Alejandro Jodorowsky - Remarkable and hilariously bizarre details about strange synchronicities involving firing squads and singing vulvas

Albina and the Dog-Men, by Alejandro Jodorowsky - 9781632060549.jpg

Alejandro Jodorowsky, Albina and the Dog-Men, Trans. by Alfred Macadam, Restless Books, 2016.  

From the psychomagical guru who brought you The Holy Mountain and Where the Bird Sings Best comes a supernatural love-and-horror story in which a beautiful albino giantess unleashes the slavering animal lurking inside the men of a small village.

“Deeply psychological and mysterious, the book will stimulate the imagination of the reader's mind to the extreme.” —Marina Abramovic

Cult filmmaker Jodorowsky’s (El Topo; The Holy Mountain) novel may be the ultimate piece of Jodorowsky arcana, a mind-bending adventure story on par with his wildest cinematic visions. In a South American mining town, a hard-bitten dentist/criminal called Crabby becomes the guardian of Albina, an enormous amnesiac prophetess who inspires extreme devotion in all she encounters. These include Crabby’s enemy—the lusty Drumfoot—and an enterprising hat maker named Amado Dellarosa, who takes Crabby and Albina under his wing in their ghost town, Camiña. There, the three companions commandeer a concert hall with Albina as the star attraction, performing a lascivious dance that excites bees and men alike, the latter to the point that they begin transforming into ravenous dogs. With the indefatigable Drumfoot in pursuit, Albina, Crabby, and Amado embark on a quest for a sacred cactus that can cure the encroaching canine fever and reveal Albina’s true nature. The ensuing adventure features (among other oddities) a jungle inhabited by humanoid parrots, bandits who ride atop giant hares, Himalayan monks, an Incan mummy, and plenty of highly profane sex. A surrealist novel par excellence, Albina and the Dog-Men is a dream, a prophecy, a hallucination, and a transfiguration such as only Jodorowsky could induce. - Publishers Weekly

This surreal fantasy, set in Chile and Peru, is about a woman who turns into a dog. Chilean author Jodorowsky, also author of Donde mejor canta un p jaro (Where a Bird Sings Its Best, see p. 25), uses his fertile imagination to present a mixed bag of historical and imaginary characters, such as the Inca King, Atahaulpa, and a cast of half-humans and half-beasts that possess magical powers. The protagonists are two women: Albina and La Jaiba (the crab), who rescues Albina from a group of men who were persecuting her. La Jaiba teaches Spanish to the incomprehensible Albina, who speaks an indigenous tongue, and the two women develop a mother-daughter-like bond. While vacationing in Iquique, a small beach town in Chile, they see a man, Dellarosa, trying to commit suicide in the sea.This encounter marks the starting point of the novel's bestial plot. Albina begins behaving like a dog in heat, and her sensuality transforms men into dogs that frantically want to possess her. This short novel has various sexually explicit scenes, but they are very well crafted. Strongly recommended for large public libraries and bookstores serving all communites. - Publishers Weekly

