Of Love and Shadows

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Editor: Jeffrey W. Hunter
Publisher: Gale, part of Cengage Group
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 8,507 words

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[(essay date 2002) In the following essay, Levine analyzes the narrative structure in Of Love and Shadows, claiming that although the novel contains elements of a variety of genres, it closely resembles what the critic calls "testimonial fiction," based on the novel's allusions to the 1978 murders of fifteen peasants in Lonquén.]

When Isabel Allende completed The House of the Spirits in 1982, she had a concern that many first novelists face: Would she be able to write another novel? This preoccupation did not last long; slowly another story started taking shape in her mind, one that in fact concerned her since her days of political activism in Chile following the 1973 military coup. It was a story that expanded the range of horrors of the Pinochet regime from the vivid suggestions of rape and torture in her first novel to a dramatic portrayal of the plight of the disappeared and their families. De amor y de sombra (1984) (Of Love and Shadows, 1987) is Allende's tribute to those who were "disappeared" by a sinister web of repression that found fertile terrain in the 1970s in many countries in Latin America, such as Chile, Argentina, Guatemala, and Uruguay.

Of Love and Shadows is a novel that not only draws from Allende's interviews with victims and families of the persecuted, but also from an event that threatened to disturb the complacency of Chile's military dictatorship in November of 1978: the discovery of the bodies of 15 murdered peasants in abandoned mine kilns in the region of Lonquén, 50 miles from the capital city, Santiago. According to Allende's own account, she was living in Venezuela when the news of the bodies of the 15 desaparecidos (disappeared) was published throughout the world. The Catholic Church in Chile, one of the few institutions that was active in helping victims of persecution and poverty following the coup, had received notice of the discovery of dead bodies in the mine kilns and sent a delegation of church officials, lawyers, and journalists to verify the report. Upon finding body parts and tattered vestiges of clothing in the mine, the commission requested that the president of the Chilean Supreme Court undertake an investigation to identify both the victims and the perpetrators of the crime. Obliged to comply with the externals of the judicial process, the regime brought to trial eight members of Chile's militarized police (carabineros) held responsible. Although convicted of murder, they never went to jail. Instead, they benefitted from the Amnesty Law decreed by the Pinochet regime in April 1978, which absolved all those guilty of crimes committed up to and including that year. Having sought further to erase from public memory the Lonquén chapter and its political symbolism, the military government authorized, in 1980, the dynamiting of the kilns and the construction of a fence to block the area off from the frequent pilgrimages of inhabitants of the region.1

Two years after the discovery of the bodies in the mine, Máximo Pacheco, vice-president...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1100088056