Ariel Dorfman: An Aesthetics of Hope


Ariel Dorfman: An Aesthetics of Hope
Sophia A. McClennen
2010, Duke University Press
408 pages

THE RISK of compiling a reader that seeks to introduce the works of a living intellectual is that this individual will not necessarily be recognised by others as the towering thinker and social critic that the author believes he or she is. In this battle of global recognition, there are clearly candidates who emerge as worthy of such singular attention in Latin America: Enrique Dussel and Heinz Dieterich to offer but two, both exemplifying how influence in this region in particular is defined by a public intellectual’s ability to step outside of it and postulate about other parts of the world. Ariel Dorfman, the subject of Sophia McClennen’s critical overview, has also emerged in recent years as such a candidate, although one sometimes wonders to what extent this is justified and has been propelled by the high profile he has nurtured in the US, a country he was once wont to criticise. Dorfman has certainly had a rich and varied career, and has rubbed shoulders with all the necessary characters to burnish his progressive credentials, but then again his oeuvre reflects a constant and shifting pursuit of recognition itself – whether it be as cultural critic or as novelist and poet – as opposed to a dedicated expression of one discipline. Polymath he may be, but it is instructive that McClennen’s exercise is in itself an effort to discern what it is, exactly, that this prolific writer should come to represent and hence be remembered for. The author decides that it is an “aesthetic of hope”, whereby art can be seen as vital to our understanding of the world and our struggles to change it. She has sketched a valuable profile of the man and his work, and this title is not without merit and will be a worthwhile addition to most collections on Latin American culture and literary criticism. – GO’T

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