Biography of Ariel Dorfman

Born in Buenos Aires on May 6, 1942, Ariel Dorfman is an Argentine-Chilean-American novelist, playwright, essayist, academic, and human rights activist. He is the author of numerous works of fiction, plays, poems, and essays in both Spanish and English.

Shortly after his birth, Dorfman’s father, a prominent Argentine professor of economics, moved the family to the United States, and then to Chile in 1954. Dorfman attended the University of Chile, where he later worked as a professor. In 1966, he married Angélica Malinarich, and in 1967, he became a Chilean citizen.

From 1968 to 1969, Dorfman attended graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley, and then he returned to Chile, where he served as cultural advisor to president Salvador Allende from 1970 to 1973. As a vocal supporter of Allende, Dorfman was forced into exile after army chief Augusto Pinochet’s 1973 military coup. Dorfman subsequently lived in Paris, Amsterdam, and Washington, D.C.

Since 1985, Dorfman has taught at Duke University, where he is currently the Walter Hines Page Research Professor of Literature and a Professor of Latin American Studies. After the restoration of democracy to Chile in 1990, Dorfman and his family began dividing their time between Santiago and the United States.

Dorfman’s books include the novels Hard Rain, Windows, The Last Song of Manuel Sendero, Mascara, Konfidenz, and The Burning City (written with his youngest son Joaquin); the story collection My House is on Fire; nonfiction books How to Read Donald Duck, The Empire’s Old Clothes, Some Write to the Future, and Other Septembers, Many Americas; and the poetry collection Last Waltz in Santiago. His plays include Death and the Maiden (which won the Oliver Award for Best Play and was made into a feature film by Roman Polanski), Widows (with Tony Kushner) and Reader. Considered by many to be an essential part of the Latin American literary canon, Dorfman's work often focuses on themes of human rights, exile and displacement, and the role of the arts in our understanding of the world and our struggles to change it.  

Study Guides on Works by Ariel Dorfman