Confronting the Pandemic in a Time of Revolt: Voices From Chile

It is oddly appropriate and perhaps ironic that Chile happens to be preparing to celebrate—in the midst of a pandemic that is drastically questioning all previous paradigms of behavior and human relationships—the centenary of the death of Alberto Blest Gana (1830–1920), the country’s preeminent novelist of “manners” (costumbres) of the 19th century, who understood his moralizing work as part of a “high mission” that “brings civilization to the least educated classes of society,” excoriates “vices,” and teaches the public “healthy, wholesome lessons.” It is even more paradoxical that exactly a hundred years after Blest Gana breathed his last, the founding myths of nationhood he helped to imagine and define have been shattered by a heroic social movement led by young people brought up on the works of this very author.

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