Ariel Dorfman, a Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Literature at Duke, is the author of the play Death and the Maiden and of the forthcoming children’s story The Rabbits’ Rebellion and a novel, Cautivos, about Cervantes’s life in a jail in Seville. (November 2019)


The Liar’s Truth

Enric Marco, a Catalan who falsely claimed to have been imprisoned at the Flossenbürg concentration camp during World War II, Barcelona, 2005

The Impostor: A True Story

by Javier Cercas, translated from the Spanish by Frank Wynne

Spaniards in Mauthausen: Representations of a Nazi Concentration Camp, 1940–2015

by Sara J. Brenneis
On May 5, 2005, Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero journeyed to Mauthausen, a small Austrian town picturesquely situated on the Danube. A solemn task awaited him: commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp on the hill above the town where, over the course …

Who Killed Colombia?

Juan Gabriel Vásquez, Bogotá, Colombia, 2009

The Shape of the Ruins

by Juan Gabriel Vásquez, translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean
“At what precise moment had Perú fucked itself up?” (“En qué momento se había jodido el Perú?”) That is the question that Zavalita, the protagonist of Mario Vargas Llosa’s Conversation in the Cathedral (1969), asks himself at the beginning of the novel. By using the verb joderse, Vargas Llosa is …

Chile: Now More Than Ever

Photographs of Chileans who were executed under Pinochet’s military dictatorship, at the Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Santiago, which opened in 2010
A museum dedicated to memory and human rights was on nobody’s agenda when the Chilean people managed, after almost seventeen years of dictatorship, to restore democracy to their country in 1990. More urgent tasks awaited. A military government led by General Augusto Pinochet had ruled Chile since the democratically elected …


Rulfo: Immortal Scribe of the Dead

Juan Rulfo in 1985

Against the grain of the baroque, overwrought style that had seemed to define Latin American literature, each word of Juan Rulfo’s fiction emerges as if extracted from the soil, leaving readers to apprehend what is held back, to divine the vast unspoken world of extinction, the final silence that awaits us all. Without Rulfo’s groundbreaking work, which blended the regional realism and social critique then in vogue with high-modernist experimentation, it is hard to imagine that Gabriel García Márquez could have composed One Hundred Years of Solitude.

The Guilty Soul of Pope Francis

Catholics protesting in Osorno, Chile, on January 4, 2018, against Bishop Juan Barros, who was appointed in 2015 by Pope Francis despite accusations of his having protected a pedophile priest

As a bishop in Argentina, Francis was opposed to the country’s military dictatorship of the 1970s and 1980s, but he maintained a public silence on the terrors of the regime. Later, there were claims that he had collaborated with the military junta. Although the justice system investigated and found no evidence against him, those charges resurfaced once Francis was anointed as pope. The Vatican fervently dismissed the accusations as “slander”—the very word that Francis just used to defend Bishop Barros from accusations of protecting a child-abusing priest.

Walden on the Rocks

J.M.W. Turner: Wreckers—Coast of Northumberland, with a Steam-Boat Assisting a Ship off Shore, 1834

In October 1849, 140 Irish immigrants perished when the St. John, the ship upon which they had sailed to “the New World, as Columbus and the Pilgrims did,” crashed on the shores of Massachusetts during a huge storm. We would probably not even remember their fate were it not that their demise was registered, and then narrated, by none other than Henry David Thoreau. This year, which marks the bicentennial of his birth, has focused, rightly, on a life dedicated to nature in its multiple and luminous forms, and his ground-breaking call to civil disobedience. And yet, it is worth also turning our attention to the calamity he witnessed such a long time ago and that nevertheless feels so sadly contemporary, so vividly relevant.

Trump’s War on Knowledge

President Donald Trump looking at the solar eclipse without protective glasses, with his wife Melania and son Barron at the White House, Washington, D.C.,  August 21, 2017

There has always been a disturbing strand of anti-intellectualism in American life, but never has an occupant of the White House exhibited such a toxic mix of ignorance and mendacity, such lack of intellectual curiosity and disregard for rigorous analysis. “The experts are terrible,” Donald Trump said during his campaign. “Look at the mess we’re in with all these experts that we have.” It is hardly surprising, then, that his administration is over-stocked with know-nothing fundamentalists.