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Desert Memories: Journeys Through the Chilean North (Directions) Hardcover – January 27, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Prolific Chilean writer Dorfman and his wife, Anglica, travel north from Santiago, Chile, through the world's driest desert, the Atacama, an area where two millimeters of rain can cause a deadly mudslide. In recounting his journey "to the origins," Dorfman brings elements from his broad range as a writer. Dorfman the journalist weaves encyclopedic information into his text (e.g., facts on Monte Verde, possibly "the oldest settlement ever discovered in the Americas"), while Dorfman the poet gives color to the desert ("a dizzying array of browns and grays and terra-cottas") and vitality to places like Pampa Union, once "a town of brothels and bars, opium dens and gambling joints, a town only visited now by the whirlwinds and the shifting sands." As Anglica searches for truths about her family history, Dorfman the novelist unravels the labyrinthine tale along with her. The playwright, a keen listener, lets diverse others tell much of the tale, including a "gathering of elderly pampinos," novelist Hern n Rivera Letelier and archeologist Lautaro N£¤ez. Throughout the three-week trip, Dorfman the human rights activist foregrounds the figure of the desaparecido as he searches for "the disappeared body" of his friend Freddy Taberna. Archeology and astronomy, history and legend, intimate detail and public policy, relics from 50,000 years ago and mass graves from three decades ago are joined in this compelling trek. Readers whose baggage includes, as Dorfman's did at the beginning, "a deep-seated prejudice against deserts in general" will change their tune as they travel through this book, which entertains, informs and deeply engages. Map, 23 b&w photos.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
About the Author
Ariel Dorfman, the Chilean novelist, playwright, journalist, poet, and human rights activist was forced into exile form his homeland following the Chilean military coup of 1973. Since the restoration of democracy in 1990, he has divided his time between Santiago and the United States. Among his many works are the memoir Heading South, Looking North and the highly acclaimed play Death and the Maiden. His writings have won numerous awards, including the Sir Laurence Olivier Award for best play in London, 1992. He contributes regularly to major newspapers and magazines around the world. He is a distinguished professor at Duke University and lives with his wife Angélica, in Durham, North Carolina, and Santiago, Chile.
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Top customer reviews
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.