Even if you are familiar with the life of Frida Kahlo (i.e., her bio), you still are quite likely out of touch with her inner life as researched and pEven if you are familiar with the life of Frida Kahlo (i.e., her bio), you still are quite likely out of touch with her inner life as researched and profoundly painted for us by Drakulić.
She forays into the mind of Frida and the depth of physical and emotional pain that simply cannot be divorced from who she is or from the observer's ability to fully appreciate the art she prolifically created, often from a near-paralyzed, horizontal and bed-bound physical state. She explores the subject both as third-person descriptions and alternates that with Frida's impeccably crafted first-person perspective.
She begins with the poignant quote by Kahlo, Mi pintura lleva el mensaje del dolor (TR: "My painting carries the message of pain"), which is a catalyst for the entire experience. And it is an experience. As a reader, you will truly identify with the intensity of the suffering Frida battled in all her short-lived years. With Drakulić's assistance, all of this is now able to be keenly felt.
Drakulić has an immense talent for metaphor. She conveys so much symbolically. On the other hand, when offering a literal explanation of the feelings of pain I very often longed for a synonym (or twenty) as this term was hella overused. Still reconcilable, all things considered.
My only consolation, if consolation it is, is that I made as much out of my life as I could.
The loneliness was always worse than the pain; pain had condemned her to a lifetime of loneliness.
One thing to note, there are no chapters in the book, so it's hard to stop and start, but it is a pretty quick (though intense) read, and albeit, it does require a lot of undivided attention. I think that forgoing chapters can work in many cases, but for the purposes of expressing Frida's life, it's a detractor, because in her eventful life, despite her limitations, there were many punctuations, set-backs, 180-degree reversals. Chapters could be a useful device to convey this effect beyond what she accomplishes in words.
One way she does punctuate is through the use of remarkably vivid descriptions of her paintings. I'm not sure if these impressions are the author's own, or if they are actual reviews at the time of Frida's acclaim.
She did not believe that she was famous even when the Louvre bought one of her self-portraits.
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.
Frida is weeping because there is absolutely nothing that can be done, because this is her fate.
I want to forage into more of Drakulić's work as this is a paragon of the myriad ways she stands apart from conventional authors.
Choice excerpts (to remind myself at some later date just how much this is worth another read):
I feel as if I learned everything all at once, in an instant. My friends are gradually becoming women, but I aged instantaneously.
I know that everything after the the accident was merely a tactic to indulge in escapism and self-delusion.
Frida was already becoming aware of what would become the hallmark of her paintings: their power of speech.
you experience your own end; there is no recovery, only temporary respite
You said that it was just a superficial, physical relationship. *Physical* you said, that is the word you used. How could you have been so thoughtless to say that to me--me, whose body has terrorized my entire life? But I was so taken aback I said nothing.
Not for the faint of heart:
He scrapes the dead tissue from her womb; no point in calling this clump of blood a child. This is her first miscarriage. Soon she will wake up in a cold sweat, feeling nauseous. She will vomit. Her gouged-out womb will continue to bleed for a while. She will feel as if it has been turned inside out.
She knew what she would see when she opened her eyes. To the left of her bed was the night table and on it a tray with a little bottle of Demerol, a syringe, some cotton and alcohol.
She cared more about justifying the Maestro [Diego Rivera] than about Kity [her own sister]
Frida behaved as if Kity did not exist. It was during this period that she had another miscarriage and her toes amputated: an empty womb, wounds, back pain and the feeling of having been completely abandoned.
In reality, her reality, the heart was a crushed, bloody, painful lump that trembled at the sound of its own voice, or at the absence of it.
On her most famed portrait by photographer Nick Murray:
The shawl slid down her smooth skin, baring her neck and shoulders. Its cyclamen color gave her face a brightness that seemed to dispel the dark hardness of her eyes.
my leg brace, aesthetics, and especially the exotic, served me well. I was a good actress. Except everything visible in my life was false. My spouse was not really my husband but my child, and our grand love was just a myth. I needed strength to paint all that.
Suddenly her own lies and self-delusion made her sick. Before, she would have been humiliated by the mere thought that the Maestro felt pity for her, she would have dismissed such feelings as unworthy, as beneath her. But they were still feelings...and she could never get enough of that. At the same time, she convinced herself that she was the giver. What a delusion for someone whose very clothes, paintings, face were positively screaming for people to pay attention to her, her, her...
Instead of a lovely girl [Dorothy Hale], Frida had painted her suicide.
The doctors, of course, would find some probable cause of death and that would be the official version. The image of Frida and her invincible spirit would be preserved for posterity. [...] Only her diary, paintings and drawings of those last few months testified to her disintegration and to her awareness of it. ...more
Gives a much deserved voice to Agnes Magnusdottir, a woman who was quite likely wrongly convicted of a brutal murder in Iceland in 1829 and never giveGives a much deserved voice to Agnes Magnusdottir, a woman who was quite likely wrongly convicted of a brutal murder in Iceland in 1829 and never given an opportunity to be heard. Very well researched with evocative and often disturbing detail. Emotional and moving as Agnes led a remarkably inured life. The story uniquely alternates between the internal thoughts of Agnes and third person perspectives of those with whom she spent her final days before her execution. Delves into the effects on the psyche of knowing you are to be executed but having no inkling as to which day will be your last. Highly recommended, though not for the faint of heart....more