New Book: Antonio Martorell’s “El velorio (no vela)”

At LIBER 2010, the International Book Fair in Barcelona, Puerto Rican visual artist Antonio Martorell launched his new book, El velorio (no vela) [The Wake (and, among several meanings: “novel” or “does not wake”)], which was recently published by Martorell’s Editorial RIP. The book was presented by Humberto Figueroa, director of the Pío López Museum at University of Puerto Rico-Cayey.

As El Nuevo Día reports, “this man of many hats—literally and symbolically,” has created a dialogue with the famous and emblematic work by Francisco Oller, El velorio [The Wake] giving a voice to the characters and objects inside and outside the confines of the painting.

Martorell declares that, in this book, “even the cat speaks, even the paintbrush.” He explains that he was inspired by a work by Turkish Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, in which a color speaks. The artist immediately asked himself, “What would these characters [in The Wake] say?” In the novel, there are 64 voices, including a paintbrush, a candle, the dead child, and the woman in the yellow dress. Each section is a sort of monologue through which each element or character tells its/his/her story.

The work includes a translation written by Andrew Hurley, which appears next to the text in Spanish. This was particularly important for Martorell, who is excited that the Puerto Rican diaspora in the United States will be able to enjoy the book even if they have not kept up their Spanish language skills. He dedicated the book, in part, to this group of people because, he says, “No one knows the sacrifice they have made so that [some of us] could enjoy remaining on the island. We have an invaluable debt to them. This book is for them, too.”

The book also includes a CD in which 14 actors lend their voices to the characters. Some of the voices include those of figures such as Carola Garcí­a, Jacobo Morales, Myrna Casas, and Teresa Hernández.

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