[(review date December 2003) In the review that follows, Dunbar-Ortiz presents a mixed assessment of My Invented Country, detailing Allende's reasons for writing the memoir and emphasizing the book's reliance on the author's memory rather than on scholarly research.]
This year marked the 30-year anniversary of the US-supported coup that brought down the democratically elected Socialist government of Chile and ushered in the violent 17-year reign of military dictator Augusto Pinochet. Some 3,200 Chilean citizens, and a number of foreigners, were killed for political reasons, including 1,200 who remain unaccounted for. The coup was a watershed in the life of novelist Isabel Allende: As a member of the intelligentsia and a relative of the assassinated president Salvador Allende, her life was increasingly endangered, and she fled the country in 1975, first to Venezuela and later to the United States.
Her new book, My Invented Country is a self-described nostalgic memoir of Chile and a farewell love letter to her motherland. Allende, who currently lives in California, decided to write the memoir after the September 11th, 2001, attacks in the United States. In her introduction, she explains why:
Until only a short time ago, if someone had asked me where I'm from, I would have answered, without much thought, Nowhere; or, Latin America; or, maybe. In my heart I'm Chilean. Today, however, I say I'm an American, not simply because that's what my passport verifies ... but because a terrorist attack destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Center, and starting with that instant, many things have changed. We can't be neutral in moments of crisis. This tragedy has brought me face to face with my sense of identity.(pp. xi-xii)
Allende goes on to describe what was the repeat of a nightmare for her:
By a blood-chilling coincidence--historic karma--the commandeered airplanes struck their US targets on a Tuesday, September 11, exactly the same day of the week and month--and at almost the same time in the morning--of the 1973 military coup in Chile, a terrorist act orchestrated by the CIA against a democracy ... That distant Tuesday in 1973 my life was split in two; nothing was ever again the same, I lost a country. That fateful Tuesday in...