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Death and the Maiden by Ariel Dorfman

Death and the Maiden: Tie-In Edition (Plays, Penguin)Book #16: Ariel Dorfman, Death and the Maiden
Country: Chile

This play is set during a very specific time: Chile has just rid itself of Pinochet as dictator (though he is still powerful in the government) and is transitioning to a democracy. The new government has created a commission to investigate the human rights violations that occurred under the previous regime; its goal is to record the stories of the victims, but it does not plan to punish the oppressors. In the midst of this context are three characters: Gerardo, a recently appointed member of the commission; Paulina, his wife; and Roberto, a seemingly random stranger who helps Gerardo fix a flat tire. However, when Paulina meets Roberto, she immediately recognizes him as one of the men who raped and tortured her while she was a political prisoner 15 years ago. The ensuing events pose difficult questions about the nature of truth and justice.

This is a very short work with a very big impact. It definitely kept me riveted and anxious to find out what would happen next. There are many significant questions raised, and in the end almost none of them are answered. Yet, in my opinion, these ambiguities are what make the play so powerful. The three characters are very intriguing and complex, and it seems that none of them can be taken at their face value. I would strongly recommend this play; while it is a very quick read, it is also extremely intense and thought-provoking.