Hailed by Salman Rushdie as "one of the most important voices coming out of Latin America," the best-selling author and human rights activist Ariel Dorfman delivers a memoir excavating for the first time his profound and provocative journey as an exile.
In September 1973, the military took power in Chile, and Ariel Dorfman, allied to deposed president Salvadore Allende, was forced to flee for his life. Feeding on Dreams is the story of the transformative decades of exile that followed. Dorfman portrays, through visceral scenes and powerful intellect, the personal and political maelstroms underlying his migrations from Buenos Aires, on the run from Pinochet’s death squads, to safe houses in Paris and Amsterdam, and eventually to America, his childhood home. And then, seventeen years after he was forced to leave, there is a yearned-for return to Chile, with an unimaginable outcome. The toll on Dorfman’s wife and two sons, the "earthquake of language" that is bilingualism, and his eventual questioning of his allegiance to past and party—all these crucibles of a life in exile are revealed with wry and startling honesty.
Feeding on Dreams is a passionate reminder that "we are all exiles," that we are all "threatened with annihilation if we do not find and celebrate the refuge of common humanity," as Dorfman did during his "decades of loss and resurrection."
Feeding on Dreams--An Amazon Exclusive Essay
By Ariel Dorfman
It was in a miserable hotel in Paris, just before dawn, many years ago, that this book had its origins. I was sitting on the seat of a toilet under a light bulb that hung from the ceiling like a hangman’s noose, a typewriter was on my knees. I began to type like a man possessed, hoping I would not awaken my wife and child in the next room nor any of the many migrants in that degraded place, and yet determined to seek out the meaning of the defeat of the revolution in my country, Chile, that had foundered and been destroyed by a military coup, and to pour out the sorrow of my exile from it. But only a flood of recriminations and despair guttered out and I forced myself to stop. I did not want to add to the tragedy we were living unless I could offer some glimmer of hope, unless I was able to express a truth that was at that point in my existence, quite simply unspeakable. The silence I lapsed into lasted two more years, the worst of my life.
Feeding on Dreams is the story of that desolation and how I managed to survive it, keeping my dignity and even my sense of humor intact, all that I learned from that experience. Lessons about myself and the world, as I wandered from city to city, Buenos Aires and Paris, Amsterdam and Washington, and finally, ten years later, back to Santiago, where the dictatorship awaited me with all its terror and temptations and eventually a new banishment. It is the story of how my family, especially the love of my life, paid the price for my need to struggle, my need to keep my promise to the dead and those left behind, a story of the redemption of love. It is the story of how I lived through betrayals and nurtured myself with solidarity. It is the story of how exile drastically altered me , made me into somebody different, perhaps better. It is the story of how difficult reconciliation is and how necessary, how close and how far I was from the enemy I was trying to vanquish, how my own flaws and imperfections and fears could not be left out of any narration of what was happening to us, to our wounded contemporary humanity. It is the story of the two adulterous languages that dwell in my throat, my English and my Spanish, and why I ended up in the United Sates where I had been brought up as a child and that, nevertheless, was an accomplice of the military takeover that ruined my life and that of so many others.
And yet, this memoir really begins in that bathroom in Paris. It is informed by the same commitment to telling the truth that possessed me back then, no matter how merciless and searing that truth might be, even if I am now the subject, the one who must be exposed to the gaze and compassion and curiosity of others. When I ultimately emerged from the earthquake of that experience, I began to write myself back home, began to write a home for myself in the literature I was blessed to inhabit. I wrote novels like Widows and plays like Death and the Maiden and articles for papers like The New York Times and poems that inspired Sting and helped me reach out to the world, but I shied away, all that time, from focusing on myself, what that journey had done to me and those I loved, I was not wiling yet to explore how I dealt with a failed revolution and a long process of exile and despotism, how the transition to democracy – like so many being lived through across the globe – was full of pitfalls and duplicity and yet blazing with hope and justice and beauty.
In a strange sense, my drive to keep writing has remained just as it was in that hotel in Paris, I am still flooding the world with my secrets. Except that now I have company in those who read me and in those who struggle in countries of recent rebellion and nascent democracy that inspire the globe today. Now I am not by myself in that dawn that I have done my best to share with readers perhaps ready to travel with me as I again feed on dreams and confess that, no, I do not repent, that this story is no longer, and really never was, mine alone.