The Suicide Museum

Other Pr. Sept. 2023. 688p. ISBN 9781635423891. pap. $21.99. F
Throughout Dorfman’s (Darwin’s Ghosts) long and distinguished literary career, themes of social protest, political oppression and injustice, and exile have been at the forefront of the Chilean American writer’s work; this novel is no exception, but with an ecological twist. Billionaire Holocaust survivor Joseph Hortha generously commissions an indigent Chilean writer (also named Ariel Dorfman) to secretly ascertain whether the cause of Chilean president Salvador Allende’s death during the 1973 coup was suicide or murder. The reason: Hortha must decide whether to include Allende’s portrait in his gallery of famous suicides. Hortha intends for his museum to represent humankind’s collective death by suicide caused by climate change, the proliferation of plastics, and mass destruction of the environment. This docufiction memoir, blending history and fiction, recalls the investigative technique of Javier Cercas as Dorfman pursues evidence and interviews eyewitnesses to uncover the truth. Despite being fairly sure of the facts, however, the author lies to Hortha about the results of his research.
VERDICT Though digressive at times, Dorfman’s novel is a fitting tribute to the 50th anniversary of the coup that toppled socialist Allende’s legitimate presidency. It will keep readers engaged as they follow his quest but may disappoint some with its ambiguous conclusion.
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