Southern comfort

NOV chile readerThe Chile Reader: History, Culture, Politics
Edited by Elizabeth Quay Hutchison, Thomas Miller Klubock, Nara B Milanich and Peter Winn
2013, Duke University Press
629 pages, plates, paperback

THE Duke “Latin America Readers” focusing on the individual states in this fascinating region are by far the best place to start for anyone wishing to gain a comprehensive overview of a country’s politics and culture. Now numbering 10 titles, several of these have passed through the office of the Latin American Review of Books and they have all generated considerable interest. They are without doubt the essential point of departure for anyone embarking on a voyage to the region – physical or intellectual. The Chile Reader maintains the excellence and scholarly professionalism of this series, providing an unrivalled insight into literature, folklore, reportage and academic writing from 500 years of Chilean history. Moreover, this history is constructed from diverse perspectives – from the Spanish colonists and military strongmen to the Mapuche Indians, priests and poets who have together put Chile on the world map. Each contribution is provided with an eloquent and knowledgeable introduction that puts it into perfect perspective. This country is sufficiently unusual in Latin American terms – a stable, modern state with a dynamic and promising economy that has transcended the bitter divisions of the past – to make this volume well worth reading. But as an old yawn with one drooping eye on Chile’s contemporary relevance to scholars, I would have liked to have seen a little bit more on the economy and the contribution made to global debates over the greatest issues of our era by this thin strip of land with attitude, not least because Chile has excelled where others have failed. The country, for example, has the only properly structured and regulated capital market in the region; its corporates and transLatins are expanding to pastures new; and it is leaving some of its neighbours behind on several social measurements. Such things matter in the new Latin America. The chapters by Tomás Moulián and Alejandro Foxley make concessions to the economic debate, with their discussions from 1997 and 2004 of the the “credit-card citizen” and the strategy of growth with equity respectively, but they are both already looking dated. However, this is a micro observation about an otherwise splendid macro collection (that might be addressed in a future edition). For the time being, sit down, pour yourself a pisco sour, and start reading. – GO’T