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Chile: A Traveler’s Literary Companion

Reviewed by Dedi Felman

Marvelously concise yet richly detailed, here are twenty-two short stories by masters of Chilean literature (known and unknown) from Jose Donoso to Pablo Neruda. Organized as a travelogue, the stories take you from the coastal towns of El Norte

to the heartland of Chile's El Centro to Tierro del Fuego in the South, all packaged into a volume that will easily fit into your carryon luggage. Each story has a strong sense of place (the editor regretfully tells us of the gems with interior journeys that she had to leave out) and authors etch unforgettable portraits of the Chilean landscape as they unfold their yarns. From the hammering daytime sun and chattering nighttime cold of the Atacama desert, a topography where the dry, cracked crosses of a ghost town's cemetery provide the sole visual relief, to the silver lakes and thickly-flowered shrubs, fragrant and golden of the grasslands of Patagonia, the stories reveal a fascinatingly diverse--ecologically, topographically, and culturally--country. Santiago receives, as might be expected, a commanding share of the attention, but in the second half of the volume one encounters less well-known, but no less alluring vistas. Valparaiso, a city which "throws its doors wide to the infinite sea", is irresistibly captured by Pablo Neruda as "secretive, sinuous, winding." Valparaiso's storied steps are here portrayed as spilling over the face of the city, "furrows where lives come and go, as if they were always going up to heaven or down to earth." A marvelous preparation for journeys real or imagined, this is highly recommended for winter vacation reading lists. Note that this is also part of a series and volumes are available from Whereabouts Press for Prague, Vietnam, Costa Rica, Australia and more.

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