Duende by Lizzie Eldridge: A Reflection by Giuliana Fenech


Duende by Lizzie Eldridge

A Reflection by Giuliana Fenech

Book Launch of Duende: 23rd April 2015 National Museum of Fine Arts Valletta

Giuliana at Duende launchDuende is about the darkness that haunts every creative soul. It is about the negotiation between illusion and delusion. It is also about art and life and the ways in which human beings negotiate the two on a quest to understand more about each. In Lizzie Eldridge’s Duende it is also about art as one way in which humans compose themselves in encounters with other bodies and materials to produce a more powerful body by asking the question, ‘What if?’

What if our thoughts are nothing but ephemeral, flighty and meaningless? What if men are all brutes and politicians all corrupt? What if a man loving another man is tempting fate too much and will lead to doom for both? But what if art could teach the lessons of history so that no more people would die in war? What if poetry could capture the depths of consciousness so that those who are lost could find themselves again? What if the emotional connection of love could overcome shame, grief and desolation?

if Paradise was ever lost completely

if light grew dead

and darkness embraced my mind

if the curve of your body

became a shadow

and the sky collapsed within the sea

I, sleepless, would forever search for you


the truth I seek,

desire, delight and dreams

the honesty of angels

whose wings unfurl to the pulse of our existence


windows watching strangers

lighting shipwrecked passers-by

church bells

toll against a weary world

spinning ceaselessly around


if the shoe fits

chains may break

and blindness turn to sight


the sea baptised us

the water and the wind

gave us a name


a sheltered cove

was our creation

our beginning

and our end


wine and stars

white moon and snow

sharp russet rose


perhaps no home

or country

but still a memory

a whispered touch

a long held sigh


you are all i want

all i could need

it’s you I find

infinite and dancing

in the pathways of my soul

(Eldridge, 2015)

In this novel, art becomes a driving force for a lifetime of change and creativity but also a platform for contemplation and action. Loosely interpreted Duende means – having soul – or being in a heightened state of emotion, expression and authenticity. In this novel, Duende remains faithful to its broader meaning whilst honing in on a particular time and place. Set in the years leading up to the Spanish Civil War, it cleverly combines an attention to detail and history that keeps us grounded in life whilst also allowing us to follow the journey of the two protagonists, Nayo and José. The growing love between two boys who mature into men as the story progresses is only rendered even more intriguing by the fact that one, Nayo, is an artist and the other, José, a philosopher and poet.

Their story unfolds in the magical and mysterious cities of Europe including Madrid, Barcelona, Paris and others as they are surrounded by those we now recognise as icons; Salvador Dalí, Pepin Bello, Pablo Picasso, Luis Buñuel, Federico García Lorca. Through these characters we ‘perform what we read in the theatre of our minds’ (Gerrig, 1993). We engage in aesthetic illusion as we would in a game of make-believe. We know that this is only a story – an illusion – so that we are in-lusio, meaning in play and yet we are also immersed. Amidst the turmoil and changes that the boys experience, whilst eager to absorb all that they can from the world and people around them, they form a strong connection that carries them through the rest of their lives. ‘I’ve found you, Nayo, I’ve fucking found you’, José exhorts as he catches sight of his friend after having lost him in the crowd.

Nayo is not simply José’s companion but also his soul mate. Lizzie has chosen her title carefully, not only are their emotions constantly pushed to dizzying heights and desperate lows, but their quest for expression and authenticity constantly challenged creatively. Their art embodies the spirit of evocation. It comes from inside recalling a physical/emotional response to life. It represents what gives you chills, makes you smile or cry as a bodily reaction to an artistic performance that is particularly expressive. Lizzie, drawing on Federico García Lorca’s own reflections on Duende, writes:

Duende. Mysterious and inexplicable like Goethe’s notion of the Demonic. Duende, that mischievous spirit in myth and folklore. Duende. Something primal, living, shuddering and vibrant. Duende which evokes tears through its music and its poetry. Duende which comes from the depths of the body through the roots of the earth and shakes the entire universe.

(Eldridge, 2015)

And we, as readers, are reminded, that whilst this may be just a story it is also a journey, the journey of a character who falls in love, an artist who discovers his talent, a country that fights for ideals it believes in and a reader, who curious to know more ventures to ask, ‘What if?’Duende Take 2


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