Monthly Archives: March 2012

Our Exile. A Chilean Memoir of Dislocation

I met Ariel Dorfman in Santiago Chile in September 1972. I and my then partner, David Kunzle, had to prove that we were trustworthy and not working for the CIA. There were already indications that a coup, supported by the U.S. was brewing to overthrow the first democratically elected socialist government in the hemisphere. We didn’t know how brutal it would be. We didn’t know it would direct and change the course of our lives. We didn’t know how profoundly it would affect world history and conscience.

Very reluctantly, Ariel went into exile after the coup. Feeding on Dreams is his most extraordinary memoir of those terrible years. It is a story of exile itself. And so it is our exile. Not only his, and Chile’s and mine, but yours, and so ours. Our exile. The circumstances and powers that led to that terrible coup were not confined to Chile or to the 20th century but continue to thrust all our souls into exile and to insist that we live in profound disconnection from land, values, community, from all that matters.

In 1972, Ariel didn’t know that we would see each other again. We didn’t know we would become brother and sister. And I couldn’t have predicted that 40 years later, I would have the deep honor of writing this essay in response to one of the finest memoirs of our time, written by one of our finest writers, a man of great heart and wisdom even in the face of terrors.

“The twentieth century of exile and displacement bleeds into the twenty-first century. Great waves of despair, huge surges of people fleeing toward uncertain safety accompany innumerable individual losses of land, country, language, and culture. Increasingly, we are a world of displaced persons, refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, immigrants, and exiles. Alongside us, invisible animals, birds, and other creatures seek habitat and food as they are equally crowded out, hunted down, unable to adapt to the sudden and increasing changes in their environment. The very nature of their lives, and so their nature itself, is distorted—no differently than the lives of human beings. There are increasing numbers of citizens of nowhere and no place, and such diasporas add to our forgetting that land and place, country and territory, are essential to the stability and sanity of human beings.

Ariel Dorfman is one of our era’s many citizens of nowhere, and Feeding on Dreams is the story of his exile from Chile. It is the story of the recreation of a self under the pressures of dire loss and ongoing efforts to support, maintain, and protect those left behind. It is also the story and examination of exile itself in a time when such a state of disconnection and dissociation is commonplace….” Our Exile: A Chilean Memoir of Dislocation

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