To read Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Albina and the Dogmen is to careen through a surreal landscape on a mythic roller coaster. Bandits ride giant white hares. A clubfooted man transforms into a holy hound. An albino giantess goes toe-to-toe with death itself. A ship stands marooned in a jungle, crewed entirely by statues of Saint Peter. Werewolves, a secret Incan kingdom, masked goddesses, a clever armadillo, holy incarnations, killer bees: Jodorowsky’s cast of characters is delightfully schizophrenic in this brief novel, translated from the original Spanish by Alfred MacAdam.
But there’s a great deal more to enjoy in Albina. Jodorowsky—the Chilean writer-filmmaker-poet best known in the United States as the subject of the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, about his attempt to adapt Frank Herbert’s Dune for the big screen—deftly pairs the beautiful and the strange, the ugly and the lovely, the bodily hideous and the purified holy. His prose is poetic. The “insane metronome” of a dog’s hips as his tail wags, a “clerical buzzing of bees,” a flesh-wound torn open “like a rose.” His precision is captivating. A translated work can sometimes suffer from dryness, but Alfred MacAdam has done a masterful job preserving Jodorowsky’s insane clip.
The story itself is simple. The seductive dance of an amnesiac, sex-crazed, albino werewolf named Albina transforms the male population of an entire village into slavering dogs. To cure the afflicted men before they tear the world apart in their lust and bright-eyed violence, Albina embarks on a quest to find a magical cactus. So on second thought…maybe it’s not so simple. The tight weft of Jodorowsky’s tale begins to unravel a little as the story turns toward the cosmic, but you won’t be able to stop reading regardless.
Jodorowsky’s prose is frantic, especially his shifts of perspective. It should be jarring, to be the head of Albina’s rude companion Crabby one moment, in the head of her stunted lover Amado the next, and then in villainous Clubfoot’s, etc.—but Jodorowsky’s prose delivers these shifts with deft authority. His story occupies the fluidly omniscient territory of traditional myths, and his frenetic pace careens you from perspective to perspective, scene to scene, without pausing for breath or transition.
Many of Jodorowsky’s scenes, taken individually, feel straight out of a childhood fairy tale. An evil man’s hands are bitten off by dogs. Then the dogs devour him, leaving only a shock of his blonde hair. An ugly woman finds that she can be loved by a man, realizes her own beauty, and the hairs of her mustache begin to fall out. Rubbing right up against the familiar is the luridly sensual and deeply scatological: canine orgies, bees sipping from a woman’s genitals, bright-red phalluses, a shock of menstrual blood on white rabbit fur. Some scenes will leave the faint of heart clutching their pearls. It’s fantastic.
Albina and the Dogmen is a hybrid tale—spaghetti western and fairy tale and adventure story all rolled into one. Crude and clever, beautiful and weird, read Jodorowsky if you want to feel like you’ve run a marathon through a fever dream. - Christina Kloess

Like Alejandro Jodorowsky himself, Albina and the Dog-Men seems to be all imaginable things at once: a fable and a folktale, a Western, a tragedy, a lewd comedy. A love story.
The short novel’s titular character is an albino giant with no memory of her past. By moonlight, Albina unwittingly transforms the men of a dusty Chilean town into ravenous dogs, hungry for violent sexual satisfaction that only she can provide. Unable to avoid the monsters she has created — and the one she has become — Albina sets off on a labyrinthine journey in search of a cactus that, we are told, holds the power to end her affliction.
Albina is joined in her pilgrimage by Crabby, a bearded recluse of a woman who gives her shelter in the opening pages of the story. Crabby has undergone a transformation of her own: As a child obsessed with Paul Féval’s The Hunchback, she bent herself over and pointed her feet outward, “accepting the idea of being an aggressive crab separated from others by a hard shell.” Nobody ever corrected her posture.
For Jodorowsky, the novel’s repeated transformations are both literal and spiritual. His characters are led — at turns by tragedy and at others by love — to examine the identities they have designed for themselves. At one point, Albina, faced with the prospect of giving up a life that is cursed but also familiar, exclaims that “ceasing to be what she is” both horrifies and terrifies her. The question is whether she will confront the illusion of her “self” just the same.
In signature fashion, Jodorowsky — the Chilean-born son of Ukrainian immigrants — bends perceptions of history, culture and geography, forcing his readers to question their surroundings. Crabby and Albina journey through remote deserts and forgotten jungles that shift and undulate as if viewed dozily from a car window. Along the way, they are forced to outrun or outwit, in no particular order: a clubfooted tax collector, snakes, a cunning Inca shaman, drug dealers riding giant rabbits, and a group of lecherous Himalayan monks.
As the assemblage of surreal adventures implies, Albina and the Dog-Men moves more like one of Jodorowsky’s celebrated comic books than a traditional novel (the edition is, in fact, illustrated by comics artist François Boucq). The language is instantly visual, and Alfred MacAdam’s deft translation is whimsical and fantastic without drifting into adolescence.
Albina and the Dog-Men is the product of an unfathomable, affecting imagination, of an auteur whose creative works include five novels, 10 films, countless pages of poetry, aphorisms, comics and plays, and a handful of self-help books on psycho-magic, the tarot and geneology. This not to mention a starring role in a documentary — Jodorowsky’s Dune — about a film he didn’t make (though, in a sense, it made him).
The novel, perhaps more so than Jodorowsky’s other work, could be called amusing. But it is not intended as distraction. The 87-year-old looks to gain philosophical ground on his readers at every turn. For some, Jodorowsky’s reach will exceed his grasp, and they will be left with an odd, if entertaining, mythology. But those looking to Albina and the Dog-Men for something more long-lasting may find themselves transformed — at least until the next full moon. - Benjamin Russell

