Ariel Dorfman

Words and literature serve as humanist values.


Ariel Dorfman is a writer and playwright who was born in Argentina in 1942 and lived as a child in New York before immigrating to Chile.  Today, his work is known throughout the world.  His most famous work, without doubt, is La Muerte y la Doncella (Death and the Maiden), which has been translated into 30 languages.

Glenn Close, Richard Dreyfuss, and Gene Hackman are among the actors who had roles in the adaptation.  In 1994, Polish director Roman Polanski the movie with Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingsley as the protagonists.

Death and the Maiden is the story of a torture victim who years later crosses paths, by chance, with his torturer.  In the movie, Dorfman develops the theme of human rights, a topic also reflected in his poetry, novels, essays, and opinion columns published in newspapers like El País in Spain, Le Monde in Paris, the Los Angeles Times, and Página 12 in Argentina.

The denouncement of human rights violations became one of Dorfman’s principal literary concerns following the persecution and exile of many Chileans following the 1973 military coup.  Prior to the coup, he had been working as a cultural advisor to the government of Salvador Allende.  During this time, he published an essay with Armand Mattelart entitled «Para leer al Pato Donald» (To read Donald Duck), which was a polemic work that served to inform a wide audience about colonialist constructions.  Also during this time, he published Moros en la costa (Moors on the Coast), an entertaining report on nonexistent books in the tone of polical fiction.

His body of work incorporates many elements of his trips to Chile.  This is evident in Memorias del desierto (Memories from the Desert), a work that was honored with Lowell H. Thomas Prize for best travel book in 2004, as well as, «Rumbo al sur deseando el norte» (Wandering Toward the South and Wishing for the North), the first part of his memories.