Monday, May 18, 2009

The Intimate Diary of Frida Kahlo, a Singular Literary Self-portrait

MEXICO CITY.-(EFE) The intimate diary of Frida Kahlo is really no such thing - rather it is a literary self-portrait comparable in quality to the pictures the artist painted of herself, an Italian researcher told Efe.

The specialist in intimate literature Cristina Secci, a native of Cagliari, Italy, presented Saturday in Mexico City a study of the literary genre to which Kahlo's diary belongs.

"An intimate diary is so personal that you hide it in the bottom drawer. But Frida didn't. She read certain parts to her guests and friends, she allowed herself to be photographed with it and even gave away pages to her friends, so they say," she said in an interview.

The diary was written during the last 10 years of Frida's life, but even so contains few dates, an unusual trait in writings like this.

Secci said that when the reader opens any "intimate diary," he or she expects to find such elements as love affairs, dreams, sufferings and betrayals.

Frida (1907-1954) included all that but also included her thoughts on politics, art, poetry and other subjects.

"The elements of this work are different from those of an intimate diary," the Italian said in stressing the originality of Frida's writing.

Secci said that the diary can be seen evolving, with the handwriting very straightforward at first but getting more and more complicated later as Kahlo, almost without thinking, began to fill the blank spaces with drawings, the kind of doodles "we draw when we're talking on the telephone."

"Since Kahlo is a painter, it all gets away from her and painting overflows the diary - she includes color" so that it becomes a fundamental part of it, with the words becoming pictures and the pictures words, she said.

At times Kahlo would write a large part of the diary with a paintbrush, she said.

She said that sometimes the handwriting of the text "overflows" and becomes landscape as well, so that the words lose their literal meanings and acquire new ones.

Secci recalled that Kahlo had on her bed a mirror in which she always looked at herself, an object with the peculiarity of reflecting images backwards.

"Myself in the mirror is not the real me. It is similar, but not the same thing," Secci said, a truth expressed in the book she entitled "With the Image in the Mirror: The Literary Self-Portrait of Frida Kahlo."

She recalled that one characteristic of self-portraits is that they show the image the artist wants others to see, which is not necessarily the real one.

"I don't mean it's a lie, but it is very subjective," she said.

Another clue proving that this is not a traditional diary are the words erased and crossed out in the text.

The expert explained that when people write in a diary something they later regret, they usually tear out the page. Kahlo, however, crossed it out and wrote over it, as if defying the reader to decipher what is hidden there.

"More than a diary, Frida wrote it as a self-portrait, to place beside the many she painted," said the Italian philologist, adding that this does not mean the writings are any the less intimate.

"Frida had a great ability to express her intimacy, whether in painting, letters or prose...that's why I don't believe she would need a genuine intimate diary," she said.

For Secci, at the end of the diary and before the artist died it becomes more intimate and the effects of pain and drugs can be observed, even in the difficulty she had in writing. EFE

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