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Novel combines mysticism, magic and the unexpected

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"Albina and the Dog-Men" by Alejandro Jodorowsky. Translated from Spanish by Alfred MacAdam. (Restless Books)

From the fertile imagination of Alejandro Jodorowsky, now 87 years young and still writing, springs his newest creation, a novel filled with mysticism, folklore and a mixture of religious lore wrapped up in a series of surreal, magical adventures, worthy of a Salvador Dali painting escaping from the canvas and coming to dwell in the mind of the reader. Nothing is simple and everything is possible, as if the reader has just awakened from a macabre dream or maybe a nightmare.

Jodorowsky was born to Ukrainian Jewish immigrants in Tocopilla, Chile. From an early age, he became interested in mime and theatre. At 23, he left for Paris to pursue the arts and has lived there ever since.

With film artists and writers Fernando Arrabal and Roland Topor, he founded the Panic Movement, in which the group produced violent theatrical events designed to be shocking, to release destructive energies in search of peace and beauty. Jodorowsky directed several classic films in this style – The Holy Mountain, El Topo and Santa Sangre. He is also a mime artist and has written novels, poetry, short stories and more than 30 successful comic books with such highly regarded artists as Moebius and George Bess.

His latest novel starts with a three-day storm from which emerges a voluptuous and enormous alabaster goddess with white skin and white hair, as if Venus de Milo had leapt off her pedestal, turned into flesh and recovered her missing arms, ready to wrap them around men and turn them mad with lust.

This creature is pursued by mad chanting monks and surrounded by a cloud of green parrots, who call her Albina, or so it sounds to her rescuer and exact opposite, the earthly woman nicknamed Crabby.

Crabby was named Isaac by her father because his name was Abraham and his wife’s name was Sarah. He obviously wanted a son, and the fact that the child was a girl did not deter him from naming her Isaac.

That’s just the beginning of the child’s unhappiness – she’s also ugly and very clever so that she does not fit in with her peers, and her life at home is not much better. Crabby rejects her father’s Bible stories, and instead fashions herself after Le Bossu (The Hunchback), a novel by Paul Feval. She walks bent like a hunchback and accepts the idea of “being an aggressive crab separated from others by a hard shell.”

This unlikely duo of Albina and Crabby form a bond of friendship and love, each giving the other what they seem to need and want.

Crabby nurtures Albina and teaches her how to live, and Albina blossoms and begins to dance, enticing the miners in the dusty little Chilean mining town of Iquique into a sexual frenzy. The two form a business partnership. Albina dances almost naked as she’s a goddess and feels no shame. Crabby provides homemade wine and kabobs.

Albina’s hypnotizing beauty turns the miners weak with desire, and then she bites them, turning the men into a pack of dogs in pursuit of the bitch goddess. When the city inspector, Drumfoot, becomes obsessed with Albina, the two have to flee for their lives into the desert on a bicycle built for two, aided by a dwarf hat-maker named Amato Delarosa, who falls in love with Crabby.

Their adventures in the desert are full of magic, horror and eventual success in obtaining the mystical elixir from a cactus that blooms once in 100 years and can restore Albina back into her real self, a caring, loving goddess and stop her from turning men into “beasts” or dogs.

The novel borrows many elements from Jodorowsky’s script for Frank Herberts sci-fi novel, Dune, which he never got to make. It was made instead by David Lynch and was not a commercial success.