When writing about poet Arthur Rimbaud, Henry Miller asserted, and this is a paraphrase, that you can learn much about an author by the type of words they use, and the frequency with which they use them. If such a proposition holds true, then we can learn about Alejandro Jodorowsky by analyzing the words he uses through his short novel, Albina and the Dog-Men (Restless Books). Two words recur here, “transformation and metamorphosis,” and they sum up the theme of the book—as well as the trajectory of Jodorowsky’s eclectic career.
A self-styled mystic and founder of a form of mysticism he dubbed Psychomagic, Jodorowsky is a modern day polymath: playwright and filmmaker, comic book writer and novelist, memoirist and Tarot expert. As his film career fizzled, he turned his attention to writing comic books, such as The Metabarons, a groundbreaking masterpiece of graphic fiction. In the latter part of his life, he’s devoted considerable time and effort on books, both fiction and non-fiction. He isn’t one person; instead, he’s an aggregate of many people residing in the body of one man. Each person transforms as they encounter different aspects of life.
And the same can be said of his characters. Throughout Albina and the Dog-Men, we encounter women and men whose bodies are vessels to many kinds of people, not simply a singular persona. Antagonists and protagonists receive the Jodorowsky treatment: in lieu of displaying fluctuating personalities, they undergo emotional and physical metamorphoses. An ugly woman becomes beautiful, a deformed man becomes a dog, then a handsome princely-type figure.
It’s hard to categorize this novel: a surreal Huckleberry Finn, an absurdist adventure story, a foundation myth rooted in magical realism, as most foundation myths are—all could apply to the novel. In a sense, Albina and the Dog-Men is a fable centered on the magical properties of human companionship. When Crabby, a hunchbacked and volatile bearded woman meets the mysterious Albina, a childlike woman whom she must teach to speak, her life expands outward, from the confines of her isolated town to a broader world populated with pygmy men, dog-men, and Godlike aliens.
After an incident in their small town forces Crabby and Albina to flee in search of a more inclusive haven, they meet Amado, a short man—not a dwarf; a pygmy—who embraces the perpetually shunned Crabby. Amado, smitten, allows them to run a surreal strip club out of his hat shop. But when they discover that Albina’s cursed with an ability to transform into a dog, and who transforms men into dogs, they flee Amado’s hometown in search of a cure.
We could keep summarizing the novel, but it would reveal too many spoilers, and, given the breadth of Jodorowsky’s imagination and the unexpected roads this story takes us, we’ll bracket summarizing Albina and the Dog-Men in its entirety.
If you’re familiar with Jodorowsky’s works in other media, you’re aware of the scope of his knowledge and imagination, but if you’re a newcomer, then you’re in for a treat: without question, Alejandro Jodorowsky possesses one of the most—if not the most—fertile imagination of anyone you’re likely to encounter. He fires one amazing idea or image after the other, then bombards you with more, tossing them aside to replace them with greater or more outlandish concepts or imagery.
Surrealism has long been a staple of his oeuvre; in his films it sometimes jars you; in his comics it disrupts your notion of what the media could be; but here, it introduces fantastical elements to the story, which mimic the mood and temperament of a fable.
From chameleonic birds to a grotesque protagonist—aptly named Drumfoot after a disproportioned and grotesque appendage—to a lost South American tribe to an Incan God, Albina and the Dog-Men possesses elements that cement its status as a modern day fable, a story about love and acceptance, the transformative powers of companionship and belief in the fantastic. And, as with most fables, it leaves itself open to interpretation, but, most importantly, it dazzles and inspires you.
Albina and the Dog-Men
RELEASE DATE: May 10, 2016
LIST PRICE: $15.99 USD (ebook: $14.99 USD)
Visit the Restless Books page for Albina and the Dog-Men