Friday, March 30, 2007

Ines of My Soul, by Isabel Allende

On 11 September 1541, people living in central Chile rebelled against the bearded "viracochas" who had recently established a fortified settlement called Santiago. Though the viracochas had arquebuses and horses, the warriors organised by the local leader Michimalonko were cleverly drilled. The governor of the fledgling city was tricked away by news of armed bands elsewhere. Michimalonko's men attacked, and almost destroyed Santiago.

This uprising is one of many set-pieces in Isabel Allende's new novel. Yet in her description of the 1541 uprising, she mentions the otherwise superfluous date of 11 September three times. For a Chilean living in California, it is imbued with significance: the date of Pinochet's overthrow of Allende in 1973, and, of course, 9/11. Working out its significance in Allende's story of the conquest of Chile becomes fundamental to understanding her brilliant novel.
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