CULTURE NATIONAL

‘Our politics and our politicians have far exceeded the most creative fictions’

Germán Silva Cuadra is a busy man. Aside from writing weekly columns for Chile Today and El Mostrador, he has just finished a book, merging Chile’s reality with fiction. In this interview, he talks about the country’s socio-political situation, politicians that beggar belief, and more.

Chile Today columnist Germán Silva Cuadra has published a novel (available here) called La Historia de Cómo Andrónico Llegó a Ser Presidente (The Story of How Andrónico Became President). The country’s richest man, Andrónico Luksic is a towering presence in Chilean society.

Through conglomerates and participations, he dominates the beverage sector, has interests in banking and finance, mining, retail, installed his son Max as head of major broadcaster Tele 13, and has business interests in the US, Germany, and Croatia, among others. Like most of Chile’s rich, he has also accumulated much personal wealth through sophisticated tax avoidance.

Anybody who lives in Chile supports one or another Luksic business.

But Luksic is part of the local oligarchy’s progressive wing. Rather than lamenting the deterioration of order – or privilege – that supposedly set in after the dictatorship, like his reactionary comrades do, Luksic believes he must justify wealth and power to sustain both. This approach has turned him into an incessant Twitterer, emphasizing Chileans’ achievements, handing out donations, and sometimes hitting back at critics, cheered on by a solid fan base.

Silva Cuadra believes this is part of a plan to run for president at some point, and in his novel – using contemporary events – he describes what has happened before the fictional Luksic embarked on and concluded this journey.

What is the book about?

“It is a novel in which I mix reality and fiction. But mainly it is a sharp account of the last years of Chilean politics, including the social environment prior to the social uprising of Oct. 18, 2019, the plebiscite of October 25 last year, the pandemic, and of course, a vision of how a scenario is being built that allows a character, alien to politics, to achieve, fictitiously, the presidency in December this year.”

“President Sebastián Piñera, First Lady Cecilia Morel, Pinochetist José Antonio Kast, Communist presidential contender Daniel Jadue and his right-wing counterpart Joaquín Lavín, and many others appear in these pages. They interact and dialogue with real and fictional characters.”

“I think it is an entertaining story, with a dose of sometimes black humor, and in which readers will sometimes doubt that situations or dialogues are real and some of which are fictitious.”

Why did you write it?

“This is my fourth book. Previous ones such as “No Te Reconozco Chile (I don’t recognize you Chile)” have been essays on the political and social reality of the country. In these books I described the variables that would later lead to the social outbreak. Some time ago I wanted to venture into this genre of telling stories of Chilean political reality, but from a fictional perspective.”

“I think that at times, our politics and our politicians have far exceeded the most creative fictions.”

Why did you choose Luksic as the central protagonist?

“The truth is that the true protagonist of the novel is Sebastián Piñera. I describe many moments when his actions marked the agenda, like when he visited the Baquedano monument [ground zero of the social uprising] during lockdown to have his picture taken.”

“I recreate these situations by imagining who he spoke to before and after, or what happened backstage when making decisions. Andrónico Luksic – who I hope is not offended because I proclaim him president – is an important character in Chile. Four years ago, in an interview with Radio Duna’s Nicolás Vergara, I said that Luksic gave me the impression he was taking steps to enter politics. That’s where the idea came from.”

You are merging contemporary Chilean reality and a fictional story. How did you balance both approaches?

“I think I struck a balance because I take facts from public information and fictionalize them. The most difficult thing was to relate the book’s final stretch from the end of November 2020 until December 2021.”

“I have no idea who the final candidates of this year’s election will be, even less do I know who will be the next president. But I do describe a scenario which is against Chilean parties, and which they would recognize if they were honest. It is difficult to understand how the ruling coalition but also the opposition can be together without having common programs or ideas.”

Which advantages does this style offer and what are its limits?

“The advantage is that it allows you to imagine the B-side, the human side, the most interesting of all, when I relate real events. Our politicians are very formal, boring. And you never know what might have happened, I don’t know, like someone saying that the people who came out to protest were aliens.”

“The limit is that some people always think the fictional future is a real projection. I have no idea who can govern this country from March 2022, which will be very difficult. I don’t intend at all to project the political future of Chile, because I believe that not even the best magician could predict who will win.”

If not Andrónico Luksic, which other oligarch would have the potential to reach the presidency?

“I must admit that I always found Leonardo Farkas interesting. He entered the scene a few years ago and has remained in the polls ever since.”

“Beyond fiction, I believe that Luksic has real potential, and although he has never said that he is interested in the presidency, he gives the impression that he is always taking conscious steps in that direction. Who knows, one more step and he gets excited. He would not be the first rich – and powerful, as he says – man to want to be president. We can see many examples in the world, and here in Chile we have Piñera. But I get the impression that Luksic has more emotional intelligence than the current president.”

How did the pandemic affect the project?

“I had to rewrite the entire novel and discard a lot of material. I had an idea and a clear story in 2019. In fact, I was going to launch it in December that year. But well, after October 18, the course of this country’s history completely changed. The first version of the novel was much more fictional than the published version.”

Do you plan similar books?

“I am very excited about this genre. I already have an idea in mind and I’m starting to pull together some lines. Being a columnist, including for Chile Today, gives me the chance to stay up to date. Chilean politics is a true novel of “magical realism,” so it is a matter of observing and writing stories.”

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