Ariel Dorfman (born May 6, 1942) is an
Argentine-Chilean-American novelist, playwright, essayist,
academic, and human rights activist. A citizen of the United States
since 2004, he has been a professor of literature and Latin American
Studies at Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina, since 1985.
1 Background and education
3 Literary work
4 Selected books
6 See also
8 External links
Background and education
Dorfman was born in
Buenos Aires on May 6, 1942, the son of Adolf
Dorfman, who was born in
Odessa (then Russian Empire) to a well-to-do
Jewish family, and became a prominent Argentine professor of
economics and the author of Historia de la Industria Argentina, and
Fanny Zelicovich Dorfman, who was born in Kishinev of Bessarabian
Jewish descent. Shortly after his birth, they moved to the
United States and then, in 1954, moved to Chile. He attended and
later worked as a professor at the University of Chile, marrying
Angélica Malinarich in 1966 and becoming a Chilean citizen in 1967.
From 1968 to 1969, he attended graduate school at the University of
California at Berkeley and then returned to Chile.
Since the restoration of democracy in Chile, in 1990, he and his wife
Angélica have divided their time between Santiago and the United
From 1970 to 1973, Dorfman served as a cultural adviser to President
Salvador Allende. During this time he wrote, with Armand Mattelart, a
critique of North American cultural imperialism, How to Read Donald
Duck. Dorfman was supposed to work on the night shift at the La Moneda
presidential palace the night before the Pinochet coup, but he had
swapped his shift with his friend Claudio Jimeno, not knowing what was
to come. Forced to leave
Chile in 1973, after the coup by General
Augusto Pinochet leading to President Allende's suicide, Dorfman went
on to live in Paris, Amsterdam, and
Washington, D.C. Since 1985 he has
taught at Duke University, where he is currently Walter Hines Page
Research Professor of
Literature and Professor of Latin American
Dorfman was member of the Group of 88, a group of signatories of a
controversial advertisement in The Chronicle, Duke's student
newspaper during the Duke lacrosse case.
Dorfman details his life of exile and bi-cultural living in his
memoir, Heading South, Looking North, which has been acclaimed by Elie
Wiesel, Nadine Gordimer,
Thomas Keneally and others.
Dorfman's work often deals with the horrors of tyranny and, in later
works, the trials of exile. In an interview in BOMB Magazine, Dorfman
said, "I'm constantly trying to figure out how you can be true to an
experience which in fact very few people in the world would
understand, such as having most of your friends disappear or be
tortured, and at the same time finding a way of telling that story so
other people in other places can read their own lives into that." His
most famous play, Death and the Maiden, describes the encounter of a
former torture victim with the man she believed tortured her; it was
made into a film in 1994 by
Roman Polanski starring Sigourney Weaver
and Ben Kingsley. Dorfman identified "the stark, painful Chilean
transition to democracy" as Death and the Maiden's central theme.
The play received a 20th anniversary revival in the 2011–2012 season
Harold Pinter Theatre
Harold Pinter Theatre in London's West End, directed by Jeremy
Herrin and starring Thandie Newton, Tom Goodman-Hill, and Anthony
His thesis on the absurd in plays of
Harold Pinter was published in
Spanish as El absurdo entre cuatro paredes: el teatro de Harold Pinter
(The absurd within four walls: the theater of Harold Pinter) by
Editorial Universitaria, in Santiago, Chile, in 1968 (124 pages).
Pinter later became a personal friend as well as an influence on
Dorfman's work and political thinking.
A critic of Pinochet, he has written extensively about the General's
extradition case for the Spanish newspaper
El País and other
publications, and in the book Exorcising Terror: The Incredible
Unending Trial of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Rather than distinguishing
between politics and art, Dorfman believes "that one’s writing is
deeply political," and, at its best, "engages the major dilemmas...of
Dorfman's works have been translated into more than 40 languages and
performed in over 100 countries. Besides poetry, essays and novels—
Hard Rain, winner of the Sudamericana Award; Widows; The Last Song of
Manuel Sendero; Mascara; Konfidenz; The Nanny and the Iceberg, and
Blake’s Therapy—he has written short stories, including My House
Is on Fire, and general nonfiction including The Empire’s Old
Clothes: What the Lone Ranger, Babar, and Other Innocent Heroes Do to
Our Minds. He has won various international awards, including two
Kennedy Center Theater Awards. In 1996, with his son, Rodrigo, he
received an award for best television drama in Britain for Prisoners
in Time. His poems, collected in Last Waltz in Santiago and In Case of
Fire in a Foreign Land, have been turned into a half-hour fictional
film, Deadline, featuring the voices of Emma Thompson, Bono, Harold
Pinter, and others.
