foreign policy, it's never a dull moment in U.S. involvement in its own hemisphere. I have now had the privilege to work inside the executive branch of the U.S. government on Latin America policy, stints which have forced me to reconsider some of what I had assumed about U.S. abilities and outcomes. 

I wrote...

"Our Hemisphere"? The United States in Latin America, from 1776 to the Twenty-First Century

By Russell C. Crandall, Britta H. Crandall,

Book cover of "Our Hemisphere"? The United States in Latin America, from 1776 to the Twenty-First Century

What is my book about?

“Our Hemisphere”? uncovers the range, depth, and veracity of the United States’ relationship with the Americas. Using short historical vignettes, Britta and Russell Crandall chart the course of inter-American relations from 1776 to the present, highlighting the roles that individuals and groups of soldiers, intellectuals, private citizens, and politicians have had in shaping U.S. policy toward Latin America in the postcolonial, Cold War, and post–Cold War eras. The United States is usually and correctly seen as pursuing a monolithic, hegemonic agenda in Latin America, wielding political, economic, and military muscle to force Latin American countries to do its bidding, but the Crandalls reveal unexpected yet salient regional interactions where Latin Americans have exercised their own power with their northern and very powerful neighbor.

By Night in Chile

By Roberto Bolaño, Chris Andrews (translator),

Book cover of By Night in Chile

Im also a playwright, so I really admire a full story told in propulsive first-person monologue. This novella is a confession of Father Urrutia from his deathbed, beginning with the line I am dying now, but I still have many things to say.As he speaks, the priest untangles the twisted, uncomfortable agreements between artists and institutions in Chile under Pinochet. I often recommend this book for people who have not yet read Bolaño and might feel intimated by the length of his major works. 

Who am I?

Writer and essayist Agnes Borinsky called my debut novel The Seep, A swift shock of a novel that has shifted how I see our world.Here are five short, urgent novels that continue to live with me in the months and years after reading them. These are some of my most beloved books, all of which happen to be under 200 pages, which ache with the inner mystery of what is hidden, and what is revealed. These books are my teachers, each a precise masterclass in world building, suspense, and purposeful storytelling. Enjoy these ‘swift shocks!’

I wrote...

The Seep

By Chana Porter,

Book cover of The Seep

What is my book about?

A blend of searing social commentary and speculative fiction, Chana Porters fresh, pointed debut explores a strange new world in the wake of a benign alien invasion. A strange new elegy of love and loss, The Seep explores grief, alienation, and the ache of moving on. A 2021 Lambda Literary Award Finalist, Finalist for the Otherwise Award, Times of London Best Sci-Fi of 2021.

A unique alien invasion story that focuses on the human and the myriad ways we see and dont see our own world. Mesmerizing.” —Jeff VanderMeer

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