By Alejandro Jodorowsky, translated Alfred MacAdam (Restless Books)
Alejandro Jodorowsky Prullansky is a filmmaker, playwright, actor, author, comics writer, world traveller, philosopher and spiritual guru who was born in Tocopilla, Chile in 1929.
How his immediate ancestors got there from pogrom-afflicted Russia at the beginning of the 20th century is only the faintest shadow of the body of this astounding, marvellously mythologized and mesmerisingly “Magic Realism” filtered family history…
The amazing modern polymath is most widely known for such films as Fando y Lis, El Topo, The Holy Mountain, Sante Sangre, The Rainbow Thief, The Dance of Reality and others, as well as his vast comics output, including Anibal 5 (created whilst living in Mexico), Le Lama blanc, Aliot, The Meta-Barons, Borgia, Madwoman of the Sacred Heart and so many more, co-created with some of South America and Europe’s greatest artists.
His decade-long collaboration with Moebius on the Tarot-inspired adventure The Incal (1981-1989) completely redefined and reinvented what comics could aspire to and achieve.
Best regarded for his violently surreal avant-garde films, loaded with highly-charged, inspired imagery – blending mysticism and what he terms “religious provocation” – and his spiritually-informed fantasy and science fiction comics tales, Jodorowsky is also fascinated by humanity’s inner realms and has devised his own doctrine of therapeutic healing: Psychomagic, Psychogenealogy and Initiatic massage. He still remains fully engaged and active in all these creative areas to this day.
He is also a raconteur of spellbinding imagination and truly devilish wit, all fully exercised and demonstrated in this stunning, outrageous re-imagining of the history of his antecedents, which was first published in 1992 as Donde mejor canta un Pájaro.
An astounding prose poem – intoxicatingly translated from the Spanish for this first English-language hardback edition by Professor of Latin American Literature Alfred MacAdam – this is an addictively enjoyable rollercoaster of arcane and obscene episodes seamlessly sewn together as Jodorowsky bounces across time and space, weaving stories of apostate Jewish grandmothers sharing their hatred for God, unworldly yet adaptable husbands, incestuous relations and relatives, all with a knack for finding disasters, wars, inquisitions, exploiters, monstrous suppressions, wanton violence and casual brutality…
The mythologized epic of immigration and Diaspora is filled with unforgettable and improbable sexual situations, fortunes – usually in gold or diamonds – found and lost in the blink of an eye, animal encounters of the most outré kinds, earthquake-surfing and the kind of bizarre wisdom and ad hoc solutions only folk in perpetual crisis resort and adhere to.
The saga is engagingly peopled with utterly unique characters such as an assortment of plebeian and domestic visionary-seers, sheep-abusing Tsar/hermits, dwarves, prophets, prostitutes, sorcerers and demagogues, transsexual ballerinas, unlikely libertines, holistic bee-keeping pioneers, Kabbalists and victims of every stripe, shysters and gentle conmen, fully-immersive lion-tamers and knife-throwers and the ghost of a Rabbi whose path for successive generations of the family involves regular last-minute salvations but not necessarily happiness, safety or security…
With the history slyly couched in terms of entertainment performances and themes of ballet and the circus, the mystic and miraculous generational saga explosively unfolds, reveals and even chronologically doubles back upon itself to share the experiences of a most accursed and blessed clan during the most difficult and dangerous period in human history, and even finds a moment to reveal the true origins and history of the Tarot…
An absolute crescendo of beguiling ideas, breathtakingly shocking, surreal scenarios, unholy grotesques, outspoken opinions and wickedly blasphemous visions, this is a wonder to read and utterly pointless to attempt reviewing.
It’s brilliant, read it now or regret it forever.
Not for the innocent, unimaginative or faint-hearted – although those souls are the ones who would benefit most from seeing it – Where the Bird Sings Best is that rarest of literary curios: a book not to be merely read but fully experienced.
© 2014 Alejandro Jodorowsky. Translation © 2014 Alfred Macadam.