I’d like to welcome Varian back to my blog and wish her a very happy launch day of her new book Trasmundo: Escape
Read Varian’s guest post about the link to art in Trasmundo, stay to take a look at my review of the book, and then comment for a chance to win an ecopy of the novel (winner will be chosen randomly on Monday, Aug. 10 2015).
Without further ado… bestselling author, Varian Krylov!
Art and Trasmundo
Thanks for inviting me for a chat. *Waves to Bey and friends.*
Bey asked me to talk a bit about the importance of art in Trasmundo: Escape. First off, for those who don’t know, Bey not only designed the beautiful book cover, but also created the wonderful pieces of Luka’s art that appear in the novel. I was elated when Bey said he was up for creating some paintings to go in the novel, and I love how they turned out.
Probably because I identify with the need to solve life’s puzzles by playing with words and images, and that compelling urge to connect to the people around me by sharing the alternate realities that hatch in my imagination, the protagonists in my novels are often creative souls: musicians, writers, photographers. Luka, the main character of Trasmundo: Escape is an artist. Largely because of how people have treated him all his life, he’s a solitary and introverted person, so in some ways, his drawings and paintings are Luka’s way of reaching outward and communicating. But art is also an escape from a cruel and violent world. The surreal landscapes he creates are worlds he retreats to when his reality becomes too lonely, painful or scary.
Apart from the importance of art as an aspect of Luka’s character, I wanted to use references to other artists as a way of expanding and layering the tropes of war, exile, and identity in the story. A few years ago, I read an essay by Milan Kundera, and there’s a line where he calls literature a silvery bridge linking distant lands and strangers, “the last observatory from which we can embrace human life as a whole.” That line really resonated with me. Since I first started reading literature from other parts of the world, it’s been my way of trying to understand other cultures, and people from different places and times. Unlike reading a history book, or a newspaper, when I read a novel set in nineteenth century Russia or France, or contemporary Iran or India, novels show me how like me these people are, despite our unique cultures, languages, and historical circumstances.
In Trasmundo: Escape, I wanted to use the quotes that head each chapter, as well as a lot of other borrowed phrases that are woven into the story itself, and the works of the artists Luka admires, as a way of tying Luka and what he goes through, with the horrors of twentieth century history that happened decade after decade, all around the world. Because, even though Trasmundo takes place in a fictitious country, it reflects atrocities that really took place, like the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust, what the Khmer Rouge did in Cambodia, and the genocides in Rwanda, and Yugoslavia. Some of the artists who are inspirations to Luka are people who lived through similarly traumatic moments in history. Uruguayan-born Remedios Varo fled Franco’s Spain during the civil war and remained in exile in Paris; German artist Edgar Ende had his paintings confiscated and destroyed by the Nazis; Zdzisław Beksiński endured the Nazi invasion, and later the Soviet occupation of his native Poland.
I wanted to bring references to these artists, along with quotes from people like Walter Benjamin and Czesław Miłosz, together like threads, and weave them together into a unifying tapestry in Trasmundo: Exile, because when we are lucky enough to live in a time and place where we feel safe, conflicts that happen in places like Rwanda or Yugoslavia can feel so remote. Like they have nothing to do with us, who we are as individuals, and as a society. But unfortunately, I think the frailties that allow people to fall under the spell of the Hitlers of the world are universal, and we all need to be vigilant against those who are constantly circling, watching and waiting for a chance to use our fear and resentment of those who appear different from us, to expand their own power.
For me, this issue meshes perfectly with an m/m romance that also touches on homophobia. Ethnic cleansing focuses a population´s anxiety on religion and culture, but the hatred it foments is intimately twined with the same weakness that drives people to ostracize and persecute LGBT people. And Trasmundo: Escape is about two men, on opposite sides of an ethnic conflict, who look past the pointless hatred stirred up by leaders on both sides of the war, and find a friendship that slowly turns into something else. Something Luka, the young artist, never thought would be his.
My Review – ★★★★★