From Publishers Weekly
This first volume of The Memory Box of Pinochet's Chile: A Trilogy
is a thoughtful, nuanced study of how Chileans remember the traumatic 1973 coup by Augusto Pinochet against Salvador Allende and the nearly two decades of military government that followed. "London 1998" in the subtitle refers, of course, to the arrest of the former Chilean dictator for human rights abuses. Combining oral histories with political analysis, Stern (chair of the history department at the University of Wisconsin at Madison) commendably delves into the stories of Chileans who supported Pinochet as well as of the families of his government's victims. Arguing that memory plays a key role in struggles for political and cultural legitimacy, he studies how individual memories compete for a place in the formation of a deeply symbolic, collective memory. Memory, he contends, functions within multiple frameworks: salvation, rupture, persecution and awakening. Nonspecialists at times may be frustrated by Stern's cursory references to related academic studies, yet overall he makes a serviceable effort to write for a general audience. In light of the recent revelations of American human rights abuses of Iraqi prisoners, his insights into the legacies of torture and abuse in the Chilean prisons of the 1970s certainly have contemporary significance for any society that undergoes a national trauma.
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“Remembering Pinochet’s Chile will set the terms of the debate and become essential reading for all scholars and students of memory issues. . . . It is a pathbreaking book, the cutting edge of a major historical project. Steve J. Stern presents new information, particularly through oral histories, including those of Pinochet soldiers and partisans who have rarely been willing to be interviewed by scholars about the human rights violations of the era.”—Peter Winn, editor of Victims of the Chilean Miracle: Workers and Neoliberalism in the Pinochet Era, 1973–2002
“Steve J. Stern’s book elegantly recounts the conflicted recent history of Chile. He has found a deft solution to the knotty problem of evenhandedness in representing points of view so divergent they defy even the most careful attempts to portray the facts of the Pinochet period. He weaves a tapestry of memory in which narratives of horror and rupture commingle with the sincere perceptions of Chileans who remember Pinochet’s rule as salvation. The facts are there, but more important is the understanding we gain by knowing how ordinary Chileans—Pinochet’s supporters and his victims—work through their unresolved past.”—John Dinges, author of The Condor Years: How Pinochet and His Allies Brought Terrorism to Three Continents
“This is a book of uncommon depth and introspection. In Remembering Pinochet’s Chile Steve J. Stern has not only advanced the memory of the horrors of the military dictatorship; he has assured the place of Pinochet’s legacy of atrocity in our collective conscience.”—Peter Kornbluh, author of The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability