Anchor Books The O. Henry Prize Stories
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What does it mean to be included in the O. Henry Prize Stories? How does an author refine their art? We've given the O. Henry Prize-winning authors free rein to share their thoughts on these questions and others, and the result is a rare treat.

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Comments Ariel Dorfman

Just the name of the award, O. Henry, was enough to get me jumping for joy, as I had been reading the short stories of that canny American writer since I was . . . maybe I was ten years old when I encountered the first of many tales by him. But there was another, perhaps deeper reason for my exuberance. I have spent many years of my life in exile and if the pain of distance is mitigated by the richness of the experience, there always lurks inside the sense of not belonging, not being "recognized." Recognition is not only a matter of being appreciated, having one's work acknowledged, but carries with it a small triumph over loneliness, even if that triumph is ultimately a bit illusory, even if I know that I must return to the solitude of my own obsessions to continue writing. So, to have a story about two Chilean expatriates who have slowly become (and not become) Americans being "recognized" in Barcelona, brought to a "recognition" of their own love and mistakes, what more could I ask for?

(author photo © Rodrigo Dorfman)

Writing Tips

I always hesitate when I am asked this sort of question, because I know my answer will sound overly dramatic, but here goes, yet again: if I did not write, I would die. Or rather: it would be like not having lived. Or rather: I just can't stop.

About the Author

Ariel Dorfman has written short stories (collected in My House is on Fire) as well as novels, poems, plays, screenplays, essays, and journalism. Of Argentine-Chilean origin, he writes in both English and Spanish, and has received numerous awards, including the Lawrence Olivier for best play ("Death and the Maiden") and two awards from the Kennedy Center. His latest books are Desert Memories and Burning City, a novel written with his youngest son Joaquín. He holds the Walter Hine Page Chair of Literature and Latin American Studies at Duke University.

Writer's Desk

  • I have just finished an afterword to a collection of poems by the prisoners of Guantánamo to be published in 2007 - and also an essay on a film by the great Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami for the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. My present projects are an original screenplay for the BBC with my eldest son Rodrigo and another screenplay with my youngest son Joaquín based on our novel, Burning City, which has just been optioned by a director. But most of my time lately has gone into rewriting a novel of my own, tentatively called Americanos, an epic about an early nineteenth century family in California divided by war and desire and greed and the best of intentions. What I think could make this narrative different from so many other books on this period is that the perspective is recalcitrantly Latin American (and recalcitrantly seems to be a word my computer's dictionary does not "recognize" as proper English all the more reason to defiantly use it).

  • Writer's Desk

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