Sunday, December 30, 2007

Our friend's friend

Kevin MacDonald's documentary My Enemy's Enemy was broadcast last week on More4. Its focus was on Klaus Barbie's post-war career as a CIA agent in South America. It turns out he acted as consultant in the hunt for Che Guevara and was as involved in Bolivian politics until the early 1980s as he was in Lyon's in the 40s. One victim said he made her sit on a block of ice for 48 hours. This shameful history has been framed (by Andrew Marr on Start the Week for one) as a consequence of the US's hysterical anti-Communism, but it is curious how the victims tended to be students and union activists rather than "communist infiltrators". Barbie's downfall came only when his usefulness came to an end.

On a literary note, my limited knowledge of South American literature means I can think of only one novel about Nazi exiles in South America. And it's not South American but German. Gert Hofmann's wonderful (but unavailable) Before the Rainy Season is about a young German who travels to Bolivia with his fiancée to see his "uncle" on a Hacienda in the rainforest. It also happens to have one of my favourite opening lines:
Come on, I'm waiting for you here on the veranda, calls our uncle, if that is who he really is, for he has long been believed missing in South America.


Please email me at steve dot mitchelmore at gmail dot com.

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