From Buenos-Aires to New York, from Chile to Berkeley and from Europe to North Carolina, my life's experience has been a succession of geographic, cultural and linguistic border crossings. In order to survive these historical events that shaped my life (fascism, McCarthyism, third world liberation struggles), I took on a multitude of identities, each one of them seemingly obliterating the other, each one a piece of that complex and contradictory modern puzzle we call the american identity.
Ariel Dorfman, 1964
In 1980, I migrated to the U.S. in what was to be my third and final migration to these shores. Like any good pilgrim, this time I arrived from Europe on a boat. And I then spent the next 25 years refining and redefining my American identity as an embrace of hybridity and duality. I refused to be trapped into fundamentalist visions of a monolithic identity.
"I invite you to explore with me these American dilemmas that have deep roots in the past... "
In these stories we have chosen three foundational aspects of the American identity: innocence, patriotism and security. Each identity carries its own shadow/dilemma its twin identity, the one that reflects back to us the price we pay in order to actually call ourselves Americans. It is our hope that from the shadows will emerge a vision of that identity as a place where all the contradictions and complexities of a multicultural and multi-lingual society are brought to the surface and exposed not as walls between people, but rather as bridges between the Americas; as a constant, fluid re-discovery of what makes us Americans. I invite you to explore with me these American dilemmas that have deep roots in the past and yet are still very much alive today.
Ariel Dorfman is a Chilean-American writer and human rights activist who holds the Walter Hines Page Chair at Duke University. His books, written both in Spanish and English, have been translated into more than 40 languages and his plays staged in over 100 countries. He has received numerous international awards, including the Laurence Olivier Award (for Death and the Maiden, which has been made into a feature film by Roman Polanski). His novels include Widows, Konfidenz, The Nanny and the Iceberg, and Blake's Therapy. His latest works are a travel book, Desert Memories, and the plays Purgatorio and The Other Side. He has also published a novel, Burning City, with his son, Joaquin Dorfman. He contributes regularly to major newspapers worldwide.
Are We Really So Fearful?
The torture debate. (The Washington Post, September 24, 2006) Also: Listen to Dorfman on NPR's Talk of the Nation discussing this piece.
The Last September 11
I have been through this before. (The LA Times, 2001, reprinted by permission of the author at the Duke University website.)
Granta magazine asked more than two dozen writers, scholars and intellectuals to discuss in a short essay the topic "What We Think of America." (Granta, 2002, reprinted by permission of the author at the Duke University website.)
Lessons of a Catastrophe
Chile was a democracy, yet tyranny triumphed in the name of fighting terror. (The Nation, 9/11/2003, reprinted by permission of the author.)
Find out more about Dorfman at his personal website.