In Case of Fire in a Foreign Land

New and Collected Poems from Two Languages

In Case of Fire in a Foreign Land

Book Pages: 176 Illustrations: Published: September 2002

Author: Ariel Dorfman

Translator: Edith Grossman

Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism, Poetry

In the world of Chilean poet Ariel Dorfman, men and women can be forced to choose between leaving their country or dying for it. The living risk losing everything, but what they hold onto—love, faith, hope, truth—might change the world. It is this subversive possibility that speaks through these poems. A succession of voices—exiles, activists, separated lovers, the families of those victimized by political violence—gives an account of ruptured safety. They bear witness to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of personal and social damage in the aftermath of terror. The first bilingual edition of Dorfman’s work, In Case of Fire in a Foreign Land includes ten new poems and a new preface, and brings back into print the classic poems of the celebrated Last Waltz in Santiago. Always an eloquent voice against the ravages of inhumanity, Dorfman’s poems, like his acclaimed novels, continue to be a searing testimony of hope in the midst of despair.


“[A] handbook of horror, interlaced as the book progresses with a poetic intelligence and a humanist grief that sings. . . . The facing-page presentation will give readers who are fluent in Spanish the delightful opportunity to enjoy Dorfman’s own linguistic rhythms; and Edith Grossman’s perceptive translations allow the beginner in Spanish, and even those with no Spanish, the chance to move back and forth across the page for an instructive experience of both languages, and a lesson in how the limitations of prosody can be over-ridden by a shared sensibility. . . . This is a timely book, stark and honest, a reminder that the wolves of terrorism are not confined to an area half a world away, but are rampant and still on the prowl in our own hemisphere. Every reader, of whatever political mind, can find evidence here for the perilous varieties of both public and private heroism.” — Sandy McKinney, Octavo

“Ariel Dorfman has spent his adult life’ obsessed with problems of pain and justice and redemption.’ Each is a Rosetta Stone, and the bilingual Chilean writer has sought to decipher them in Spanish and English, poems and plays, chiseling deep into scarred humanity, good and evil.” — Dick Gordon, WBUR

“For Chilean writer Ariel Dorfman, Sept. 11 meant tragedy even before 2001. On Sept. 11, 1973, the Chilean military seized power in a bloody coup in which President Salvador Allende died. It ushered in more than a decade and a half of dictatorship under Gen. Augusto Pinochet. . . . Now, in two post-Sept. 11, 2001 books, Dorfman uses that connection to explore universal themes of healing, loss, and justice. . . . The voices of exiles, activists, separated lovers and families of victims convey a sense of love, faith and hope in a world wracked by political violence.” — Durham Herald-Sun

“In a world increasingly battered with terror and terrorist anti-terror, the American reader will discover here that a telescopic view of what is happening in far lands is more than echoed by this up close and personal report on the dehumanizing events taking place in our own hemisphere.” — Sandy McKinney, Foreword Reviews

"The bilingual edition reflects a reconciliation, begun in his memoir, of the complex allegiances of his life. The work is all the more significant because of the historical specificity of these allegiances. . . . In Case of Fire in a Foreign Land is an important work by one of our time’s significant moral voices. It is worth letting him get under your skin."
  — David Need, Independent Weekly

"[T]he spare, understated texts are distinguished examples of both exile writing and what is sometimes categorized as 'literature of human rights.' . . . The translations . . . are natural-sounding and accurate." — Naomi Lindstrom, World Literature Today

"Ariel Dorfman reveals his gifts as a powerful political poet in In Case of Fire in a Foreign Land. Dorfman’s poems, while possessing the concision and resonance essential to good poetry, are strikingly dramatic, too, animated as they are by a chorus of voices: political prisoners, shattered family members, agitators for change. In this way he both capitalizes on his gifts as a dramatist and satisfies his urgent need, when confronting his country’s dead and missing, to ‘let them speak for themselves.’"

— Rachel Wetzsteon, American Theatre

"Dorfman . . . has succeeded in inspiring courage in victims and resolve in reformers. . . . Dorfman’s writings, and especially his poetry, show that, though we may buckle and admit defeat, our defeat can only be temporary. We cannot hope for real justice; the odds are too strong against the possibility. What we will strive for is the vindication that the knowledge of the truth will bring. To that end, our literature in every form must be testimony. In Case of Fire in a Foreign Land is irrefutable testimony, not only against tyranny and repression but also for integrity and endurance." — Fred Chappell, Duke Magazine

“[These poems] manage to speak with great directness of the . . . suffering and dread in his own country—and, by implication, in much of the world today—and yet to be maps of the imagination, the compassionate imagination. . . .Writing like this is a rare source of hope." — W. S. Merwin

"Ariel Dorfman’s testaments of pain and outrage are indeed poems. They will outlast the oppression, the torture, the misery of exile of which they tell. ‘Many are called’ to write of these matters, but ‘few are chosen.’ Dorfman is one of the few." — Denise Levertov

"As long as poems such as these are written and published, the Pinochets of the world cannot have the last say." — Breyten Breytenbach

Praise for Ariel Dorfman’s poetry:
"A deeply moving collection from one of Chile’s most important writers. . . .Stark and at the same time oddly radiant." — Margaret Atwood


Availability: In stock
Price: $23.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Ariel Dorfman is a world-renowned author of fiction, poems, essays, and films in both Spanish and English. His books have been translated into more than thirty languages, and his plays staged in more than one hundred countries. His work has received many prizes, among them the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Play. He holds the Walter Hines Page Chair at Duke University and contributes regularly to many newspapers worldwide. Among Dorfman‘s publications are the reissue of his novel Widows (2002), Blake’s Therapy (2001), the memoir Heading South, Looking North: A Bilingual Journey (1998), and the play Death and the Maiden (1992). The poems in In Case of Fire in a Foreign Land have been read publicly by Bono, Emma Thompson, Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Ben Kingsley, Harold Pinter, John Malkovich, and many others, and have been transformed into films, art exhibits, and cantatas.

Edith Grossman has translated the novels of Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Finalist, 2002 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award in Fiction Translation

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2987-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2951-0
Publicity material