The Incantation Of Frida K.

Written by Kate Braverman
Review by Gerald T. Burke

This is a fictional autobiography of Frida Kahlo, the Surrealist painter who died at 46 in 1954. While on her deathbed, Frida recalls the major events of her adult life through memory that is sometimes lucid, sometimes hallucinatory. She recollects her horrific accident at 17 when a trolley strikes and impales her through the hip, back, and lower abdomen and leaves her sterile and mutilated. These wounds become a defining part of Frida’s life as both artist and woman. She also sifts through her marriage to Diego Rivera, the Mexican artist. In retrospect, it is a troubled and disturbing relationship fraught with humiliation and callousness. The novel reveals how she not only endures, but, despite physical pain, drug addition, and frustration, grows as an artist of intense vision.

Braverman paints an extraordinary portrait in language that is lyrical and sensual. Her prose style is serried, yet poetic, in its rendering and perfect for her subject. This novel is not so much about an early twentieth century artist as about the experiences of all artists. Like good poetry, this novel bears rereading.