Tuesday, June 02, 2009

beware of orange trees

I got an orange tree for my birthday last year, and some time after that, seemingly unrelated, I started reading La mujer habitada by Gioconda Belli. I've had the book for 10 years, but only got round to reading this, her debut novel, now, after her other major works. It soon turned out that the heroine is becoming "inhabited" by the spirit of a native American from the time of the Spanish conquest, and that the spirit had previously inhabited the orange tree she put in her patio. The spirit gradually turns her into a guerilla fighter. So I am now being very careful not to get too close to that tree of mine. Maybe it already tricked me into reading the book.

But seriously, and leaving any irrational fears of citrus plants aside, I liked the novel a lot, and it was particularly intriguing to read it soon after her more recent novel, El pergamino de la seduccion (the scroll of seduction). Although the books are very different and set in different countries (Nicaragua and Spain, respectively), one could argue that they both feature as the main characters a young woman and a large house. In both books the young woman establishes a magical link to a woman who lived around 400 years earlier, via the orange tree in one case, and via the old house and its inhabitants in the other.

It's also interesting to read the book as a look back across time on the regime that the Sandinista movement swept away, knowing as we know now, that a few of the dashing young guerilla leaders eventually became corrupted by power.

What I really don't understand is why her work is so underappreciated in the English-speaking world. Maybe it doesn't translate well?

1 comment:

Pearl said...

La mujer habitada sounds really good. May go borrow it these holidays.

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