Albina and the Dog-Men begins with a sketch of the life of one of the main characters, nicknamed Crabby (who already at a young age identifies with the nickname and accepts: "the idea of being an aggressive crab separated from others by a hard shell"). It's already a remarkable piece of writing -- quick and summary, but vivid and revealing in its arresting imagery and brief highlights. It leads to Crabby coming across the young woman she calls Albina, saving her from an attack and then nurturing this creature who has lost all her memory and is as innocent as a baby.
       Within six months Albina is more or less fully adult, but retains an air of innocence. When Crabby is detained for a few weeks by the authorities for her illegal dealings, Albina transforms her shop into a different kind of enterprise: performing for the local men -- something between striptease, dance, and religious ritual. The men are transfixed, and worship Albina, their: "sexual desire transformed into mystical adoration".
       It makes for a successful business too -- until an inspector shows up and threatens to close them down if they don't make a deal with him. Instead, the two women go on the run -- eventually winding up in the sleepy town of Camiña, led there by Amado, whom they saved from suicide (a desperate attempt at escape from Camiña -- a town that death forgot and where no one dies). Crabby and Albina set up shop in Camiña -- and immediately draw large crowds of transfixed men.
       Idyllic though the bee-protected town in the middle of nowhere is, Crabby and Albina find they have some problems. Albina's powers seem to have some nasty side-effects, for one -- the bite she takes out of many of the men she encounters heals quickly, but Albina is infected with something that she passes on, and when the moon is full it brings out the animal -- the dog -- in those she's bitten. If not quite a werewolf tale, Albina and the Dog-Men is one of similar animal-transformation (and similar abandon, once the dog-men are in that state).
       Among the infected is the inspector, hot in pursuit of the women. Meanwhile, they learn there is only one hope and cure -- but the antidote is found only in a sacred cactus that briefly flowers only every hundred years, and they only have four days to find it.
       As expected, their quest brings new threats and dangers -- and new revelations, including finally solving the mystery of who Albina is and her origin-story.
       Albina and the Dog-Men zips along, with quick and often drastic jumps. It is full of often wild fantasy, yet even as many of the scenes are closer to hallucinatory than realism, Jodorowsky grounds his tale firmly enough that all the absurdity is, on its own level, convincing. Beyond that, what he imagines is often so striking (and startling) that its unreality hardly matters.
       Jodorowsky is a wonderful fantasy-writer. Many of the details and episodes he imagines here are stunning, even as many are presented almost casually aside. This is a book full of memorable animal-imagery put to good use -- not just the dog-men, but parrots, bees, crabs, an armadillo, and more. It's also a quite exciting adventure-tale -- with many of the episodes also having an often very humorous side to them (such as the beautiful surreality around Amado's suicide attempt).
       Albina and the Dog-Men does eventually have a bit of difficulty keeping up with its increasingly grander ambitions, Jodorowsky making (a lot) more of Albina than originally seemed possible. While even this is very good, it feels a bit forced -- especially in comparison to the remarkably naturally-flowing earlier parts -- and shows the strains of trying to make too much out of the story.
       Still, Albina and the Dog-Men is a remarkable and very enjoyable adult fantasy tale, full of the in every way unexpected, deftly turned and twisted and imagined by Jodorowsky. (Note also that it is sexually quite explicit -- though this is an entirely appropriate (if also very raw) eroticism.) - M.A.Orthofer

