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The dictator who collected rare books


Earlier this week the New York Times reported on the book collection that belonged to Chile’s infamous former dictator General Augusto Pinochet, who was responsible for thousands of deaths and disappearances, and widespread torture. Pinochet used public money to build a vast personal library of Latin America’s literature during his years of rule. The library had previously gone unnoticed because it was divided between several of his homes.

General Pinochet collected many works on the Napoleonic era, including an 1841 edition, in the original French, of “Études Sur Napoléon,” by Marie Élie Guillaume de Baudus, and other titles translated into Spanish.

General Pinochet also acquired rare colonial tomes, like the writings of Alonso de Ovalle, a Jesuit priest and a chronicler of Chilean history in the 17th century, and 18th-century volumes of “La Araucana,” the epic poem by Alonso de Ercilla about the insurrection of the Araucanian Indians in Chile in the 16th century.

Complementing his books connected to Chilean history, which also included the prison diaries of Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna, the 19th-century Chilean writer and politician, General Pinochet amassed works on guerrilla insurgencies and Marxist theoreticians like Antonio Gramsci, the Italian philosopher imprisoned by the Fascist government of Benito Mussolini.

Apparently, he was not a fan of fiction or poetry.

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Richard Davies

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