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Faculty Profile: Ariel Dorfman

Ariel Dorfman, Walter Hines Page Professor of Literature and Latin American Studies, was on sabbatical from Duke this year to focus on his writing, which he did in abundance. In September, the second volume of his memoirs, Feeding on Dreams: Confessions of an Unrepentant Exile, was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. He spent the fall giving readings in most of the U.S. major cities, as well as a reading in Duke’s Gothic Reading Room, which can still be viewed at Duke On Demand. He appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe and the Tavis Smiley show, and will be heard on NPR’s The Story. Excerpts from the memoir were published in Harper’s, Granta magazine, The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Nation.

In October, a revival of Dorfman’s play, “Death and the Maiden,” was honored as the first production of the newly named Harold Pinter Theatre in London’s West End. It starred Thandie Newton, Tom Goodman-Hill and Anthony Calf. Dorfman remembered his friend Pinter in an article, “How Harold Pinter’s kindness saved my play,” in the Daily Telegraph and also wrote, in the London Guardian, on what it meant to open the play twenty years after its first performance.

After leaving London, Dorfman attended the Spanish language premiere of this play “Purgatorio” at the Teatro Español de Madrid, starring Viggo Mortensen and Carme Elías. The acclaimed production sold out for its run through December 18th.

In the midst of his other projects, Dorfman found time to write several short stories, including “The Last Copy,” which was published in The Atlantic magazine’s fiction issue in July. He also contributed a story to McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern 38, “Where He Fell.” He wrote about his lost library in Chile for the Chronicle of Higher Education and about justice for torture victims on Other op-eds include “Ghosts of Chile” for the Los Angeles Times and “A Warning for Barack Obama” for All of these were also published in El País in Madrid and syndicated in many papers worldwide. His commemoration of the centenary of the birth of Matta, the great surrealist painter, was published in Spanish in several papers.

He also, for the first time, saw his books published in South Africa, where Writing the Deep South: the Mandela Lecture and Other Mirrors for South Africa (a collection of his articles and essays) appeared alongside a new edition of his first memoir, Heading South Looking North. He wrote special introductions to both of these books.

Earlier in the year, Dorfman gave the Commencement Address at the Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Penn., where he was awarded with an honorary doctorate degree.

Currently, Dorfman is working on a new novel of interlinked short stories tentatively called Karina’s Other Life, as well as on Naciketa, a musical epic andopera he wrote for the Scottish composer Nigel Osborne, slated for its world premiere in Mumbai in early 2013.