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Clandestine in Chile: The Adventures of Miguel Littin

Clandestine in Chile: The Adventures of Miguel Littin

by Gabriel García Márquez, Francisco Goldman, Asa Zatz

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In 1973, the film director Miguel Littín fled Chile after a U.S.-supported military coup toppled the democratically elected socialist government of Salvador Allende. The new dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, instituted a reign of terror and turned Chile into a laboratory to test the poisonous prescriptions of the American economist Milton Friedman. In 1985,


In 1973, the film director Miguel Littín fled Chile after a U.S.-supported military coup toppled the democratically elected socialist government of Salvador Allende. The new dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, instituted a reign of terror and turned Chile into a laboratory to test the poisonous prescriptions of the American economist Milton Friedman. In 1985, Littín returned to Chile disguised as a Uruguayan businessman. He was desperate to see the homeland he’d been exiled from for so many years; he also meant to pull off a very tricky stunt: with the help of three film crews from three different countries, each supposedly busy making a movie to promote tourism, he would secretly put together a film that would tell the truth about Pinochet’s benighted Chile—a film that would capture the world’s attention while landing the general and his secret police with a very visible black eye.

Afterwards, the great novelist Gabriel García Márquez sat down with Littín to hear the story of his escapade, with all its scary, comic, and not-a-little surreal ups and downs. Then, applying the same unequaled gifts that had already gained him a Nobel Prize, García Márquez wrote it down. Clandestine in Chile is a true-life adventure story and a classic of modern reportage.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The journalism which began Márquez's Nobel Prize-winning career is employed here not only to tell Littín's remarkable story, but offer a tragic summary of Chilean politics." The Independent (London)

"Reissued nearly 25 years after its initial appearance, the book recounts a middle-aged caper, vainglorious yet genuinely gripping. Time has drained the adventure of its urgency, and our geographical and cultural distance blunts its force. Still, this remains a significant document. An invaluable preface by Francisco Goldman explains why." The Boston Globe
Clandestine in Chile is a memoir of Mr. Littin’s six-week adventure, as told to and recast by Mr. Garcia Marquez, and a sketch for what the latter calls the film behind the film, the personal story he finds more moving than the original film project. The idea is moving, indeed dazzling...[Gabriel Garcia Márquez] seems chiefly to have lent some of his own quietly lyrical cadences to certain images and chapter endings…he evokes well the haunting cold of autumn in Chile, and gently registers the exile’s nostalgias and surprises.” –Michael Wood, The New York Times

“Garcia Marquez has written a terse political thriller with shafts of insight into conflicts of identity.” –Newsweek

“In Garcia Marquez’s prose, Littin’s actions become truly heroic and the clandestine hero achieves the grandeur of all popular heroes…readers now have the story of a magnificent civil disobedience.” –The Globe and Mail (Canada)

“Garcia Marquez’s book is based on hours of taped interviews with Littin, and is retold in the first person, which gives it suspense and immediacy and brings embattled Chile vividly to life…it portrays a government without legitimacy, a people living in fear and a resistance movement determined to fight for change.” –The Sunday Times (London)

“A rousing adventure story, this is also the best reportage available about conditions in Chile today.”

“It is excellent journalism...this book remains an interesting historical document—smuggled across the Chilean border like contraband—of what life was like under the old dictator…I have never read a book that pokes quite such irreverent fun at the dangers of military power.” –The Independent (London)

“Fluid and full of surprises.” –The Washington Post

“Two foremost artists of Latin America meet in this breathtaking story…Clandestine is a fascinating literary journey…the book alone is celebration enough of human ingenuity and determination. I recommend it wholeheartedly.” –Marjorie Agosin, The Christian Science Monitor

“Marquez re-creates the story brilliantly from taped interviews with Littin and writes it in first person.” –Claire Scobie, The Sun Hearld (Sydney)

