A fictionalized multigenerational account of the Chilean political scene, Isabel Allende's "House of the Spirits" doesn't limit itself to discussions of corruption and torture- there are also scenes of prophesy and magic. Learn this word list that focuses on terrible times.
His job was not a
sinecure. He worked from seven in the morning until late at night, and by the time he left work he was so tired that he was incapable of striking a single chord on his guitar, much less making love to Blanca with his accustomed passion.
He was the first to declare in public that only a military coup could halt the advance of Marxism because people who had anxiously waited fifty years to be in power would not
relinquish it because there was a chicken shortage.
strength of mind that enables one to endure adversity with courage
Jaime's lack of fortitude here does not show a lack of strength; rather it shows his compassion. This example sentence sets up later scenes where Jaime shows his fortitude by rejecting 1) the President's offer to call a truce to avoid needless sacrifice and 2) the military officer's offer of safe passage home in exchange for lying about the President on national television.
Jaime scarcely encouraged her, but he lacked the
fortitude to reject her, because he felt that the illusion of love might help in her recovery although he knew that for the two of them it was too late.
characterized by unrest or disorder or insubordination
Aside from his age, the tumultuous state of the country would make a tumultuous relationship with Amanda impossible for Jaime to maintain. Even if he could feel more than compassion for her, he would not allow himself to indulge in a passionately tumultuous relationship, when so many people need his medical energies. He prefers to satisfy his needs through occasional encounters with a willing nurse or prostitute.
He now found himself trapped in a demanding relationship at an age when he no longer saw himself capable of
Nevertheless, he could not help thinking of him as one of those fatal men possessed by a dangerous idealism and an
intransigent purity that color everything they touch with disaster, especially the women who have the misfortune to fall in love with them.
showing the wearing effects of overwork or care or suffering
He had lost weight and looked
haggard. He was working eighteen-hour shifts, and when he could finally lie down on his cot, he was often unable to sleep. His mind raced at the thought of all the patients who were waiting for him, the lack of anesthesia, syringes, and cotton, and the realization that even if he could be multiplied by a thousand it would still not be enough, because it was like trying to stop a train with your bare hands.
an abrupt or sudden removal of a person or group from an organization or place
Other definitions of "purge" connect it to cleaning, purifying, or clearing of sin or guilt. But the military coup's purges involved: "two days without food or water, rotting in their own excrement, blood, and fear, until they were all driven by truck to an area near the airport. In an empty lot they were shot on the ground, because they could no longer stand, and then their bodies were dynamited. The shock of the explosion and the stench of the remains floated in the air for a long time."
In barracks across the country,
purges had begun of all those remaining loyal to the Constitution.
admitting of no doubt or misunderstanding; having only one meaning or interpretation and leading to only one conclusion
Some of them, emboldened by the violence of the past few days, stopped all men with long hair or beards,
unequivocal signs of a rebel spirit, and all women dressed in slacks, which they cut to ribbons because they felt responsible for imposing order, morality, and decency.
The new authorities announced that they had nothing to do with actions of this sort and had never given orders to cut beards or slacks, and that it was probably the work of Communists disguised as soldiers attempting to cast
aspersions on the armed forces and make the citizenry hate them.
an incidental benefit awarded for certain types of employment (especially if it is regarded as a right)
He didn’t give me a chance to ask about my son Jaime or to congratulate him for the valiant actions of the soldiers who had saved the nation; instead he asked for the keys to my car, on the ground that Congress had been shut down and that all Congressional
perquisites had therefore been suspended.
The newspapers said that the beggars in the streets, a sight that had not been seen in years, had been sent by international Communism to discredit the military junta and
undermine the return to order and progress.
They adjusted the maps because there was no reason why the North should be placed on top, so far away from their beloved fatherland, when it could be placed on the bottom, where it would appear in a more favorable light; and while they were at it they painted vast areas of Prussian-blue territorial waters that stretched all the way to Africa and Asia, and appropriated distant countries in the geography books, leaping borders with
impunity until the neighboring countries lost their patience
a legally binding command or decision entered on the court record (as if issued by a court or judge)
There were words prohibited by military decree, such as the word “companero,” and others that could not be mentioned even though no
edict had swept them from the lexicon, such as “freedom,” “justice” and “trade union.”
motivation deriving logically from ethical or moral principles that govern a person's thoughts and actions
The coup gave them a chance to put into practice what they had learned in their barracks: blind obedience, the use of arms, and other skills that soldiers can master once they silence the
scruples of their hearts.
a personal or social separation (as between opposing factions)
The labor force was reduced to slavery, and for the first time in many decades management was able to fire people at will without granting any
severance pay and to have them thrown in jail for the slightest protest.
Soldiers broke into his house, ransacked his snail collection, his shells, his butterflies, his bottles, the ship figureheads he had rescued from so many seas, his books, his paintings, and his unfinished poems, looking for subversive weapons and hidden Communists, until his old poet’s heart began to
She was absorbed in the task of tracking down the disappeared, comforting the victims of torture who returned with their backs
flayed and their eyes unfocused, and searching for food for the priests’ soup kitchens.
The military were a breed apart, brothers who spoke a different dialect from the civilians and with whom any attempt at dialogue would be a conversation of the deaf, because the slightest
dissent was considered treason in their rigid honor code.
But Pedro Tercero had had a premonition of the
ferocity of the new regime long before anyone else, perhaps because during those three years he had come to know the armed forces and no longer believed that they were any different from those elsewhere in the world.
Trueba noticed, but said nothing. He supposed that his granddaughter was giving the money to a forbidden cause, just as he imagined she had done with the weapons she had stolen, but he preferred not to know about it in order to retain his
precarious stability in a world that was crumbling beneath his feet.
Alba's repeated "no" might be monumental because it signifies her resistance (although she really doesn't know where Miguel is or what they're asking about him). "Monumental" also means "imposing in size or bulk or solidity" so Alba's repetition of the word could make it seem more imposing and solid, especially when compared to the small size of her body that's in the hands of torturers.
She heard Miguel’s name but did not know what they were asking her, and kept repeating a
monumental no while they beat her, manhandled her, pulled off her blouse, and she could no longer think, could only say no, no, and no and calculate how much longer she could resist before her strength gave out, not knowing this was only the beginning, until she felt herself begin to faint and the men left her alone, lying on the floor, for what seemed to her a very short time.
At times he appeared to be genuinely moved, personally spooning soup into her mouth, but the day he plunged her head into a bucket full of excrement until she fainted from disgust, Alba understood that he was not trying to learn Miguel’s true whereabouts but to avenge himself for injuries that had been
inflicted on him from birth, and that nothing she could confess would have any effect on her fate as the private prisoner of Colonel Garcia.
"Fortuitous" also means "occurring by happy chance"--but this definition would not fit here because Alba is talking about the terror and torture that she had undergone. Now home after being rescued, Alba is trying to make sense of the events. Knowing that "no brushstroke is in vain" helps her to cope with the past and move on towards a future, especially for the sake of her unborn child.
I am beginning to suspect that nothing that happens is
fortuitous, that it all corresponds to a fate laid down before my birth, and that Esteban Garcia is part of the design.