In a telling 2014 interview, Alejandro Jodorowsky opens up about — among other things — losing his son ("It destroyed me") and the healing power of art. "If I cannot heal my son who died," he says, "I will heal the other son. My goal for art now is to heal." One gets the feeling that, through his many books and films, a vision of healing has always been part of the plan.
In his latest novel, Jodorowsky builds on his multi-decade long assault of the public imagination. Translated by Alfred MacAdam, the story begins — as do virtually all of Jodorowsky's works — not yet with healing but a measure of madness.
Set in Peru and in the author's birthplace Chile, it follows the journey of Crabby, a bearded, Lithuanian recluse, and Albina, a voluptuous goddess with milk-white skin who falls into Crabby's arms while being attacked by mysterious fighting monks. The setting is fertile ground for Jodorowsky to unleash a fantastical and genre-defying parable of love and friendship.
After the initial violent episode, the two women strike an instant bond. Crabby becomes Albina's caretaker, washing, feeding, and teaching her to walk again after the attack. Having no memory of her past or her origins, Albina casually goes about her days, the months flying by "with the charm of a babbling brook." She swims and dances and in time attracts the attention of the men of this bone dry Chilean town; her hypnotizing beauty is like nothing they've ever seen. It's not long before her sensuality takes hold of them and becomes their obsession.
But Albina's happiness only lasts a little while; Drumfoot, the city inspector, soon threatens to take her as his possession. A ravenous Albina drugs him and bites him, changing him into a blood-thirsty dog-man. From there, all hell breaks loose, and the women are on the run, heading north on a bicycle built for two.
Pursued by Drumfoot — who has no other purpose but to devour Albina — they seek refuge anywhere they can. Albina's allure starts to literally transform men into rabid dogs who chase her flesh with violence, summoning her in a mix of barks and human words.
But the women, as the author makes clear from the jump, are animals in their own right: Albina is a lost creature who never eats more than a few grains of rice per day, surviving mostly on the flesh of her attackers, and Crabby breaks men's noses and has always thought herself an aggressive crab "separated from others like a hard shell."
There is an early passage that seems to encapsulate much of what Jodorowsky's art aims to accomplish. While the women are driving along the coast seeking safety, Crabby speaks candidly: "Albina," she says, "there must be a place that isn't infected by the smell of rot, a place where the miraculous can flourish."
Anyone familiar with Jodorowsky's creative output might see that as fitting language with which to describe his power. His novels, however imperfect, are still universes unto themselves, where the beautiful and the grotesque coexist and the miraculous can flourish freely. It is all a constant search for meaning, and a kind of healing.
Crabby and Albina journey north in search of a rare cactus plant which blossoms every hundred years. Consuming its floral syrup is Albina's only hope of being cured of the monster she has become — but there's also the possibility that it can kill her, a risk she's willing to take.
Throughout this dark dream of a novel, Jodorowsky's writing is comic and occasionally mesmerizing. It is also ripe with horror and philosophical questions about what it means to belong, everywhere and nowhere. And while some of the subject matter is disturbing, it often carries the air of something ancient that you read children by a fire.
For years Jodorowsky has proven the intensity of his imagination, and how far he is willing to go to present his singular vision to the world. He is a fully realized artist whose tales demand attention. At its core, Albina and the Dog-men is a love story about two people committed to one another's survival and to discovering their potential. And, as with life, it is sometimes only through the weathering of a storm that our true capacities are made clear. - Juan Vidal