“An extraordinary if Chaplinesque adventure which would make good comedy if it did not take place against the background of one of the most repressive regimes in modern times…[it succeeds] as a reporting style swinging freely between effervescence and emotionalism.” –Courrier Mail

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1973, Chilean film director Miguel Littin was exiled during the turmoil that followed the assassination of President Salvador Allende. Twelve years later, disguised as an Uraguayan businessman, he returned to his country and spent six weeks ``making a film that made fun of the dangers of military power.'' In Nobelist Marquez's hands, this is a scary, exhilarating and sometimes hilarious tale of bizarre coincidences, hairbreadth escapes and ludicrous foul-ups (getting a shave and haircut in Concepcion, Littin discovers afterward that his meticulous disguise has been ruined). His brashness is impressive: at one point he manages to shoot some footage inside Gen. Augusto Pinochet's private office. In the end he escapes by air, fantasizing that the dictator will soon be ``dragging behind the 105,000-foot donkey's tail of film we had pinned on him.'' A rousing adventure story, this is also the best reportage available about conditions in Chile today. Illustrations. (June 30)
Library Journal
After 12 years of exile, well-known movie director Miguel Littin returns to Chile clandestinely to film a documentary on life under the Pinochet regime. In the skilled hands of Nobel laureate Garcia Marquez, the first-person account (based on taped conversations) becomes a chilling thriller. The story holds the reader in suspense until the final escape with a 105,000-foot ``don key's tail'' of film Littin intends to pin onto the dictatorship. It forcefully demonstrates that fear and repression now reign in a country once so dedicated to democratic ideals. The trans lation is simple and readable. Highly recommended. Louise Leonard, Univ. of Florida Lib., Gainesville
School Library Journal
YA Miguel Littin secretly returned to Chile in 1985 after having been exiled 12 years earlier following the death of Salvador Allende. The purpose of his trip was to make a film of Chile today, which he did with six film crewsnone of whom knew of the existence of the other five. Garcia Marquez met Littin in Madrid in 1986 and felt the account of the filming needed to be told. He interviewed Littin for 18 hours, and the result is this exciting book. In order to avoid arrest, Littin underwent a complete physical transformation. Placing himself in the role of a wealthy Uraguayan business man, he experienced the bittersweet pain of returning to his homeland, yet not being able to reveal his identity. Garcia Marquez is a master storyteller who admits that Littin's thinking is not his own, but who believes that the story must be told. Elaborate passwords, film smuggled to Europe, and fear of being followed make for a daring adventure that has the wonderful advantages of being true and providing the best examples of character, patriotism, and courage. The film was shown on television and has been edited and released for movie theaters. Barbara Weathers, Duchesne Academy, Houston

Product Details

New York Review Books
Publication date:
NYRB Classics Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.50(d)

Meet the Author

Gabriel García Márquez (b. 1928) was born in Aracataca, Colombia. He began working as a reporter while studying law at the University of Cartagena and published his first book, the novella The Leaf Storm, in Bogota in 1955. Among his best-known subsequent works are the novels One Hundred Years of Solitude, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Love in the Time of Cholera, and The General in His Labyrinth. In 1986 he wrote Clandestine in Chile: The Adventures of Miguel Littín, about an exile’s return to the repressive Chile of General Augusto Pinochet. The political revelations of the book led to the burning of almost 15,000 copies by the Chilean government. García Márquez has lived primarily in Mexico since the 1960s, and in 1982 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Asa Zatz was born in Mexico and has translated nearly one hundred books. He lives in New York.

Francisco Goldman is the author of four novels, The Long Night of White Chickens, The Ordinary Seaman, The Divine Husband, the forthcoming Say Her Name, and one work of nonfiction, The Art of Political Murder.

Brief Biography

Mexico City, Mexico
Date of Birth:
March 6, 1928
Place of Birth:
Aracataca, Colombia
Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 1947-48, and Universidad de Cartagena, 1948-49

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