Click here to read the story in its entirety on The New Yorker webpage. Ariel Dorfman's "The Gospel According to García" was originally published in the November 2, 2015 issue of The New Yorker.

November 2, 2015Though I’ve heard of Ariel Dorfman, the Chilean (by way of Argentina) American novelist and playwright, I’ve never read his work or watched a performance of one of his plays (or Roman Polanski’s 1994 film adaptation of Death and the Maiden). I have little, then, to say to introduce this prolific author, and welcome those of you familiar with his work to tell us about it in the comments below.

If, like me, you know almost to absolutely nothing about Dorfman, still don’t hesitate to leave your thoughts about this week’s story below. I look forward to the discussion!


Here to start it off is Adrienne!

I do not like stories that have a moral as their purpose, that have a message as their medium, that have a point that may be categorized as political. I like stories that let me find my own joy or sorrow in the plot and characters.

Ariel Dorfman has written a piece that feels like I am to read it for homework and come into class prepared to discuss the themes and how they apply to our lives, here and now. I felt 16 again, anxious to get it “right,” get my A, and feel a bit intellectual in the process.

Which is to say “kudos!” to Mr. Dorfman. The first person narrator is plural. We are supposed to feel part of a nameless, faceless group of students, feeling intellectual and wise, and unsure when a new teacher takes the place of  the beloved. We feel their uneasiness; we feel our own mind dart in and out of old thought patterns and new ideas. They do not know what has happened to the man that could lead them, nor do we. We just sit and watch and wait, as they do, to see what the new teacher can pull from the group.

There is great symbolism (the title, for instance) and deep philosophical questions (“Why is indifference worse than murder?“). There are fantastic images (“with a bird in a nearby tree watching the snow cover his body”) and the length is perfect for its politics (5 pages when I printed it up).

But I love the connection with one or two characters — I don’t care about how the group feels. A group is made of individuals, but even here that is cleaned and refined by García. He claims to have taught them to rebel, but here they sit, unsure of what that rebellion should look like to their former instructor, not to themselves.

I like the examination of the individual and the only place I found it here was: “. . . he was not disappointed when somebody asked, this time I am sure it was not me, ‘Does that mean we should never love intensely, give ourselves entirely to another human being?'” This was in response to García’s comment: “Remember that he who loves more in a relationship always ends up screwed.” We see the one narrator speaking for all. And we see that García is not just the “resistance leader of the week” — we see that somehow, his heart was broken. And that is not politics.

It is well-written and conveyed with great skill. It just isn’t my cup of tea. The brush strokes paint a beautiful nose, but I prefer teeth.

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By |2015-10-26T16:34:33+00:00October 26th, 2015|Categories: Ariel Dorfman, Book Reviews, New Yorker Fiction|4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Archer October 29, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    I haven’t read this story yet, but I noticed that the author Q&A was posted by a name I didn’t recognize. I’m under the impression that the story’s editor usually conducts the interview, so I wonder if there’s been some kind of editorial shake-up. I believe this is Dorfman’s first piece for the magazine too. I, for one, would welcome some new energy in the NYer fiction department.

    Also, off-topic, but I found this interesting: In the current issue of the magazine, James Wood reviewed Lauren Groff’s highly acclaimed novel, FATES & FURIES. He praised aspects of the book, but it’s ultimately not a positive critique. The publisher then quoted one laudatory passage on Twitter (I personally hate it when portions of negative reviews are blurbed; I find it highly misleading), which was then retweeted by Groff herself, who said that being taken seriously by Wood was a highlight of her life, though she hasn’t brought herself to read the piece.

    To me, the whole thing is kind of bizarre. I mean, has anyone informed Groff that Wood not only essentially pans her novel, but also spoils the entire plot? On top of that, she’s a contributor to the magazine! Wood actually doesn’t often review writers who publish fiction in TNY, let alone negatively, so it’s a situation I would imagine is ripe for a bit of awkwardness.

  2. Sean H November 4, 2015 at 10:01 pm

    To respond to Archer, Groff seems like kind of an idiot and a wannabe with this latest best seller a very slightly more literary version of Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train. I’ve had my issues with Wood over the years but he essentially dismantles her book and calls her a hack.
    As for Dorfman, he occupies an interesting place in the contemporary canon and kind of has fallen into the cracks a bit. This one is a bit didactic (almost like the magazine, in response to the latest Franzen piece about “New Yorker fiction”, is going out of their way to publish something as un-New Yorkery as possible). This is straight up lesson-teaching of a rather dated and left wing South American stripe. I mean, it’s right of the Paolo Freire playbook and seems like something that could’ve been written in the 1980s. I don’t know if it’s an intentional throwback or just simple and sophomoric and tres Chilean/Argentinian paranoia for the Dirty War set. If the best thing I can say for a story is praise its brevity, it ain’t all that good.
    Polanski’s Death and the Maiden is worth seeing (if not one of the director’s four-star classics), that I can vouch for.

  3. Greg November 8, 2015 at 10:37 am

    Thanks Adrienne and Sean for helping me digest this political fiction. You have provided me with perspective and context.

  4. Ken December 20, 2015 at 5:40 am

    I would agree that the ideas here about power/silence/discourse are not new yet I thought it effectively conveyed as a group monologue and taut, dramatic, riveting. I also was pleased to read something in the New Yorker that was not a fairy tale and not typically New Yorkerish either. I think its brevity is more than a relief, but fitting to the story’s content. At this length, I found it very satisfying.

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