“El Clan del Guanaco” by Gabriela Aguilera Valdivia: portrait of Chilean society

Gabriela Aguilera Valdivia’s latest novel is a polyphonic, social work with a strong historical background. The stories of the families portrayed in more detail cover three generations, but the look that is given to the territory that constitutes the setting dates back much further, partly in the colonial era, when the foundations of what is now our country were laid . , precisely in what is now the Metropolitan Region, but always gravitating around those high areas of the Andes, with their mining activities, the cultivation of the olive tree and the hunting of guanaco, which gives the book its name.

The tone of the novel contains a certain melancholy that provokes, and corresponds to the descriptions of the environment, very well nuanced with fragments of songs that are in the collective imagination, and which appear from time to time reinforcing the evocation of past times. The dialogues show us each of the characters in their dignity, but also in their limitations. Each theme is treated with great sensitivity: ancestral customs, social injustice, patriarchy, gender violence, the expectations that arose in the humblest families with the Popular Unity government, political commitment, militancy (in the PCI and in the MIR), the impact of the coup, the savage repression, the anonymous heroes of the resistance, the exile, the attack of the FPMR against Pinochet, putting an end to the great changes resulting from the implementation of the neoliberal model in Chile. A profound journey into the history of our country that involves and advances reading with enthusiasm and reflection.

These are two parallel plots, which intertwine until they become one: the history of the Clan, with collective characters, such as the territory itself, the indigenous peoples, the flora and fauna (particularly the guanacos), and the second history, that of the two main lineages portrayed in the work, that of the couple Mercedes and Ángel, and that of Pedro Cereceda and Luz, his second wife. After these characters, ten others characterized in the work, are descendants of both couples, in that second generation, the marriage of Roberto and Sole, related to the two families.

The variety of characters allows for an excellent portrait of Chilean society, we see fake postures and line-up changes: “It’s time to think about ourselves, how we take advantage of the opportunity. We have already done enough for the country, now let the others worry about the poor”, advised one of the characters shortly after the slow transition to democracy began, as well as fighters consistent with their ideals: in the same period, another of the characters “They didn’t believe in the current democratic order. He lived as before, for him there was still the dictatorship”.

Gabriela Aguilera is a writer and workshop host with a broad and solid career. Since the book of stories was published twelve pebbles in 1976 he created at least twelve works. His texts have appeared in various digital and print anthologies in Chile, Spain, Argentina, Croatia, Peru, the United States, France, Venezuela, Mexico, Germany, Italy and Bulgaria. He is a founding member of the Señoritas Imposibles Collective (a group of black Chilean narrative writers) and a founding member of REM (Red de Escritoras de Microficción).

In the year 2022, several rankings of books released that year have appeared, as well as lists of recommendations from different entities, all well loaded with best sellers, walking essays and self-help texts. The fact that “El Clan del Guanaco” has not appeared in these selections of the traditional press only demonstrates that it is necessary to promote the work of analyzing the works and of rigorous curation in our country. My advice for those who love Chilean literature: disconnect from these recommendations and dig into the websites of independent and small publishers, in those you will find the quality works that our writers are creating today, and among them, The Guanaco clan deserves a prominent place.

Data sheet:

The Guanaco clan
Author: Gabriela Aguilera
Year 2022
Editorial asterion
275 pages

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