Ariel Dorfman Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

International exile is the condition that shapes the life and work of Ariel Dorfman, the writer born Vladimiro Dorfman who survived the political upheavals of the twentieth century. His father, Adolfo Dorfman, was born in 1907 in Odessa to a well-to-do Jewish family who emigrated to Buenos Aires in 1909 to escape creditors. The writer’s mother, Fanny Zelicovich Vaisman, was born in 1909 in Kishinev, where her grandfather had been murdered in the pogrom of 1903. The family emigrated to Argentina when Fanny was three months old.{$S[A]Dorfman, Vladimiro;Dorfman, Ariel}

Always leftist and rebellious, Adolfo had joined the Communist Party by the early 1930’s, and when his only son was born in 1942, he named him Vladimiro, after Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. A year later, a military coup toppled the Argentine government and brought Juan Perón to power. When the military commanders took over the Universidad de la Plata, where Adolfo taught, he resigned after submitting a scathing letter denouncing the Peronistas’ repression and ignorance. Adolfo fled to the United States, and in February, 1945, his wife, daughter, and son joined him in New York. There, the young Vladimiro caught pneumonia and was surrounded in the hospital by English speakers. On his release three weeks later, he refused to speak any language but English.

The year 1945 produced another trauma. His mother, depressed by the difficult circumstances of life, was overwhelmed by the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in April and broke down completely. His father placed her in an institution and his children in a foster home. The Dorfman family was reunited on her release. Adolfo worked at the United Nations in the...

(The entire section is 692 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Ariel Dorfman might be described as a multinational, or as someone in search of a country. His parents emigrated to Argentina to avoid the persecution of Jewish people in Ukraine (in the case of his father, Adolfo), and in the region of Romania/Russia/Moldavia (in the case of his mother, Fanny). Dorfman was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on May 6, 1942. From this time forward, through most of his life, Dorfman has been “moving” from one country to another. Indeed, his name reflects this shifting cultural identification: At birth, he was named Vladimiro by his father as a tribute to Vladimir Ilich Lenin. Dorfman later shed that name in favor of Edward, wanting to be associated with the United States. When he became disillusioned with the United States, he chose to associate himself with South America by using his middle name, Ariel, given him by his mother. She took the name from a work by Uruguayan writer José Enrique Rodó, who contrasted North and South America through two characters from William Shakespeare’s The Tempest: the earth-bound, materialistic creature Caliban, and the airy, spiritual Ariel.

In 1945, when Dorfman was just three years old, his family fled the oppressive regime in Argentina and emigrated once more, to the United States. His father, who had become a prominent economist and the author of an important book on the industrial economy of Argentina, became a diplomat with the United Nations in New York. The McCarthy...

(The entire section is 432 words.)


(Drama for Students)

Playwright, essayist, novelist, poet, and short story writer Ariel Dorfman was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on May 6, 1942, the son of an...

(The entire section is 481 words.)