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Like its eponymous iceberg, this strained fictional mix of politics, affected profundity, and supposedly comic eroticism is as much about the obvious—a young man’s struggle to lose his virginity—as about what is hidden in the depths: Chilean history. Expatriate author Dorfman (Konfidenz, 1994, etc.) tells the story in flashbacks narrated by Gabriel McKenzie as he prepares a murder/suicide at the 1992 World Expo’s Chilean Pavilion, which boasts an iceberg as its main attraction. The action moves back and forth from Manhattan, where Gabriel lives in exile with his mother, Milagros, to his native land. Milagros, a political activist, left Chile with her son in 1974 after the killing of President Salvador Allende, and Gabriel’s life, further, is haunted by ChÇ Guevara, who died on the October day in 1967 that he was conceived, just hours after Milagros met Crist¢bal Mackenzie at a political rally. The couple marries, but in the meantime Cris has made a bet he will make love every day to his wife; an exhausted Milagros soon gives him permission to sleep with other women as long as he is faithful to her in spirit. This potentially funny and sexy device proves to be neither, and the discussions of Pinochet, capitalism, and Spain’s conquest become more rhetorical rants than perceptive insights. Visiting Chile in 1991, the virginal Gabriel is intimidated by his father’s legendary virility. Then he falls in love with the beautiful Amanda, daughter of one of his father’s friends, visits Antarctica to find the iceberg destined for the Expo, hears much political talk, and finally makes love. Distressed by a disturbing family secret (Amanda may be his sister) and by the lies and schemes that both he and Chile have connived at, he decides on a spectacular resolution. His dead Nanny, though, plots with ChÇ to save Gabriel and his family as they prepare to eat dinner at the Chilean Pavilion. A very busy tale that melts in the frenetic heat of its telling.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-374-21898-6
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1999


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