KONFIDENZ by Ariel Dorfman


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 From exiled Latin American writer Dorfman (Hard Rain, 1990, etc.), a taut political allegory that ambitiously takes on, but doesn't quite resolve, big questions of loyalty, ideology, and truth. Written mostly in the form of dialogue and confessional commentaries in confined, barely described settings, the text often seems closer to a Beckett play than a traditional novel. Though the beginning hints at a conventional mystery--a phone rings as a woman enters her hotel room, ``she picks it up, she hears...a voice she has never heard before''--the suspense elements are soon secondary to the political and personal ones. Leon, the mysterious caller, like Barbara, the woman he calls, is German, the setting is Paris in late August 1939, the politics are anti-fascist and pro- Communist. Leon has befriended Barbara's lover, Martin, a fellow member of the anti-Nazi underground who has fled Germany and is continuing his work from Paris. But Leon, obsessed with an imaginary woman, has used this friendship to lure Barbara to Paris, because he believes she is the incarnation of his dream lover, Susanna, who first appeared to him when he was 12. Like Martin, Leon is a shadowy figure whose existence and motives are not always clear to the narrator, who offers in separate chapters his comments on the story's development, the sufferings of the world, and his/our failures to do more to help. In a nine-hour telephone conversation with Barbara, Leon talks about Susanna, the danger Martin is in (some suspect him of being a Gestapo agent), and his own life and marriage. As the conversation ends, the French police arrive; World War II has just begun, and all Germans are under suspicion. Barbara is eventually freed, but Martin and Leon, both now back in Germany, will not be so fortunate. Heartfelt, but too much packed into a small space, with characters who are political billboards rather than real people.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-374-18218-3
Page count: 156pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1994


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