cover image In the City of the Disappeared

In the City of the Disappeared

Tom Hazuka. Bridge Works Publishing Company, $22.95 (276pp) ISBN 978-1-882593-31-6

Hazuka takes an earnest and sometimes compelling look at life in Chile shortly after Pinochet's ascension to power, through the eyes of a 22-year-old American Peace Corps volunteer who comes to Santiago in 1978. After Harry Bayliss just misses making the cut for a professional baseball team, he is recruited to coach youth softball in the Chilean capital. Once there, he befriends other young volunteers: Lewis, a self-deprecating African-American Yale grad; Ray, a macho, athletic lothario; and Jean, an unpretentious California girl. Harry's also introduced to a tight-knit community of leftist Chilean artists and intellectuals, all of whom are bitterly opposed to Pinochet's ironfisted authoritarianism. Harry befriends Lalo Garcia, a fiery, politically radical painter, and Lalo's one-time girlfriend, the beautiful and sharp-witted Marisol. Harry and Marisol eventually become lovers, but Harry is not so lucky with his pencil-pushing administrator, who insists that Peace Corps volunteers cannot get involved in local politics. Hazuka (The Road to the Island) tells Harry's story with both economy and focused vigor. His depictions of the Peace Corps ethos, the Chilean leftist underground and Pinochet's own police and armed forces all ring true, thanks largely to Hazuka's own tenure in Chile in the late '70s. Burning brightly with raw fury over Pinochet's flagrant abuse of human rights, the book never lapses into sanctimoniousness. Although Hazuka also wants to present a complex love story, he is more successful in his unflinching look at a corrupt regime than as a delineator of character. Harry and his compatriots seem like shallow, one-note constructs, not flesh-and-blood individuals. Still, this gripping narrative conveys the essence of Chile's dark years under Pinochet's rule. (June)