This is a classic work of autobiography.
Autobiography that deals with three generation of the family of the writer-presenting a rare glimpses of the contemporary times from the social and historical viewpoint, capturing the history of a nation in transition all the way through. the work captures from the viewpoint of the author, apiece of Latin American history and culture. The volume under review is the wondrous story of the journey of a Jewish family from Ukraine to Chile- in search of a better life.
The autobiography is enriched with rare sense of humour- a sense of humour that will propel the reader all the way through in reading the book.
We are discussing the epic autobiographical work of Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, who has been regarded highly by cult cinema enthusiastic for his surrealistic films coupled with mysticism -‘Where the bird sings best’. the original Spanish work is translated in English by Alfred MacAdam.
The youth of the filmmaker is not a past of happy memories. His parents did not have a very pleasant married life. The local people viewed them as descendant of the immigrants and the American industrialists and miners treated Chileans badly. The past memory leads him to the condemnation of imperialism and neo colonialism in many of his productions. Like his movies, his writings are also filled, with symbolism and surrealistic images.
From the beginning the story is first paced and immediately put up the readers at ease with Jewish culture and devoted Jewish family. The lure to quote the scene of proposing of his grandmother to his husband is irritable
“One day, at the first sight of dawn, Teresa approached him. She was small but with robust legs, imposing breasts, and a character of iron. She fixed her dark eyes, two glacial coals swimming in feverishly sunken sockets, on him and said;
‘I’ve been observing you for a while. I’m of age to have children. I want you to be the father. I’m an orphan like you, but not as poor……..they will tell the problem to you and have to come back later to hear the answer. They will no longer see you in a trance speaking with someone who’s invisible. I’ll set the prices and we will not accept invitations to dinners where they try to take advantage of you. The Rabbi will stay home. He will never go out to the street with you, and if he doesn’t like that, he can leave-if he can. But as soon as he levees you, he’ll dissolve into nothingness.’
And without awaiting an answer from Alejandro, she kissed him full on the mouth, stretched out with him under the adders of the cows, and took permanent possession of his sex.”
Comment is absolutely unnecessary! Readers can themselves discover how powerful his pen is- his sense of humour. And from the point of view of narration- he is like the magician who can create a hare out of his empty hat- a very ordinary event looks like a masterpiece in his brush….err, pen! And for the reader who is still in dark- writer’s grandfather has a habit of seeing Abraham around him-talking with him……
The agony of living in a Jewish community was a constant source of torment to his grandmother and one day she decided –enough is enough, and the iron lady declared boldly-“if we stay here, they are going to slit our throats, with Adonai’s good wishes. the union of Russian people is accusing Jews of robbing blood from Christian children, and the protocols of the wise men of Zion is being published in every city. The whole country is sharpening sacrificial knives. And what is it you’re defending? ….we all moves to the United States. There all the citizens lives in place and have their teeth gold plated.”
The timeline is before the Bolshevik revolution in Russia- under tsarist rule! The book is a mirror image of the culture and society of Russia- in the nineteenth century- a society which is predominantly feudal and agriculture based. Industrial revolution came very slowly in Russia and in a backward society of Europe the mentality towards Jewish community was not very pleasant. So, Teresa could not be blamed for her logic- but it was not easy to migrate in the new world- especially in the U.S.A. where all people have gold plated teeth. And ultimately they were granted visas to Chile! And-‘Teresa knew nothing about Chile, but she was sure that in such a country, which was located at the end of the world, the citizens did not live in palaces and did not have gold plated teeth.”
The alien land welcomed the family-“the city, civilized, flourishing in a transparent, caressing breeze, deliciously perfumed, between the glitter of the rocky mountains chain and the murmur of the sea, forced Teresa to stop grumbling through her grimace of rejection and to smile and to smile, even if the tense effort not to show it made her face look like a sun drenched apple.” and the family was left with the luxury of having half a Kopek- only a silver coin in their possession. Will they ever be able to start their life afresh in the new continent of Latin America?
Will their Jewish identify will haunt them here also- or will they be subjected to a new type of racial discrimination?
What the destiny beholds for them here?
Read one of the classiest works of autobiography of contemporary times-which can only be compared with One Hundred Years of Solitude by Marquez from the perspective of scope and subject.
I got this book as part of goodread’s first read initiative.