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When fact becomes fiction and Chile’s president faces a complot

In his latest novel, Chile Today columnist Germán Silva tells the story of how dark forces are plotting against Chile’s president, Gabriel Boric. In line with his previous work, the novel freely mixes fact and fiction. In this interview, Silva talks about the potential for such a plot, and more.

Germán Silva Cuadra, a regular columnist for Chile Today and El Mostrador, has written a new novel. 

Deploying the genre of real fiction, La Operación Ciprés: El Complot Contra el Presidente (Operation Cypress: The Complot Against the President) tells the story of dark forces conspiring to overthrow Chile’s President Gabriel Boric. 

Silva uses real characters and events and mixes them creatively with invented stories, making for an engaging thriller and sociological analysis.

The e-book will be available on Amazon and physically in Spain from Oct. 18 and in select Chilean bookstores from November.

His previous book told the fictitious story of how Chile’s richest man became president.

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

Chile Today talked to Germán about his latest book, similarities with the previous one, the likelihood of fiction becoming reality, and more. 

What is the book about?

This is the story of a group of idealistic young people, who reach the government with great enthusiasm and energy. But then they must face a brutal reality shock. More than a political story, this is a human story of the characters of Boric, his partner Irina Karamanos, and their closest circle, in which the protagonists show their intimacy, fears, emotions, affections and relationships. And of course, the book describes these millennials in power.

In parallel, I am narrating a group that prepares a plot well in advance, because it is not willing to potentially repeat the history of Unidad Popular, the coalition of Salvador Allende.

Why is the book first published in Spain and only then physically in Chile?

This is the first time I work with Spanish publishers, from Valencia, and that’s why we’re going to first distribute the book through Amazon USA and in Spain, and in some more weeks in hard copy in Chile. The reason is very simple. We explored several publishers and most of them either gave us just nice words or proposed options for another year.

In general, in Chile it’s a very closed and small circle and they only work with some authors, it is very difficult for others to enter that circuit. In the background, few dare to explore themes or characters that can generate controversy, which I already experienced last year with La historia de cómo Andrónico llego a ser presidente (The Story of How Andrónico Became President).

How is the Boric novel different from this previous one?

They have much more in common than differences. Both oscillate between reality and fiction, which even generates doubt what is real and what is fiction. Both tell stories that develop in parallel and come together at the end. For both I studied the real characters very deeply and both main protagonists keep their real names. There are very few invented characters. In this case, the members of the complot are all fictitious.

Also read Germán Silva´s latest column:

Where’s Chile’s political center?

What reactions do you expect?

The first thing, I insist, is that whoever reads it should doubt which things are real and which are fiction. I would also love to contribute to a debate regarding all the variables that are involved in what we are seeing today – a government with many difficulties – and understand a totally bipolar country that goes from one extreme to another in a short time, as shown with the two constitutional plebiscites [where the entry plebiscite resulted in ample backing for a new Constitution and the exit plebiscite in a large majority rejecting it].

This is also apparent in the rise and fall of the popularly elected Constitutional Convention and Gabriel Boric’s election, who got most votes in Chile’s history.

Chile has a lot of real-life villains, populating public institutions and the growing criminal underbelly. Why did you choose to analyze this situation through the format of the novel?

The format allows you to tell a story, based on reality, but also leaves you the space to propose a look at the country, from the symbolic viewpoint, with humor and exaggeration of certain resources – in this case a complot – to draw attention to the whirlwind we’ve seen in this country in such a short time. And it enables to show the villains – or the conspirators in this case – who have often acted in the shadows in this country at different times in history. But there are also heroes, like a protagonist in my novel: Major Aguayo, the main character’s security chief, but also in real life. 

Where did you get the idea of the novel’s premise that certain forces are plotting to overthrow the Boric government?

Before Boric took office – when boricmania was still a thing – an opposition lawmaker said in a leaked voice message that it was necessary to atrophy the government and demoralize the Constitutional Convention. A social network campaign demanding Boric’s resignation was pushed less than a month after he started.

Of course, I have no information, no evidence of a conspiracy. In any case, this would not be new in Chile. During the Unidad Popular government a plot was implemented that ended with the death of the army’s commander in chief, and that is part of the real story. 

Are some real-world forces powerful enough to bring down a government?

Luckily mine is just a novel, I hope it doesn’t happen in reality. In any case, I believe that Chileans are very aware that overthrowing a government cannot be repeated. I believe that the armed forces would be this time on the side of the ruler, whoever is in power.

Why is Boric increasingly pro-police and makes rather conservative statements?

I think it’s pure realism. I describe in the novel a Boric of emotional intelligence, who is able to break his own paradigms and has no problem recognizing his mistakes. Of course, it helps a lot to be a millennial, a generation that has no problem saying sorry, ‘I was wrong,’ unlike previous generations of politicians, for whom recognizing a mistake is synonymous with weakness.

Boric has practically abandoned his promise of transformation and put largely established players in charge. Why does change seem impossible yet major outlets maintain their hostility?

I insist, Boric has had to make a rather forced turn, which speaks of his sense of reality, although it seems many in his circle have not understood that.

But beyond the pragmatism he is showing, in our country there are de facto powers with much influence, which also run certain media. You do not have to be an expert to see that they have developed a brutal communications campaign. And of course, another rather small group can still not tolerate that Boric won the elections in 2021. They are willing to do anything. But hopefully not a complot. Chileans would not tolerate it.

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