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Messages from the End of the World

by Ariel Dorfman

Pub Date: Dec. 12th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-944869-63-2
Publisher: OR Books

Chilean refugee Dorfman (Feeding on Dreams: Confessions of an Unrepentant Exile, 2011, etc.), long resident in the United States, turns in a spirited rebuke of things as they are.

As the author recalls, on arriving here in 1980 following the coup against Salvador Allende and some years of wandering thereafter, he and his wife were under no illusions that they were arriving at a shining city on the hill: “we were aware…of the way in which the United States, its corporations, its military, indeed its public, were complicit in crimes against humanity on every continent.” Nonetheless, he was grateful for the safe haven a second time, the first having been in 1945, and ever hopeful of the possibilities of true progress, even if they have been derailed of late by Trumpism. In this gathering of pieces for the New York Times, the Nation, the BBC, and other outlets, Dorfman sometimes writes from a particularly South American point of view, which is to say he falls back on tropes from Iberian and colonial history—e.g., offering Trump advice on rule from the mouth of Philip II of Spain: “And if current domestic insubordination were to contaminate the republic itself, consider the possibility of resurrecting the Holy Brotherhood of the Inquisition.” Anglo-American readers will be able to follow along without problem, though it will help to know the history of James Buchanan, even if some may be a touch bewildered by the arrival, as Dorfman comments, of more and more Latinos in American towns that never saw them before—especially in the South, where a “mega-Latino supermarket” selling products from all over the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking world stands as testimonial to the impossibility of the Trumpian border wall, “vanquished by the very taco he grins at demonically in his Twitter post.”

Dorfman’s likening of Donald Trump to Faulkner’s Flem Snopes alone is worth the price of admission, and if there’s a certain sameness to the indignation piece after piece, it’s a worthy addition to the library of resistance.