A History of Chile, by John L. Rector, chronicles the political history of Chile during the second half of the 20th century. Sara Wheeler's Travels in a Thin Country is the story of an Englishwoman's trip to Chile, but it can be frustratingly superficial. A better read is Chile: A Traveler's Companion, translated by Katherine Silver, which provides readers with a well-rounded collection of regionally based memoirs penned by Chile's best contemporary writers, and arranged geographically so that readers may "travel" through the country's diverse landscapes.
Popular titles by Chile's top literary artists Pablo Neruda, Gabriela Mistral, and Isabel Allende have been translated into English. Neruda's masterful Canto General and The Heights of Machu Picchu will make a poetry lover out of anyone. Mistral's extraordinary poetry can be found in Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral, in Spanish and English, translated by Ursula K. Le Guin, and Mistral's story has been brought to life for children in the book My Name is Gabriela by Monica Brown and John Parra. Isabel Allende is Chile's most famous contemporary writer, well known for such works as the love-it-or-hate-it The House of the Spirits, Eva Luna, and her memoirs of the country she was forced to leave in exile, My Invented Country.
While not specifically set in Chile, Chilean writer Ariel Dorfman's lauded play Death and the Maiden deals with the aftermath of an era of torture and "disappearings." Other works that debate the Allende years and the Pinochet dictatorship that, depending on whom you talk to, are either accurate or dishonest, are ex-Allende translator Marc Cooper's memoirs in Pinochet and Me; Roger Burbach's The Pinochet Affair: State Terrorism and Global Justice, a scholarly yet lucid account of Allende and Pinochet, with more sympathies for the former than the latter; and Thomas Hauser's The Execution of Charles Horman: An American Sacrifice, which was adapted for the 1982 film Missing.
The Pinochet regime placed various limits on artistic liberties, which resulted in a dearth of mainstream cinematic production in the country during much of the late 20th century. Movie production increased during the 1990s, but a lack of funding has so far precluded international exposure. At the moment, Chileans are renowned for preferring imported American movies (Hollywood movies that have been filmed or set here include The Motorcycle Diaries, The Quantum of Solace, and Missing) to home-grown independent productions. However, the success of Sebastian Silva's film La Nana (The Maid), which received international recognition at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, seems to have ushered in a new era of cinematic pride and could be the start of a movie industry renaissance.
The Valdivia Film Festival takes place in Valdivia in October each year and features Chilean films and documentaries, many of which were prohibited during the Pinochet regime. Visit www.ficv.cl for information.
Nueva Canción (New Song) is the most significant musical genre in Chile. These lyrical songs first became popular in the 1960s in both Chile and Argentina via the work of troubadours Atahualpa Yupanqui and Violeta Parra; their songs were instilled with political messages and soon became known in other Latin American countries and the Caribbean. The art form has been highly influential in terms of its political and social impact, most notably during the Pinochet years when many Nueva Canción artists suffered persecution and even death. Perhaps the most legendary Nueva Canción songwriter and singer, Victor Jara was murdered by the Pinochet regime.
Because Nueva Canción's significance peaked during the analogue years, it is rather difficult to find CDs and digital recordings but the most popular ones follow. Jara's album Manifesto features the haunting love song Te recuerdo Amanda as well as Estadio Chile, which was later recorded by Violeta Parra as Ay Canto, and is the artist's final composition. Canta a mi América is the quintessential collection of Violeta Parra, who remains one of South America's most beloved artists. The group Quilapayún recorded the anthem El Pueblo Unido Jamàs Sera Vencido, which was one of the most influential Chilean songs of the 1970s.
Today, the folk group Illapu, which excels at Andean instrumentals and salsa-tinged ballads, is perhaps the most popular band in Chile. Other popular bands include the heavy rock band Chancho en Piedra, as well as indie rockers Los Bunkers, who enjoy a high profile in both the U.S. and the U.K. The immensely popular, Grammy-award-winning, pop rock band La Lay split in 2005, ostensibly to work on solo projects, but are still one of the most frequently played Chilean bands. Latin pop diva and darling of the press, Myriam Hernández, now in her 40s, has been topping the charts since she was catapulted into the spotlight, at age 11, as a child soap opera star before being named Artista Revelación (Best New Artist) by the Chilean music press at age 18.
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