Pierre Kalfon, former correspondent of the "World" in Chile, is dead

Journalist, academic, diplomat, he covered for the evening newspaper the coup d'état of General Pinochet against Salvador Allende in September 1973. Passionate about Latin America, he is the author of several books on Chile, the Argentina or Che Guevara. He died on October 14, at the age of 89.

Time to Reading 3 min.

Pierre Kalfon, writer, journalist and diplomat, at the 18th International Geographical Festival of Saint-Dié des Vosges, in 2017. Ji-Elle / Wikicommons

Correspondent of the World in Chile under the presidency of Salvador Allende, privileged witness of the coup d'état of General Augusto Pinochet, writer and diplomat, great smuggler between Latin America and France, after having contributed to the influence of the French culture in the subcontinent , Pierre Kalfon died Monday, October 14, in Paris, at the age of 89 years.

In his apartment near the Great Mosque of Paris, he framed the "one" of the World where he announced the imminence of a military coup against the Chilean left in power since 1970. The French then follow with great interest this experience of union of the left. Director of the French Alliance in Santiago since 1967, professor at the University of Chile and the Catholic University, Kalfon is solicited by both The world and The Nouvel Observateur (in the weekly, he signs his correspondence with a pseudonym).

The story : "I had 48 hours to leave Chile"

The empathy with which he covers events does not prevent him from remaining lucid. After the 11 September 1973 coup, he took risks and helped pursued friends find refuge in an embassy. He ends up being arrested and expelled from the country. Kalfon remains forever marked by Chile, and even thinks of building a house in the Atacama Desert. He draws two books: Allende, Chile 1970-1973 (Atlantica, 1998), translated into Spanish and brought to the screen by Patricio Henriquez (The Last Battle of Salvador Allende1998); Pablo Neruda's Green Ink: Chilean Chronicles (Land of Fog, 2003, Demopolis, 2008).

Romance Breath

Born in Oran on the 1stst April 1930, in a Jewish family, Pierre Kalfon "goes up" to Paris to make hypokhagne at the Lycée Lakanal, where he approaches the French Communist Party. In addition to postgraduate studies, he enrolled at Sciences Po. His discovery of South America began in Buenos Aires, where he directed the Alliance Française. This love at first sight translates into a first book, Argentina (Threshold, 1967), sparkling with intelligence, in the collection "Little Planet" directed by Chris Marker.

Like Chile, Argentina remains a land of choice, as evidenced by its only novel, Pampa (Threshold, 2007, Joseph-Kessel Prize), a South-American Western with a romantic breath supported by an elegant pen, as well documented as his other works. It is inspired by the true story of a French man held captive by the Indians in the 19th centurye century.

Unesco and cultural attachments allow it to make new stays and missions in Uruguay, Colombia, Nicaragua and Guatemala. He is pleased to find a job at the embassy in Santiago de Chile, after the withdrawal of Pinochet. Thus, he lives twenty-five years in Latin America. He cosign Latin America in France (Gallimard, 1992).

"The special alchemy" of Che

Finally, Che: Ernesto Guevara, a legend of the century (1997 and 2017), translated into Spanish and Italian, tackles the Latin American icon par excellence. His research is at the base of the documentary El Che, directed by Maurice Dugowson (1997). This rich biography, drawn from written sources and testimonies, wants to avoid hagiography, without renouncing benevolence. Certainly, the author distances himself from the theories of the guerrilla and leader of the Cuban revolution, which he likens to Marxist logomachy. His radicalism seems to him both a strength and a weakness. And his spirit of sacrifice is too Jansenist for his taste. But he admires "The particular alchemy" which would have allowed Che to reconcile Marx and Rimbaud.

Its Mediterranean banter mingles with Spanish words as soon as its memories are summoned

Pierre Kalfon is an innate storyteller, who transforms matter to better transmit it to his readers or interlocutors. At home, Mediterranean banter mingles with Spanish words as soon as one recalls his memories. It only takes a little to make it inexhaustible: "I witnessed the arrival of American troops in Oran during the Second World War. I took the GIs to the brothel without knowing what they were doing, I was too small. In exchange, I received chewing gum and sweets … "

"Amarcord", " I remember "he might have said, like a Fellini character with an appetite for living intact.

("Le Monde" presents to Pierre Kalfon's family his most sincere and sincere condolences.)

Pierre Kalfon in a few dates

1st April 1930 Birth in Oran

1967 "Argentina"

1973 Covers for "The World" the military coup in Chile

1997 "Che: Ernesto Guevara, a legend of the century"

October 14, 2019 Death in Paris


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