Dorfman’s human rights play, Speak Truth to Power: Voices from
Beyond the Dark (based on interviews with human rights defenders
conducted by Kerry Kennedy Cuomo), premiered at the
Kennedy Center in
Washington, D.C., in 2000, and subsequently aired on
PBS as part of
Great Performances series. The play starred Kevin Kline, Sigourney
Weaver, Alec Baldwin, and John Malkovich, among others, and was
directed by Greg Mosher. It has gone on to numerous performances
around the world, including a run in New York City. On May 3, 2010, a
"Speak Truth to Power" benefit for survivors of the 2010 Chilean
earthquake was put on by New York's Public Theater, directed by David
Esbjornson, and featuring an all-star cast of Elias Koteas, Marcia Gay
Harden, Alfred Molina, Julianne Moore, Viggo Mortensen, Gloria Reuben,
Paul Sorvino, Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci, and Debra Winger.
Dorfman's play The Other Side had its world premiere at the New
National Theatre in
Tokyo in 2004 and opened off-Broadway at the
Manhattan Theater Club in 2005. Other recent plays include Purgatorio
Seattle Rep in 2005 and at the
Arcola Theatre in London in
2008; Picasso’s Closet, a counterfactual history in which the Nazis
murder Picasso, had its premiere at
Theater J in
Washington, D.C. in
He is also the subject of a feature-length documentary, A Promise to
the Dead, based on his memoir Heading South, Looking North and
directed by Peter Raymont. The film had its world premiere at the 2007
Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2007. In November
2007, the film was named by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and
Sciences as one of 15 films on its documentary feature Oscar
shortlist. The list was narrowed to five films on January 22,
2008, and A Promise to the Dead was not among the five
His latest works include the Lowell Thomas Award-winning travel book,
Desert Memories; a collection of essays, Other Septembers, Many
Americas; a novel he wrote with his youngest son, Joaquín, Burning
City; Americanos: Los Pasos de Murieta; and a new volume of memoirs,
Feeding on Dreams: Confessions of an Unrepentant Exile. In 2007, his
musical, Dancing Shadows, opened in Seoul, Korea. This collaboration
with Eric Woolfson, the principal composer for the Alan Parsons
Project, won five Korean “Tony” awards. In 2011, his play
"Purgatorio" has its Spanish language premiere at the Teatro Español
in Madrid, starring
Viggo Mortensen and Carme Elias.
Dorfman currently has several film projects in development with his
sons, Rodrigo and Joaquin Dorfman, including a screen adaptation of
his novel, Blake’s Therapy.
Dorfman also writes regularly for such publications as The New York
Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times,
The Guardian (where
he has a featured blog),
Le Monde and L'Unità.
He is a member of L'Académie Universelle des Cultures, in Paris, and
the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
El absurdo entre cuatro paredes: el teatro de Harold Pinter. Santiago,
Chile: Editorial Universitaria, 1968.
How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic
(Para leer al Pato Donald, 1971), with Armand Mattelart; tr. David
Kunzle. London: International General, 1975 ISBN 0-88477-023-0
The Rabbits’ Rebellion (La rebelión de los conejos mágicos, 1986),
Hard Rain (Moros en la costa, 1973), tr. George Shivers & Dorfman.
Columbia (LA): Readers International, 1990
Widows (Viudas, 1981), tr. Stephen Kessler. New York: Pantheon Books,
1983 ISBN 1-58322-483-1
The Last Song of Manuel Sendero, (La última canción de Manuel
Sendero, 1982), tr. George R. Shivers & Dorfamn. New York: Viking,
The Empire's Old Clothes. What the Lone Ranger, Babar, the Reader's
Digest, and other false friends do to our minds, Pantheon Books, New
York, 1983 (2nd edition 2010) (Patos, elefantes y héroes: La infancia
como subdesarrollo, 1985)
Last Waltz in Santiago and other poems of exile and disappearance
(Pastel de choclo, 1986), tr. Edith Grossman & Dorfamn, New York:
Mascara (Máscaras, 1988), New York: Viking, 1988
My House Is On Fire, short stories, tr. George Shivers & Dorfman;
New York: Viking, 1990
Some Write to the Future: Essays on Contemporary Latin American
Death and the maiden (La muerte y la doncella, 1991), a play in three
acts; London: Nick Hern Books (New York: Penguin Books, 1992).
