Presidential elections in Chile

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By ARIEL DORFMAN*

Gabriel Boric represents a Chile that seeks to free itself from the past and achieve justice for the future

It now completes half a century since November 1971, when it was published in Chile. To read Donald Duck, a book I wrote with Belgian sociologist Armand Mattelart. We never anticipated that our essay, translated into dozens of languages, would become one of the bestselling books internationally, being embraced by eminent writers like Umberto Eco and John Berger. On the contrary, it was born with a practical purpose: to participate in the Chilean experience of building socialism, using, for the first time in history, electoral and peaceful methods.

This meant that the government of Salvador Allende, which had won the presidency in September 1970, would have to win the battle for voters' conscience in a situation of considerable inequality, since most of the means of communication were in the hands of the enemies of the revolution.

In this struggle to define Chile's identity, we had the most important publishing house in the country. rebranded as Quimantu (sun of knowledge, in mapuche), published millions of books at ridiculous prices, in addition to magazines of all kinds, including children's and adult comics, which should compete in a market saturated with foreign products. Understanding how these comics worked to create competing alternatives seemed an urgent task, and Armand and I set out to analyze the most popular comics in Chile – and in the world – produced by the huge corporation founded by Walt Disney.

If we chose an emblematic character – Donald Duck – and revealed the secret messages hidden behind his innocent and supposedly apolitical façade, it would be a way of laying bare the dominant ideology in Chile, the invisible imperial ways in which work, sex, the family, success, the relationship between poor and prosperous countries.

To read Donald Duck – written in 10 feverish days – caused a furore when it was published, with an enormous second printing, and a third that could not be distributed due to the military coup of 1973. This last edition was launched in the bay of Valparaiso. They also burned our webbed. Forty years after the Nazis burned so many “degenerate” volumes, the bonfires were repeated. Days after the coup, in a house where I was hiding, I saw on television a group of soldiers throwing hundreds of books into the flames, including ours. Two years later, at Disney's request, US customs seized thousands of copies of the English edition, accusing us of reproducing visual material without the owners' permission.

How valid is this youth book, hastily prepared in the middle of a revolution that had its hours numbered?

Although our pamphlet suffers from the limitations of the era in which it was born, I believe it has something to offer at a time when immense social movements are questioning the neoliberal model that has generated so much inequality and injustice. Faced with the new need to refound society, what I most appreciate today To read Donald Duck it's his brazenness, his sense of humor, the rebellious energy that a people on the march brought us, qualities that can be observed even now in Chile, where, strangely coinciding with the fiftieth anniversary of our book, the first round of presidential elections took place.

One of the candidates who advanced to the second round of elections in Chile is the Pinochetista José Antonio Kast, an admirer of Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, who embodies the traditional ideas about work, family, conservatism, sex, open competition and fear of change that we criticized in our book. I don't know if Kast, who was seven years old at the time of the 1973 coup, saw the defenseless duck being burned on television. It is likely that his father, a Nazi officer who sought refuge in Chile after the fall of the Third Reich, celebrated these inquisitorial pyres that reminded him of Hitler's good old days. What is certain is that Kast would not have liked our book.

On the other hand, Gabriel Boric, representing a Chile that seeks to free itself from the past and conquer justice for the future, embodies the forces that, with their protests – in fact, brazen and insolent –, created the conditions for a new Constitution to be fully democracy is written, a bold attempt to read Chile with insurgent eyes. Boric and his supporters dare to think, feel and enjoy reality in a joyful and rebellious way that reminds me of the spirit that animated the Allendists half a century ago. And I note with satisfaction that Boric – born 15 years after our book was so violently suppressed – even read it in his teens, when he was one of the student leaders who rose up against the inequalities of the post-dictatorship period. .

Paraphrasing Pierre Corneille in Le menteur, it may be possible to state shortly that To read al donald, burned, drowned, seized, a thousand times presumed dead, enjoys good health.

* Ariel Dorfman is a writer, professor of literature at Duke University (USA). Author, among other books by The long goodbye to Pinochet (Company of Letters).

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.

Originally published in the newspaper The country.

 

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