A beautifully crafted, searing memoir by the Chilean American writer about his dispersion and homelessness after fleeing the military junta of General Pinochet.
As a deeply engaged supporter of President Salvadore Allende, Dorfman (Desert Memories: Journeys Through the Chilean North, 2004, etc.) was banished from Chile when Pinochet seized power in 1973, assassinating the president and throwing the country into a convulsion of military repression and fear. Along with his wife and small son, Dorfman first sought refuge in Argentina (where he was born in 1942), then Amsterdam, Paris and finally the United States over the next 20 years—a bitter exile that defined and transformed him. A child of “perpetual wanderers”—his father, a communist, had been forced to leave Argentina with the family for Chile, then the U.S., before being hounded out during the McCarthy era—Dorfman was familiar with the miseries and loneliness of exile. He learned English early until his return to Chile at age 12, then immersed himself in the “language of insurrection,” Spanish. In exile, he used English to promote his lifelong pursuit to “vanquish silence” and expose the hideous human-rights abuses of the Pinochet dictatorship. Dorfman writes eloquently, even floridly, about his fiery early devotion to the peaceful socialist revolution of Allende, and that he and his starry-eyed generation were absolutely blindsided by the coup. In exile, his creative powers dried up (“What was happening to me, to us, was quite literally, unspeakable”), until he found courage in expression—his words would become “a territory where the dead could resuscitate.” Dorfman writes frankly of the morphing of his ideals, the seduction of America, the wariness with which he is regarded now by his Chilean compatriots and how he and his family decided not to stay in Chile when they finally returned in 1990.
A somber, moving tribute to a life of ideals and struggle.