Konfidenz (Konfidenz, 1994), New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux,
Reader, drama, Nick Hern Books, London, 1995
Heading South, Looking North: A Bilingual Journey (Rumbo al Sur,
deseando el Norte, 1998), New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1999
The Nanny and the Iceberg (La Nana y el Iceberg, 1999), New York:
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1999
The Resistance Trilogy (Death and the Maiden, Widows, Reader), Nick
Hern Books Limited, 1998
Exorcising Terror: The Incredible Unending Trial of Augusto Pinochet
(Más allá del miedo: El largo adiós a Pinochet, 2002), Seven
Stories Press, 2002 ISBN 1-58322-542-0
Blake’s Therapy, Seven Stories Press, in New York, 2001 (Terapia)
In Case of Fire in a Foreign Land: New and Collected Poems from Two
Other Septembers, Many Americas: Selected Provocations, 1980–2004
(2004) (Otros septiembres)
Manifesto for Another World: Voices from Beyond the Dark. Seven
Stories Press, 2004
Desert Memories: Journeys through the Chilean North. National
Geographic Books, 2004.
Burning City (with Joaquin Dorfman) (2006) ISBN 0-375-83204-1
Americanos: Los pasos de Murieta (2009)
Feeding on Dreams: Confessions of an Unrepentant Exile (2011)
Montes-Bradley, Eduardo (Director) (1999).
Harto The Borges
Harto The Borges (Feature
Documentary). USA: Heritage Film Project, US.
Santiago Files, 2011 (Interviewee) [Feature Documentary]
American literature in Spanish
Ariel Dorfman Home Page". 2016.
^ Dorfman, Ariel (1998). Heading South, Looking North: A Bilingual
Journey. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. p. 18.
^ "Ariel Dorfman's Bedroom War". by Jerry Tallmer for thevillager.com.
December 27, 2005.
Ariel Dorfman Interview". by Danny Postel for The Progressive.
December 13, 1998.
^ (in Spanish) El largo exilio de
Ariel Dorfman Archived July 6, 2011,
at the Wayback Machine.
^ "What Does a Social Disaster Sound Like?" (PDF). African &
African American Studies Department, Duke University. Archived from
the original (PDF) on August 25, 2006. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
^ "List of Supporters" (PDF). African & African American Studies
Department, Duke University. Archived from the original (PDF) on April
15, 2006. Retrieved November 16, 2017.
^ a b Berman, Jenifer. "Ariel Dorfman". BOMB Magazine. Winter 1995.
Retrieved 25 July 2011.
^ Ariel Dorfman, El absurdo entre cuatro paredes: el teatro de Harold
Pinter. Santiago, Chile: Editorial Universitaria, 1968. WorldCat.
OCLC: 1400001. Web. 9 Jan. 2009.
Ariel Dorfman (27 December 2008). "The World That Harold Pinter
Unlocked". The Washington Post.
The Washington Post
The Washington Post Company.
p. A15. Retrieved 27 January 2009. cf.
Ariel Dorfman (8
January 2009). "You want to free the world from oppression? ("Ariel
Dorfman on the life and work of
Harold Pinter (1930–2008)")". New
Statesman. Archived from the original on 30 January 2009. Retrieved 27
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-08-28. Retrieved
^ Barry, John (2006-06-30). "Dorfman Limns a Tangle of Ethics in
'Picasso'". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-04-25.
^ "Shortlist for docu Oscar unveiled". The Hollywood Reporter.
2007-11-20. Archived from the original on 2008-07-05. Retrieved
Ariel Dorfman's website
Ariel Dorfman's memoir, Heading South, Looking North (Archived
Ariel Dorfman on IMDb
Death and the Maiden on IMDb
Ariel Dorfman on IMDb
feature documentary on Ariel Dorfman's experiences of exile
Ariel Dorfman Interview on The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos
How Obama can Earn his Nobel Peace Prize by Ariel Dorfman, The Los
Ariel Dorfman patrols the border of comedy and tragedy in The Other
Side Time Out New York
BOMB Magazine interview of
Ariel Dorfman by Jenifer Berman
Ariel Dorfman delivers the 8th Annual Nelson Mandela Lecture in 2010
How to Read Donald Trump: On Burning Books but Not Ideas
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