Magazine article World Literature Today

Feeding on Dreams: Confessions of an Unrepentant Exile

Magazine article World Literature Today

Feeding on Dreams: Confessions of an Unrepentant Exile

Article excerpt

Ariel Dorfman. Feeding on Dreams: Confessions of an Unrepentant Exile. New York. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2011. isbn 9780547549460

Ariel Dorfman, in his second memoir, Feeding on Dreams, employs familiar techniques of intertextuality in the pursuit and exploration of his elusive identity. His self-referential responses to his feelings and experiences serve to contextualize the legacy of his work. Dorfman manages to weave the theme of volatile and shifting memory into his life story by using multiple narratives, combining excerpts from his past journals, plays, poems, fiction, and essays with his contemporary voice. This sense of shifting memory is intensified by including family members' perspectives on events when they differ significantly from his personal memories.

Writing his memoir with a sense of fallibility reflects Dorfman's essential viewpoint on literature. His literature can only provide context and meaning, never finite answers. Identity is intangible. When the protagonist in Dorfman's play Death and the Maiden contemplates violence toward a stranger because he is listening to a song the torturer at a Chilean concentration camp played while raping a captive, knowledge of both the author's and audience's perspectives reveals the complexity of the power of art. Is the music lover in Death and the Maiden the protagonist's torturer? Not even Dorfman knows.

Dorfman describes how his creativity disappeared when the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile first forced his family into exile. He shares daydreams about the literature he leftbehind, his beloved library, and how texts changed and adopted new meanings in his memories. …

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