Wednesday, January 04, 2006

MLA, Ariel Dorfman, and "The Role of the Intellectual in the 21st Century"

V went to a talk at MLA on the role of the intellectual in the 21st century. When Ariel Dorfman was about to speak he apparently got up and said the thing the Eng profs love to hear, "I don't have my paper." Then he went on to explain why.

I'll have to ask V to recount it in writing but the gist of it is that Ariel Dorfman arrived in Miami, FL from Venezuala with a hand-written paper. (His laptop battery died.) Homeland Security took him aside, confiscated his paper, and 2 officers questioned him about it. "Tell us," they said, "in twenty-one words or less (they should have said fewer but i know they said less) what the role of the intellectual in the 21st century is." Dorfman replied, "The role of the intellectual is to resist the inevitable catastrophe."

They said, "Good answer. But it won't get you your paper back."

He won't get his paper back for five years.

It was a fiction. From Susan Hollis Merrit on (Talk Left)

It was a brilliant "invention" that most people in the audience believed had actually happened, though it was a fiction. Knowing his work and his background (his parents emigrated for political reasons from the United States to Chile and, after 9/11 (1973) in Chile, back to the United States, I had thought it probably was a fiction, but I really was also not entirely sure. He told me afterward that over "37" people had asked him whether it had indeed happened. The possibility that it had happened as he said was plausible in many audience members' imagininations.


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