In August 2010, 33 Chilean miners became trapped miles underground when the San Jose mine collapsed over their head. While underground for a record-breaking 69 days, they made a pact to tell their story to only one author, rather than many, in order to retain the power that their story gave them. This book is the result.
“The devil is present in the mine, taking form in all the greed, the misunderstanding, the envy, and the betrayals among the men. He believes that the devil has come from the surface, attaching himself to those letters, the offers of money and fame, to pit them against one another.”
Héctor Tobar’s well-researched Deep Down Dark gives an informative background on mining in Chile before launching into the circumstances that led to the disaster on August 5th, 2010. He interviewed each of the miners, as well as their friends and relatives (many of whom lived for weeks or months on the grounds outside the mine), as well as mining officials and members of the government who were involved and/or present. By the end, you will know these men well, and have a terrifying idea of the ordeal they went through.
The story itself is incredible — no one died or was even seriously injured during the collapse, and all of the men made it out alive in the end. They worked together — despite their differences and occasional arguments — to make it through. I do feel that Tobar could have trimmed down some of the book — particularly the endless recollections by relatives about what was happening outside the mine — but I feel like he wanted to include every single person’s perspective. In some ways, that enriched the story; in others, it dragged it down and distracted from the incredible 33 men who survived.