Sunday, March 8, 2009

Frida's Bed: A novel

Earlier this year I read on someones blog, and I'm sorry I cant remember who, but I picked up on the idea of supporting the independent bookshops. While I like the ease of browsing in Boarders, I do like the ethical concept of supporting the small business. So when I was visiting Balmain earlier this year, I wandered into a lovely bookstore called Hill of Content and here I found Frida's Bed: A Novel. I choose it as one of my 'Lost in Translation' books.

Author: Slavenka Drakulic was born in Croatia in 1949. She's written feminist critiques of communism which brought her to the attention of the public in the west, and other books about the war in her homeland and novels.

Translated from Croatian by Christina P. Zoric.

My Synopsis: The author chose to base her novel on the real life artist Frida Kahlo, who was diagnosed with polio in Mexico at the age of six. The story, which draws on some of the real artworks and life events of Frida, is expanded by the authors imaginings of what was going through Frida's mind through significant stages of her short life. Frida experiences a second disabling accident in you late youth, and her life is filled with chronic pain, ongoing ill health and emotional upheavals of love. Frida's spirit demands that she fight the pain, and she's motivated to live through her art. As a novel, I believe that Drakulic has woven some her feminist idea's into Frida's story - expounding of the idea's of women as carers, lovers, artisans and demonstrating to power of women in the political environment.

Some of my favourite quotes

Physical pain does not simply resist language but actively destroys it, bringing about an immediate reversion to a state anterior to language, to sounds and cries a human being makes before language is learned. (Elaine Scarry, The body of Pain.)
Intro page.

All she had Left was random, unreliable memories. And her memory seemed like a fin cobweb. She still managed to hold her balance on the tin thread between two points, in the faint hope that she would eventually she the entire cobweb, that her life would turn out to have had a meaningful structure after all. Page 68.

What a waste of time... I took time away from my painting, the only thing I cared about, to make him love me, to seduce him, to be by his side. Page 74

A painful body, an unwanted body. I suffered on both counts. I was not only in pain, I had been rejected as well. However hard I tried, I never quite managed to separate myself from my body. I never succeeded in becoming a butterfly.How much easier it would have been for me if only I had believed in God and in devil, in heaven and hell, in the immortality of the soul. Page 91.

My paintings were a guide into the world of show and duplicity. Painting was the only safe place for me, a place of truth, a refuge. The only place where I could really be myself. Page 98

Suddenly she remembered that before her last encounter with death, almost thirty years earlier, she had licked her lips with the taste of an orange. She had been alive, so unforgetably alive. Page 162.

Concluding thoughts: I enjoyed this story for two reasons - I encountered another woman's life, Frida, although no longer with us, is famous and a reknowned artist. Secondly, I believe that women share similar struggles, regardless of disability, with self identity and relationships. Frida's Bed hold's many wonderful insights about these struggles. I dont normally re-read books, but I could revisit this at other times in my life, and see totally different messages. Recommended reading for lovers of art, for women, and anyone who is prepared to empathise with the human experience of relationships.


Karen said...

This one sounds excellent. Frida is my favourite artist and I have a lot of books about her but haven't heard of this one before.

Karen said...

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