The heroine of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s second novel enters the story as a supernaturally proportioned woman with the skills and instincts of an infant, a shell of a once-powerful goddess. She appears out of nowhere, heralded by parrots and pursued by fearsome monks from a foreign land, colliding into the arms of an utterly unloved woman called Crabby as though summoned by her mortal protector’s despair.
The daughter of Lithuanian Jews, Crabby arrived in Chile at two years old with her parents, Sarah and Abraham, who is a seven-foot-tall professional callus remover who insisted on naming his daughter Isaac to reference the Biblical coincidence of his wife’s name paired with his. Rejecting both her given name and the Torah in its entirety, Crabby was raised instead on Paul Féval’s The Hunchback and received her nickname for the crustacean posture she adopted in her favorite character’s likeness—and in acceptance of “the idea of being an aggressive crab separated from others by a hard shell.” Uncouth, ugly, and prone to fights with her peers, Crabby was neglected by her devoutly religious father until his death, whereupon she was summarily kicked out of the house by her mother and immediately appointed stepfather at the age of thirteen, wandering the stretch of Chile north to Iquique, where she finds Albina in the middle of a fierce storm.
Discovering that Albina possesses the power to hypnotize scores of men at a time with the exhibition of her towering, pale body in dance, the two women set up an illegal business of nightly performances that send the entire male population of the town and its seaborne visitors into a mass stupor whetted by home-brewed mistela and roasted kabobs. They are forced to flee, however, when a deformed and lusty city inspector called Drumfoot threatens to have them arrested unless his physical desire for the dancing goddess is routinely satisfied. The humiliation and frustration he suffers from Crabby and Albina’s escape sets Drumfoot off in murderous pursuit of the women who slipped away on a bicycle built for two after leaving him locked up and naked with the mentality and, by moonlight, body of a dog.
Drumfoot is not the only man made werewolf under Albina’s spell. Housed by a forlorn former hat maker named Amado Dellarosa, Albina and Crabby resume their reliable livelihood in Camina, a former mining town in a valley further north that has been forgotten by the Lady, rendering its inhabitants apathetically immortal. Every man in the village comes to watch her dance, and under the full moon each of them transforms into a dog, tearing after Albina on her wanton romps into the wilderness in somnambulant pursuit of sexual pleasure. Alerted by her friends to the insatiable duality of her character, Albina embarks on a quest for her cure, faithfully accompanied by Crabby and Amado (and the love budding between them) across desert and mountains and the fantastical apparitions they contain, with a brave armadillo named Quirquincho as their only guide.
A brief novel of baffling splendor, Albina and the Dog-Men is a journey into the heart of the desert and the human soul.
- Nat Bernstein
Albina and the Dog-Men might be described as a story Gabriel García Márquez would have written if he'd dropped acid. With a constant flurry of strange, sexual, colorful and surreal activity, the fifth novel by filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky (best known for avant-garde works such as The Holy Mountain) is a perfect picaresque novel for lovers of the absurd.
When an albino giant appears on her street, Crabby, a hunchback, takes her in, unaware of this strange woman's effect on men. The giant, whom Crabby names Albina, begins a career as a stripper, aided and abetted by the hunchback. Before long, they're threatened by a local corrupt government official and go on the run, leading to one of the strangest road trips ever put to print, including were-dogs, ancient gods, aliens and mystical trees. What begins as a story about two women becomes an odd fairy tale readers might elect to keep out of their children's hands.
While the novel is utterly bizarre, the reader never gets lost, which is a testament to Jodorowsky's storytelling. In lesser hands, it could have been a chaotic hodgepodge of shaggy dog stories and meditations on human existence. Instead, Albina reads like a force of nature, never slowing down even as it follows detours and asides. For those new to Jodorowsky's work, and for fans alike, Albina and the Dog-Men will be a fantastic--even pleasant--trip, guided by one of the more memorable artists of the 20th century. --
Noah Cruickshank, marketing manager, Open Books, Chicago, Ill. -

Over on the Magic Realism Books Facebook Group a discussion has started about the role of surrealism in magic realism and whether the two are distinct. This book highlights that the boundaries between the two are blurred. 
Jodorowsky is best known for his work as a film director, but he is talented in many fields - Wikipedia  describes him as a film and theatre director, screenwriter, playwright, actor, author, poet, producer, composer, musician, comic book writer and spiritual guru.  
It is worth examining Alejandro Jodorowsky's magic-realist and surrealist heritage. Jodorowsky was born in Chile in 1929 to Jewish Ukranian parents. As we have seen in other books reviewed on this blog, there are strong magic-realist South American, Jewish and Eastern European traditions and Jodorowsky was heir to all three. From 1950 he divided his time between France and Mexico. In Mexico he became friends with the British surrealist artist Leonora Carrington, whose book The Hearing Trumpet I reviewed in the early days of this blog. When I first read Albina and the Dog Men and before I researched the book's author, I was very much reminded of Carrington's work of magic realism. 
The other book I was reminded of was Jeanette Winterson's Sexing the Cherry, whose monstrous and remarkable central character not only is called the Dog Woman but has the same elemental strength as Jodorowsky's two central female characters. But while I consider both Carrington's and Winterson's novels to be magic realism, I do not find Albina and the Dog Men to be so. For me there is not enough realism in this book to be magic realism. No this sexy, raucous, mystical and amazing book is just too surreal. - Zoe Brooks

Alejandro Jodorowsky, The Spiritual Journey of Alejandro Jodorowsky: The Creator of El Topo, Trans. by Joseph Rowe (Inner Traditions/Bear & Company, 2008)

