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Heading South, Looking North: A Bilingual Journey

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  240 ratings  ·  24 reviews
In this remarkable memoir, Dorfman describes an extraordinary life, torn between the United States, South America, and his Jewish heritage, between English and Spanish, between revolution and repression. Interwoven with the story of how Dorfman switched languages and countries--not once, but three times--is a day-to-day account of his multiple escapes from death during Pin ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published May 1st 1999 by Penguin Books (first published April 1st 1998)
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3.77  · 
Rating details
 ·  240 ratings  ·  24 reviews

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Mar 30, 2015 rated it liked it
I found myself putting this book on a new shelf in my mind (I should make a virtual one too) of highly respected authors that fall short with a particular book. In that list I would include this book, Rushdie's "The Jaguar Smile," and Teju Cole's "Every Day is for the Thief." All three books were tarnished with the brush of what I call class unconsciousness, by men who have settled into the armchair of the elite--whilst they try to write with sympathy and thinly veiled self aggrandizement, about ...more
Jun 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Beautifully written. I can't imagine not being impressed with the way that he writes. His contemplation on language would have been enough to hold my interest but his life has been fascinating and the way he chronicles the decisions he has made provides me with helpful analysis about what i do/do not accept and perpetuate in my own life. I think it is one of the best books i've ever read.
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017, 2016, memoir-ish
I really really enjoyed this book. The way the stories came together and the use of language as inherent in and a counterpoint to politics was fascinating. A joy 2 read. I regret it took me so long after it was first assigned to finish it, but I'm glad that I did.
Mish Middelmann
Dec 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Inspiring and sobering in equal measure, this memoir of a revolutionary is written with flair and panache without ever losing its deeply introspective essence. The book covers his birth in Argentina, childhood in the USA and then young adulthood supporting the Allende revolution in Chile right through to its tragic end. He also includes deep reflection developed over many years of wondering - beyond blaming the usual culprits - what went wrong with the Chilean revolution.

Most exciting for me is
Jun 01, 2012 rated it it was ok
A despeito de o autor ter sido testemunha de um dos eventos mais importantes da história latino-americana no século XX — o golpe que derrubou o governo de Salvador Allende —, a narrativa desses eventos é obscurecida por uma reflexão, quase sempre narcísica, da transumância do autor entre o espanhol e o inglês e entre a cultura latino-americana e a cultura norte-americana. A estrutura narrativa sofisticada é corroída por pensamentos banais e pelo gemido de um pequeno burguês divido em suas fideli ...more
John Benson
Jan 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This beautifully written memoir of Ariel Dorfman's early life is divided between chapters that surround the takeover of Salvador Allende's government by Augusto Pinochet in Chile, a government that Dorfman was part of, and chapters about his childhood and early adulthood in the US and Chile. In these chapters, he explores the differing roles Spanish and English played in his life and how at different times, he both rejected and embraced each one. It is a very thoughtful and wonderfully written b ...more
Mike Lemon
Sep 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
An interesting look into how language becomes part of identity. Dorfman works through both Spanish and English, and the changes are reflected in the way the novel reads. At times, the prose is very straight foward, dare I say, American. Other times, the sentences flow metaphorically, weaving in ideas similar to the way Marquez writes. The structure of the novels allows me to see the struggle Dorfman has in bringing to terms not only two languages, but the cultures tied to them.
An excellent read
Mar 26, 2009 rated it it was ok
an introduction to the perversions of the Pinochet regime and food for thought as one travels in another language, but this guy is so utterly full of himself it's a bit hard to take
Susan Chow-Dukhan
Feb 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
Vladimiro/Edward/Ariel Dorfman led an extraordinary life, living in Argentina, Chile and the United States, trying to determine where he belonged. At different points in his life, language, books, music, relationships and even his name, changed based on his perception of who he was.
The timeline in most chapters of this autobiography changes constantly, as he constantly refers to events/encounters that happens in the past, or in the future. This makes for difficult reading, as the reader has to m
Maurizio Manco
Oct 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"I miti non muoiono con la stessa facilità degli uomini." (p. 54)
Nov 08, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this memoir, another one Id like to teach in my Jewish memoir class. Id never read anyone other than Neruda from Chile, it was a fascinating introduction to the Allende government. I like this quote, it would be great to bring it up in a class on censorship, don quixote, the holocaust, or master and margarita. "That night, at our friend Catalina's apartment, my hostess switches on the television and one of the news items is the burning of books in the center of Santiago. Forty y ...more
Andy Oram
May 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics, history
I was moved by this tale of identity formation and acclimation to new lands and cultures, beautifully written (although with some repetition). This book is hard to categorize, though, and the focus on language as a unifying thread seems somewhat arbitrary. Still, there is plenty to enjoy about growing up, about experiencing important events in history, and Dorfman's sensitivity to trends in several nations.
Dec 03, 2010 rated it it was ok
This could have been a great book. There appears to be enough material in Dorfman's family history and his own experiences to inspire a much better organized effort than this one. He can't decide whether to be a poet or prose writer and the book really suffers from a lack of direction. Some of it is brilliant but mostly it's just disjointed.
Jun 05, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: someone interested in linguistics or Latin American history
This book was a slow read for me, but very interesting. It follows Ariel Dorfman's linguistic and physical travels from an early age. Dorfman writes in a compelling, if long-winded, manner about his inner struggle with what it means to be American and South American at the same time.
N Kalyan
Apr 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Ariel Dorfman is forced to choose between English and Spanish several times in his life, and each time his choice is political. How and why does an Indian choose his or her language? And what is the political import of this choice? This book makes you think about such questions.
Mary Ann Saurino
Jul 10, 2008 rated it liked it
Eloquent writing--a fascinating story telling of the parallels of bilingualism and exile--but I needed to know much more political history of Latin America in order to really appreciate and understand this book!
Jul 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Really interesting account of what it is like to live with two languages and two cultures and never feel like you fit in either. But, this man also lived an incredibly interesting life in Chile during the Allende/Pinochete era and I learned quite a bit about Chile.
Jul 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Not only an interesting autobiography and chronicle of exile, Dorfman gets to the heart of what it means to be bilingual and bicultural.
May 14, 2010 rated it liked it
Dorfman's experiences before and during his many exiles are fascinating from a historical and psychological point of view, but his flat style was less than engaging.
Feb 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Dorfman switches back and forth between his childhood in the US, his university years in Chile, and during/after the Allende presidency.
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Sep 06, 2012
Stan Karas
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Mar 02, 2014
Jordan Stier
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May 17, 2015
Nick Arrivo
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Feb 05, 2013
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Mar 15, 2013
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Mar 29, 2015
Holly Robbins
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Jul 08, 2012
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Vladimiro Ariel Dorfman is an Argentine-Chilean novelist, playwright, essayist, academic, and human rights activist. A citizen of the United States since 2004, he has been a professor of literature and Latin American Studies at Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina since 1985.

“She was not willing to let others narrate her life and her death. While there is one person like her in this world, I will find myself defending both her right to struggle and our obligation to remember.” 5 likes
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