Trevor

a blog so you can keep with him

SBR 1: Death and the Maiden

Death and the Maiden begins my Spring Break Reading personal challenge of finishing a book a day, and writing a short piece about it to go on here.

Death and the Maiden, by Ariel Dorfman, is, to start with, part of my assigned reading over the break for my class “Literature and the Cultural Politics of Democracy in Chile and Brazil”. The play is set in an unnamed country (though presumably Chile) during a transition out of a long period of military dictatorship (in Chile, Augusto Pinochet) towards the first democratically elected president (Patricio Aylwin) in decades. The president has pushed for a commission to produce a report (the Rettig Report) “to investigate human rights violations that ended in death or the presumption of death”. There are three characters – a judge, Gerardo, assigned to the commission, his wife Paulina, who experienced kidnapping, torture, and rape under the regime (none of which fall under the domain of the commission), and Roberto, a doctor who is potentially the primary rapist and torturer of Paulina. The play follows an intense night and day the three share, with several unnerving turns.

I think there is much to compare and discuss here in relation to the other work of Dorfman’s we’re working with, Widows. Both are concerned with gaps, silences, and truth under dictatorship. The fortunate step Death and the Maiden is able to take Widows never can is to present all of its characters – there is a distinction Dorfman’s work makes between disappearance and torture, and the memories and tensions that these acts produce.

I’m sorry that these comments are fairly brief and initial. But hey, when you’re reading 9 books and trying to relax, developing an essay doesn’t sound like the most exciting thing, sorry. Next up on the list is my other reading for LCPD, Luz Arce’s The Inferno, which is already raising difficult questions for me.

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Filed under: Books, Evergreen

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