HEADING SOUTH, LOOKING NORTH by Ariel Dorfman

HEADING SOUTH, LOOKING NORTH

A Bilingual Journey

KIRKUS REVIEW

Novelist Dorfman’s (Konfidenz, 1995, etc.) memoir shakes up the term Latino, as he plots the course of “a hybrid, part Yankee, part Chilean, a pinch Jew, a mestizo in search of a center,” who becomes an outspoken Chilean exile campaigning for the self-determination of the Americas. Dorfman’s family history is driven by exile. His Eastern European grandparents fled pogroms and Nazi persecution and met in Argentina, where a young Ariel was born and lived until his father was forced to leave for the US after protesting the political purge of an Argentine university. Ariel became a staunch Yankee, rejecting the language of his immigrant parents, until his father became a victim of McCarthyism and was forced to leave the US for Chile. There Ariel spent his high school years reading imported comics and dreaming of returning to New York. But at 18 he was swept up in the anti-US sentiments of the Latin American left in the early 1960s, and decided to stay, becoming a Chilean citizen in order to get involved in a democratic-based political revolution. When Salvador Allende became president in 1970, Dorfman took a government post as a literary trailblazer for the people. He oversaw a campaign to translate international classics into Spanish and publish them cheaply, and co-authored a popular polemic on US cultural imperialism. Yet it is not until the coup that ousted Allende, that Ariel felt a true bond with Chile’s poor, as he went into hiding to escape the widespread arrests and torture of Allende supporters. Alternating between Chilean political events in the early 1970s and his own life story, Dorfman (who now lives in North Carolina and teaches at Duke University) reflects on the failure of Allende’s socialist experiment, which he ties to his own destructive propensity to put people in the enemy camp. Still, Dorfman’s account is slow going through the first half but picks up greatly once the dangers he faced become clear, and he has sharp insights into Chile’s political situation.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-374-16862-8
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1998




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