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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a lively, informative guide to an extraordinary place, May 2, 2004
By 
Elizabeth Rosa Horan (Tempe, AZ United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Desert Memories: Journeys Through the Chilean North (Directions) (Hardcover)
I've lived in Chile and I've lived in the desert (but not Chile's Norte Grande). Ariel Dorfman writes very compellingly about the many complex aspects of desert life - the mining-based economy, the range of people who come from elsewhere, the relation of the desert as "periphery" to those "other places" who live off its wealth. Also he does justice to the desert's beauty, native peoples, transportation systems. He involves himself in the narrative, almost Woody-Allen style at times, but this book isn't in the British travel narrative mode of "here are all the awful things that happened to me." Rather, it's a story of extraordinary people and places - world-class scientists, grass-roots activists, byzantine networks of in-laws (few Chilean memoirs would be complete, lacking these!). It's a measure of this gifted writer's absolute skill that he has so many funny moments, and fine descriptions of the desert's landscape, and the pathos of people working to reclaim the ghost towns of the mining industry, all in one book. One of the book's most moving moments, for me, is the chapter that ends with the narrator observing of one town citizen who'd returned to a reclaimed ghost town, that there was no need to ask if he'd kept the key to the house he'd been forced to leave thirty years earlier.
The title is absolutely right: memory and time are crucial to the desert. In writing of Chile, one of the most complicated and interesting country of the world, Dorfman brings with him his experience, contacts, broad awareness of this land. The narrative is beautifully structured, too. Dorfman, in all, is getting better and better with time. There are many wonderful books about Chile's extraordinary history, its many-layered social class structure, its heart-breakingly beautiful geography. The field of social and ecological memoirs/travelogues about Chile is a very crowded one, with some top-notch writers (think Darwin, just for starters...). Desert Memories is one of the best books there is for anyone considering a trip to this country.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful and important book, August 26, 2012
By 
Judy Blankenship (Ecuador, Portland, Oregon) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Desert Memories: Journeys Through the Chilean North (Directions) (Hardcover)
Ariel Dorfman is one of the most important writers of our time, and Desert Memories, Journeys Through the Chilean North serves as a testament (and a coda) to the terrible years that began with the military overthrow of President Allende's democratically-elected government in 1973, the repression and horror that followed, the exile of so many who barely survived, such as Dorfman. His car trip through the Chilean North with his wife, Angelica, so many years later, is at once a reflection on those events as he visits concentration camps, clandestine graves, the family of a good friend who was "disappeared" by Pinochet's army, along with an evocation of the beauty of the desert landscape and its earlier, hidden history.
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Desert Memories: Journeys Through the Chilean North (Directions)
Desert Memories: Journeys Through the Chilean North (Directions) by Ariel Dorfman (Hardcover - January 27, 2004)
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