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Sunday, March 29, 2015

After the Death of Don Juan (1939) by Sylvia Warner


Book Review
After the Death of Don Juan(1939)
 by Sylvia Warner

   Talk about your minor classics, After the Death of Don Juan by Sylvia Warner doesn't even have it's own Wikipedia page! Sylvia Warner is included in the 1001 Books project because she is an early LGBT author, and a Communist to boot, thought After the Death of Don Juan has zero LGBT themes.  After the Death of Don Juan is supposedly a parable about the rise of Franco in Spain, though I would have been hard pressed to identify it had I not read it separately on the internet.  The Don Juan in question is "the" Don Juan, or at least "a" Don Juan, one of the line of legendary lotharios who have inspired authors for centuries.  Warner doesn't identify the time of the events in her book, but the manner and speech of the characters seems to place After the Death of Don Juan in the early 20th century.

  In the opening pages, Don Juan disappears after murdering the father of one of his would-be conquests.  The only witness to his disappearance is his valet/man servant, who testifies that Juan was literally pulled down into hell by demons.  This explanation is accepted by most everyone except Juan's long-suffering father, who is doubtful in a "modern" way.  Juan then reappears, claiming that he disappeared because of an outbreak of an embarrassing skin condition, and that he told his valet to make up whatever story he wanted.

  Juan's reappearance causes a rebellion amongst the long suffering peasants of the region, who have been exploited by Juan's father to pay for his prolfigateness(sp?) and there is a rebellion, ruthlessly suppressed by local soldiers.  Soooo... not exactly sure how you get from here to the Franco dictatorship.  Like many of the minor classics in the 1001 Books project, After the Death of Don Juan was genuinely surprising to read in the sense of "What is going to happen next?"  The combination of an exotic setting and a familiar main character makes for a diverting read.

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