"Jodorowsky’s memoirs of his experiences with Master Takata and the group of wisewomen—magiciennes - who influenced his spiritual growth
• Reveals Jodorowsky turning the same unsparing spiritual vision seen in El Topo to his own spiritual quest
• Shows how the author’s spiritual insight and progress was catalyzed repeatedly by wisewoman shamans and healers
In 1970, John Lennon introduced to the world Alejandro Jodorowsky and the movie, El Topo, that he wrote, starred in, and directed. The movie and its author instantly became a counterculture icon. The New York Times said the film “demands to be seen,” and Newsweek called it “An Extraordinary Movie!” But that was only the beginning of the story and the controversy of El Topo, and the journey of its brilliant creator. His spiritual quest began with the Japanese master Ejo Takata, the man who introduced him to the practice of meditation, Zen Buddhism, and the wisdom of the koans. Yet in this autobiographical account of his spiritual journey, Jodorowsky reveals that it was a small group of wisewomen, far removed from the world of Buddhism, who initiated him and taught him how to put the wisdom he had learned from his master into practice.
At the direction of Takata, Jodorowsky became a student of the surrealist painter Leonora Carrington, thus beginning a journey in which vital spiritual lessons were transmitted to him by various women who were masters of their particular crafts. These women included Doña Magdalena, who taught him “initiatic” or spiritual massage; the powerful Mexican actress known as La Tigresa (the “tigress”); and Reyna D’Assia, daughter of the famed spiritual teacher G. I. Gurdjieff. Other important wisewomen on Jodorowsky’s spiritual path include María Sabina, the priestess of the sacred mushrooms; the healer Pachita; and the Chilean singer Violeta Parra. The teachings of these women enabled him to discard the emotional armor that was hindering his advancement on the path of spiritual awareness and enlightenment."

"So it was with great excitement that I read the recent translation of Jodorowsky’s spiritual autobiography, entitled - hold onto your hats - The Spiritual Journey of Alejandro Jodorowsky. Like his films, it is a puzzling, wonderous, grotesque, and sometimes tedious book, but it does confirm the sense I get from his films that he is not fucking around with the mysteries. In the Sixties and Seventies, Jodorowsky was a serious practitioner of Zen, studying and meditating with a Japanese priest in Mexico City named Ejo Takata. Their koan combat is the most steady thread of this book, a male-buddy-cognitive conversation that forms a counterpoint with the other figures in the book, all of whom are women who offer Jodo various modes of initiation - artistic, sexual, magical, energetic. These women include the surrealist painter Leonora Carrington, who sounds as wacky brilliant as Dali, and a goat-killing silicone-implanted Mexican actress known as La Tigress.
The strongest aspect of the book are the tales themselves. Jodo is a great story-teller, and the details he provides about his fascinating life - a Chilean expat in Mexico, a renegade theatre director turned filmmaker, a celebrity in Mexico City’s hothouse creative environment - make me pray that someone chooses to translate his autobiography La Danza de la Realidad as well. His stories are rounded out with remarkable and sometimes hilariously bizarre details about random encounters with street urchins and strange synchronicities involving firing squads and singing vulvas. Late in the book, he visits a brujo, and the setting tells you all you need to know: ‘A black dog gnawed the remains of an iguana and a pig was snuggling its belly comfortably into a freshly dug hollow in a humid patch of ground.’" - Erik Davis

