Commemorating the life of Victor Jara

Review



Victor – An Unfinished Song, by Joan Jara

The media is filled with stories these days, commemorating the tragic events of Sept. 11, and they should be memorialized. We should also note that Sept. 11 is the date of the bloody coup of General Augusto Pinochet in Chile, aided by the CIA, in overthrowing Chile’s president, Salvador Allende.

By chance, a friend recently lent me a hard-to-come-by copy of Victor – An Unfinished Song. (The book is not generally available in bookstores, but can be ordered from Amazon.com.)

The book is a story of the life of Victor Jara, the Chilean songwriter, singer, theater director and folk song researcher, who was the most popular singer in Chile and among the first victims of the coup.

The book was written by his wife Joan, a British dancer who met Jara when she was on a dance tour that visited Chile in 1960. The book begins with an autobiographical account of Joan’s early years living through the Nazi Blitz of London and then beginning her career as a dancer.

Her life in Chile after meeting and marrying Jara paralleled the rise of the people’s movement that led to the election of the Socialist, Allende, as president of Chile. In the course of those 13 years, Joan describes in great detail and with a keen political understanding, the development of Victor’s talents and influence as a powerful cultural force that helped build the people’s movement.

Without preaching, the book makes a powerful and eloquent statement about the invaluable role that the cultural movement, and especially the folk music of the people, plays in the radicalization and fighting spirit of a people’s movement for justice and social change.

The concluding chapters that describe the charged atmosphere that prevailed in Santiago in the days leading up to the coup and the terrible, bloody attacks by the military on the people of the city, are chilling.

– Herb Kaye (ncalview@igc.org)