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Feeding on Dreams: Confessions of an Unrepentant Exile Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 27, 2011

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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.


"A compelling, profound portrait of shattered expectations and transformation . . . A work to savor for its remarkable moments and extraordinary language." -- Boston Globe

"A beautifully crafted, searing memoir . . . A somber, moving tribute to a life of ideals and struggle."  -- Kirkus Reviews

"Gorgeously evokes his lifelong search for home, country, and belonging."  -- Publishers Weekly

"A multi-faceted journey that is geographical, personal and political . . . A complex, nuanced view of United States-Latin American politics and relations of the last 40 some years." -- Durham Herald-Sun


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (September 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547549466
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,665,977 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on September 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Subtitled "Confessions of an Unrepentant Exile", the author is internationally acclaimed for a wide variety of works of poetry, fiction and nonfiction. He's from Chile and loves his country with fervor. However, he and his wife fled in 1973 when the military took over the country and he has lived in various stages of exile ever since. This book is the story of his exile and even though he has won acclaim for this writings throughout the decades, he is always mourning his country and for the life that could have been. Along the way, his two sons were born and they moved with their parents from country to country in search of a home.

Life was and still is a struggle for Mr. Dorfman in spite of the fact that he has won international acclaim for his writings. He is now a citizen of the United States and has had much success with his many works, including the award winning film entitled "Death and the Maiden" which was based on the politics of his country.

I found the book interesting and I learned more than I ever wanted to know about the world through his eyes. He describes it well and I learned about the horror that the dictator Pinochet brought to Chile in spite of the will of the people. I also learned about life in exile and the longing for a country that changed in such negative ways. Mostly, I felt sorry for the author and his family.

This is a worthwhile book that came straight from the heart. As I was not acquainted with the politics however, I found I had to put some effort into following them. However, there was no problem in understanding this man's dispossession from his homeland and angst at the changes he lived though. He now seems to have come to terms with his life but his sadness about the situation in Chile will likely never leave him.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Loves the View VINE VOICE on August 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Ariel Dorfman is of the third generation in his father's family to live a life of exile. His grandparents fled Russia and Eastern Europe at the dawn of WWI for Argentina. His father eventually came to the US where, as a McCarthy era target, he fled to Chile. Ariel who was fully immersed in English and American culture was 12 at the time, but as he grew more in Chile he embraced the country. He supported Salvador Allende and worked for his government which meant exile for him in 1973. This book is a story of the events, emotions and insights of an exile - thoughts on the cause, the grief, art, activism, healing/forgiveness, "survivors' guilt" and guilt for exile's impact on the family.

It seems that several lifetimes of experience pour out from these pages. There are so many aspects to fleeing a country with the need for food, shelter and a legitimate passport being the basic. Then there are the ever present emotional needs for roots and belonging for self and family. Dorfman explains how he managed to keep his family afloat, assisted by other activists and artists. Security, other than a return to his parents (which was possible), was elusive in the early years of exile.

Going back to Chile brings up emotions. He cannot enjoy a symphony with someone responsible for the deaths/torture of so many sitting inches away. He connects with the woman who saved his life who dared not tell her rightist family until she was near death. After more than 10 years of democracy, he finds the once expressive Chileans to still be too wary to venture opinions either verbally or through facial expression. Old friends and colleagues are not all embracing.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Evie Getchell TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Death had violently entered my life forever on September 11, 1973, the day of the military takeover."

September 11, 1973 was the day Ariel Dorfman - writer, intellectual, human rights and political activist, escaped the carnage of the military coup that ended democracy and the peaceful revolution in his beloved country of Chile; that took the life of the adored President Salvador Allende of whom he was an ardent and passionate supporter; that forced Ariel Dorfman into exile against his will. Feeding on Dreams: Confessions of an Unrepentant Exile is his provocative and deeply profound memoir of those long and desperate decades of exile.

Dorfman describes his many tumultuous years of political exile and migration in a most human way. His story is unpretentious, prosaic and every bit as informative as it is emotionally involving. This may well be the most powerful, page-turning memoir I have ever read.

Dorfman speaks boldly of the "malignant Latin American laboratory I had escaped," of the sobering experience "to see the shock therapy executed in Chile being applied on the vaster scale of the United States: the same formulas of the Chicago boys and Milton Friedman and other ideologues who had been Pinochet's neoliberal gurus, the same dismantling of the welfare state and safety nets for the poor, the same tax policies favoring the rich..." "Although at least the American and British people were spared, as we Chileans were not, the accompanying horrors of dictatorship.
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