"Can a book have “Buddha nature”? Since The Spiritual Journey of Alejandro Jodorowsky: The Creator of El Topo is about the spiritual journey of Alejandro Jodorowsky, the director of the cult movies El Topo, The Rainbow Thief, and The Holy Mountain, and since part of his spiritual journey involved his experiences with the Zen Buddhist monk Ejo Takata, the question of whether or not a book can have Buddha nature is not perhaps an irrelevant one. Asking it is paraphrasing one of the koans (questions designed to provoke deep inner introspection and ultimately a state of enlightenment) which Zen masters often ask their students. The one it paraphrases is: “Does a dog have Buddha nature?” The answer I would give is: “It is what it is.” Which, if correct or not, might be all that would be required and the rest of this review would be a blank space. Words are just words, after all, not the essence of what they represent.
But I will take the possibly perverse view that since words are, for better or worse, what we generally use to communicate thoughts and ideas with, I will use words and give a somewhat more in-depth idea here about what Jodorowsky’s book is like.
It is a memoir of his experiences with Master Ejo Takata and the group of wise women magicians who influenced his spiritual growth. As such, it is a true and accurate portrayal - at least, relatively speaking, as everything is more or less relative. The author experiences the events in the book and relates his interpretations of them, so the things he sees and reports are “true”. To someone else experiencing the same things, his/her interpretations and conclusions would likely be different, though also “true”. In this way, and also in that some of what Alejandro experiences during his spiritual journey - though revelatory - are alcohol and/or drug influenced, this book reminds me a lot of the books of Carlos Casteneda.
Each of us follows a spiritual path of some sort, and makes choices concerning our beliefs - or, making the choice of not believing in any other explanation of reality than that which science provides. So, whether or not you have gone through or felt the sorts of things Jodorowsky has, involving illuminating revelations and insights due to the profound wisdom of the Zen monk Takata and the seemingly magical powers of the influential women he encountered, the memoir is still a fascinating read.
One of the women who influences his spiritual journey is Leonora Carrington, a poetess/artist he’s directed to by Takata while living in Mexico City. The woman is intelligent and witty, had been the mistress of the painter Max Ernst, and has also undergone “a crisis of madness.” But, just as indigenous peoples worldwide have often respected and believed in the visions of shamans, many of Leonora’s friends and acquaintances find a profundity in her poems, art and life. In a letter to Jodorowsky, she writes:
'I have discovered the marvelous qualities of my shadow. Lately it has been detaching itself from me by virtue of its powers of flight. Sometimes it leaves wet footprints. But I confess: I constantly sleep wrapped in it, and the moments when I am able to awaken are rare.'This book might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for anyone who enjoys reading memoirs about truly interesting and influential people, this is definitely a book to check out. Jodorowsky’s surrealist films have stood the test of time, like all good art does, and among his other interests, he is a playwright, composer, mime, and a psychotherapist. If you like books like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the Carlos Casteneda books, and Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums, or any other books about a person’s search for enlightenment and the meaning of life, then likewise, this book is sure to appeal to you." - Douglas R. Cobb
"One of several autobiographical volumes written by the Chilean-born, Paris-based writer/filmmaker/spiritual guru Alejandro Jodorowsky, and presently the only one to be translated into English. THE SPIRITUAL JOURNEY OF ALEJANDRO JODOROWSKY focuses on Jodorowksy’s initiation into Zen Buddhism, and you can be sure the contents, incorporating hallucinations, surrealism and perverse sexuality, are very Jodorowskyian. In other words, this is a wild, kaleidoscopic memoir that’s far from the dry and conservative account you might expect from anybody else. It’s a valuable resource for adherents of Eastern spirituality, but is also indispensable for Jodorowsky fanatics like myself.
There’s scant detail here on Jodorowsky’s films or graphic novels, much less his childhood and adolescence. It begins with Jodorowsky meeting the Japanese master Ejo Taketa in late sixties Mexico and becoming his disciple. The relationship lasts for years, with Taketa teaching Jodorowsky the importance of Koans - for the uninitiated, Koans are enigmatic questions posed by Zen masters for their disciples to meditate on (sample: “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”).
But that only covers a portion of the book, which also contains a chapter on Jodorowsky’s encounters with the surrealist painter/writer Leonora Carrington, who speaks in (seemingly) nonsensical riddles. Another covers his brief dalliance with a Mexican actress known as The Tigress, who initially befriends but then inevitably turns on him. Most memorable is a recollection of his sexual courtship with Reyna D’Assia (the daughter of the famous spiritualist Gurdjeff), who’s mastered the art of bringing men to orgasm by contracting her vaginal muscles, and who claims Jodorowsky’s problems stem from “the pain of having a mother with a mute vagina.”
Other highlights include an arrogant American motorcycle rider who gets his ass kicked by Taketa for disrespecting the power of Koans, a recollection of how Ms. Carrington pissed off the late Luis Bunuel by decorating the white walls of his bungalow with menstrual blood handprints, and a sustained meditation session that becomes a torturous hallucinatory journey.
The concluding chapter consists of various anecdotes that illustrate how Jodorowsky has used the teachings of his Zen masters in his day-to-day life. They include brief accounts on the making of EL TOPO, THE HOLY MOUNTAIN, SANTA SANGRE and a never-filmed adaptation of DUNE, as well as a summary of Jodorowsky’s decades-long conflict with producer Allen Klein, who withheld Jodorowsky’s early films from circulation until the two finally reconciled in 2004. The final page, appropriately enough, is an advertisement for Jodorowsky’s films on DVD.
What’s never in doubt here is Jodorowsky’s intense commitment to his spirituality. It’s an integral component of all his films and graphic novels, and this entertaining book proves that this spiritual content, in opposition to those critics who claim otherwise, is pure and genuine." -


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