My Invented Country is a different kind of memoir. Allende’s personal memoir was Paula, but as it says in the title, this one is about Chile. Don’t confuse it with a history of Chile either. This is written in a memoir style and is simply Allende’s experience of her country. It’s the way she remembers things and the way she remembers feeling things. There is history here, but written in a way that reminds the reader that history is experienced by those who live it.
My favorite thing about the book was Allende’s tone. The book was tinged with nostalgia and it made her way of writing feel almost playful most of the time. I particularly loved when she talked about being a feminist because it was so on the nose to the way that I have felt before. My favorite was this line:
I realized that to wait to be respected for being a feminist was like expecting the bull not to charge because you’re a vegetarian.
Her experience of machismo and patriarchy in Chile was very similar to what I grew up around in Miami. Also that she shared that moment that so many of us feminists have when we learn about the history of patriarchal treatment beyond our own experiences:
When I look back at the past, I realize that my mother was dealt a difficult destiny and in fact confronted it with great bravery, but at the time I judged her as being weak because she was dependent on the men around her, like her father and her brother Pablo, who controlled the money and gave the orders.
When we look at the whole picture, no single generation could really have gotten it’s gains without the generation before it which promptly takes those gains for granted while not properly appreciating what the women before them went through. Or, at least, that’s how it always looks to me.
Allende talks a bit about the US interfering in Latin American politics, which was and is unacceptable and I hope we never do again except I can’t escape the feeling that we could be doing it somewhere at this very moment. We may be learning from our mistakes to not interfere in these kinds of affairs of others (specifically supporting the overthrow of elected governments because we are definitely interfering in other things) but I’m not as optimistic. Sorry if that sounds a bit harsh but we, as a country, can’t seem to get it together on when it is or isn’t a good time. We kept out of two world wars for too long, only to be told that was a bad policy and then interfered in every conflict since then and that isn’t working out for us or the other countries either. But, alas, that’s not what this book is about and I apologize for the tangent.
Eventually, Allende had to leave Chile for understandable reasons, much like some of the other women I’ve read about who fled their own countries. I also understand what her dissenters mean when they say those who fled should have stayed and fought for the improvement of the country. I can’t imagine being put into such a situation but there will always be people who do both and I imagine that will consistently breed resentment as well.
Mostly, I loved that this was a memoir about Allende’s lived experience in relation to her country, whether in it or in exile. She wrote about her country as she experienced it in her youth and continues to experience it on visits back home. She wrote about her experience in exile from Chile as it relates to being Chilean. All of that just makes me love the title all the more because if I wrote about my experience in the US and what living here is like for me, there would be tons of people coming out to tell me how that’s not the real US. I imagine there is at least some similarity to the way other Chileans experience this book, but everyone’s experience of their country and their town is different from even the others who live in their homes. At that it all seems that no two siblings ever seem to have grown up in the same house with the same parents either. Calling it her “invented” country simply reminds us not to judge that this is just one experience of Chile.
The book was available for me at the library but is also available for purchase, click on the cover and you’ll be redirected to BookLikes for multiple options or add to Goodreads.