Books: Home Is Where the Art Is He Helped Melt the Cold Heart of Pinochet's Chile, but Can He Bridge Th E Gap between Gringo and Hispanic? Ilan Stavans on the Latino's Dilemma
Stavans, Ilan, The Independent (London, England)
and the Iceberg
by Ariel Dorfman Sceptre, pounds 10, 360pp IN THE last decade, Ariel Dorfman has undergone a crucial transformation. He has ceased to be Latin American; instead, he has become something the British do not yet fully grasp: a Latino intellectual, bilingual and bicultural, ambivalent about almost everything, and most especially the place called home. Latino is the rubric coined to describe US Hispanics acclimatised to American joi de vivre yet deeply rooted in the reality south of the Rio Grande. Dorfman's north/south ambivalence is at the heart of the memoir he published last year. It manifests itself in explorations of his complex feelings not only towards Chile and the US, but also towards Spanish and English, the two tongues he communicates in with equal ease. And it is also in the texture of this novel, which, while set primarily in Seville and Santiago and New York, is an American by-product in ways his memoir never was. Latinos have a difficult time being read in Latin America. There is much resentment for those who left. Dorfman is no exception. His literature has never been fully embraced in Chile, perhaps because he is a foreigner. (He was born in Buenos Aires, and is Jewish.) In the English-language habitat, on the other hand, he has the status of a star: his work functions as a bridge across idiosyncrasies. This is patent in The Nanny and the Iceberg. The book juxtaposes themes that have long obsessed him: pop culture and its ideological undercurrent, the baroque Latin American psyche, revolution and democracy. It is a bravura performance, knitted by a suave, hypnotising prose, structured in the form of a thriller with a delayed denouement. The main character is Gabriel McKenzie, a hybrid comfortable in e- mails and Hollywood imagery, international politics and Spanish culture. Or perhaps the real protagonist is the mammoth iceberg from Antarctica the Chilean government decides to exhibit at the World's Fair of 1992, to commemorate Columbus's …
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Publication information: Article title: Books: Home Is Where the Art Is He Helped Melt the Cold Heart of Pinochet's Chile, but Can He Bridge Th E Gap between Gringo and Hispanic? Ilan Stavans on the Latino's Dilemma. Contributors: Stavans, Ilan - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: April 1, 1999. Page number: 12. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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