Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

martes, febrero 17, 2009

House of Spirits

Today's New York Times reviews a musical production of Isabel Allende's House of Spirits:
As one of the best-known examples of the predominantly Latin American genre called magical realism, it presents some challenges. What to do, for example, about a male character who shrinks as he ages, a dog the size of a horse, objects that levitate and a plague of ants that overrun a country estate but leave when asked?

But the director José Zayas and the playwright Caridad Svich refused to be daunted. The result of their perseverance is the production of “The House of the Spirits” that opens on Wednesday at Repertorio Español’s theater on East 27th Street, where it is scheduled to be performed, in Spanish with a simultaneous English-language translation available, through June.

During the 40 years that it has operated, the Repertorio Español company has commissioned adaptations of novels by some of Latin America’s most celebrated writers, among them Gabriel García Márquez’s “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” and Mario Vargas Llosa’s “Feast of the Goat.” But Mr. Zayas said he found himself wondering, “Where are the women?”
Evidently, the author approves of Caridad Svich's version of the novel:
“The novel is funny and grotesque, dark and caustic, and I thought we should tap into that sharp wit,” [Caridad Svich] said. “I’ve translated some of my own plays into Spanish, but this was a different process. It’s my voice but an altered version of my voice, like me having a conversation with Isabel Allende.”

In the end some subplots were eliminated, as were some of the novel’s ghostly apparitions. Ms. Svich also wrote songs for the show, because, she said, “I love Brecht, and I couldn’t resist.”

The novel’s focus on the violent and often unjust politics of Latin America was retained, however, and in one sense even amplified: the main female character, Alba Trueba, tells her story from the torture chamber where she is held after a military coup that some in her own family support.

Ms. Allende, a Chilean who went into exile after President Salvador Allende, her cousin, was overthrown by Gen. Augusto Pinochet, is sympathetic to the choices Ms. Svich made. “I think magical realism is really difficult to put onstage without it looking like an illusionist’s show, which can be very tacky,” she said in a telephone interview from her home in Northern California.

We'll see. I confess to being frightened by the description of this production.

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