Sunday, 10 September 2017

Where the Bird Sings Best by Alejandro Jodorowsky

Where the Bird Sings Best by Alejandro Jodorowsky
First published in Spanish as Donde mejor canta un pájaro in 1992. English language translation by Alfred MacAdam published by Restless Books in March 2015.

Featured in Cover Characteristics: Barbed Wire

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There has never been an artist like the polymathic Chilean director, author, and mystic Alejandro Jodorowsky. For eight decades, he has blazed new trails across a dazzling variety of creative fields. While his psychedelic, visionary films have been celebrated by the likes of John Lennon, Marina Abramovic, and Kanye West, his novels—praised throughout Latin America in the same breath as those of Gabriel García Márquez—have remained largely unknown in the English-speaking world. Until now.

Where the Bird Sings Best tells the fantastic story of the Jodorowskys’ emigration from Ukraine to Chile amidst the political and cultural upheavals of the 19th and 20th centuries. Like One Hundred Years of Solitude, Jodorowsky’s book transforms family history into heroic legend: incestuous beekeepers hide their crime with a living cloak of bees, a czar fakes his own death to live as a hermit amongst the animals, a devout grandfather confides only in the ghost of a wise rabbi, a transgender ballerina with a voracious sexual appetite holds a would-be saint in thrall. Kaleidoscopic, exhilarating, and erotic, Where the Bird Sings Best expands the classic immigration story to mythic proportions.

I had not previously heard of Chilean born film director and writer Alejandro Jodorowsky so this translated edition of one of his most popular Spanish language novels is my introduction to his work. The book is a truly fantastical journey back through several generations of the Jodorowsky family, each more bizarre than each other, as they make their way from Russia, via Argentina, to settle in Chile. We meet circus performers, political activists, shoemakers and ballet dancers, a rabbi who doesn't actually exist and a child who is desperately trying to engineer his birth. I did find it quite difficult to keep track of the vast cast of characters, especially because they all are portrayed in a fairytale style. Men and women act on sudden instinct and make life-changing decisions, but without much explanation to the reader so I never felt as if I had got to know anyone as a real person. Also much of each storyline progresses through magical occurrences and extreme coincidence so it is impossible to guess where the narrative will go next!

I was totally swept up in Where The Bird Sings Best for about the first half of the book. Jodorowsky's rich language and incredibly inventive imagination make for a very different reading experience. However, I do think the book is too long to sustain its pace. I thought some of the later threads failed to maintain the promise of their earlier counterparts and felt rushed. I'm very glad to have had the opportunity to read Jodorowsky. His prose does require effort from its reader, but is certainly rewarding and I plan to try the Restless Books translations of two more of his novels at some point in the future. I just need some lighter reads to refresh my brain first!

Etsy Find!
by Stitches Of Anarchy in
Buckie, Scotland

Click pic to visit Etsy Shop

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Alejandro Jodorowsky / Historical fiction / Books from Chile

No comments:

Post a comment