Reflections of familiar challenges and issues

THIS is another informative, quality book focusing on the deep south of the world.

The author, Ariel Dorfman, a political operator originally from Chile, links his mother country and South Africa in his writing.

He writes that on his first visit to South Africa he had a revelation that grew into this assemblage, Writing the Deep South.

He writes: "Outside the fence, on a no-man's land overgrown with weeds and wild flowers and rank with floating remnants of garbage, a group of jobless South African males, all black, had improvised a small blaze. They were heating their hands up, laughing, passing along a bottle, not looking at the nearby street chock-full of trendy new cars."

Dorfman chronicles his life and understanding of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission both in South Africa after apartheid and military dictatorship in Chile under despot Augusto Pinochet.

In Writing the Deep South Dorfman has brought together a personal selection of his widely read texts from past decades that are of particular significance to South Africans.

In these pieces, he reflects on familiar challenges and issues such as terror and peace, bilingualism and globalisation, compassion and war, torture, fear and dignity in the aftermath of 9/11, civilisation and barbarism, and the necessity and insufficiency of truth commissions.

He draws from Latin Americans such as Che Guevara and Gabriel Marquez, who have exceptional messages for South Africans. He refers to Guevara in the following lines...

"Like the Che Guevara wolf of my story, I was on the run. Like him, blood was streaming down my body. Like him, in the first two places we tried, we turned away. But this was not Bolivia and I was no Che Guevara.

"Santiago was my city, the city I had made mine."

Dorfman's 2010 Nelson Mandela lecture and reflections on what it will mean to say goodbye to Mandela are also included in the book. Writing the Deep South holds up multiple mirrors for South Africa and the rest of the world, allowing a welcome reflective space for the pressing issues of language, identity, renewed struggle and integrity.

The author pays tribute to Barney Simon and his contribution to theatre in South Africa. He writes: "One more thing I need to tell you: I still can't believe you're not around.

"Even now, when I've got a problem or an idea or project, I find my hand reaching for the phone and then I realise that you won't answer, there, on the other side of the line; I realise that I'm going to have to figure this one out by myself."

The foreword to the book is written by renown author and political activist Achmat Dangor.

Dorfman is the author of numerous works of fiction, plays, poems and essays in both Spanish and English.

His books have been translated into more than forty languages and his plays have been staged in more than 100 countries.