A Dutch billionaire and Holocaust survivor named Joseph Hortha hires writer "Ariel" to investigate Salvador Allende's mysterious death in the 1973 coup in Chile, in the hopes of discovering whether Allende committed suicide or was murdered. Dorfman takes us along a journey, from Washington, DC and New York City, to Santiago and Valparaâiso, and finally to London. While Joseph grapples with how he has made his fortune unwittingly destroying his beloved planet, Ariel is haunted by the fact that his absence at the coup led to the disappearance of his friend.
Feels like a valediction to a career that, until now, has been varied in its instruments but consistent in its vision ... In a novel filled with real-life figures and events, Hortha gradually begins to read as a tragicomic avatar of Dorfman’s own late-in-life struggle to reconcile ideas that don’t fit together comfortably but that he cannot abandon: a ghost let loose in a memoir ... He insists that the myth of Allende retains its utility, even in a world the man himself wouldn’t recognize.
Dorfman often juxtaposes the profound and petty ... The author also frequently combines emotional intensity and absurdity, mainly in the person of Hortha ... Does not transgress against Allende’s memory, beyond a line or two about his tendency to cheat on his wife — but that’s because it isn’t actually a book about Allende. Dorfman is less interested in writing about his hero than creating a portrait of hero worship, which shades gradually into an intricate examination of guilt and grief ... Its prose is brainy and confident, building momentum through the intensity of its ideas. Discussions run long; Ariel’s monologues run longer. As often happens in Roth’s work, the narrator’s intellectual life effectively crowds out the plot, complicated and intense though the plot may be.
A novel that strains to draw a metaphorical connection between Allende’s death and climate change ... While listening to Hortha yammer, Dorfman, the character, finds himself 'suppressing a yawn.' As I trudged through these hundreds of pages, I was unable to do the same.