I don’t think I got enough out of After the Death of Don Juan by Sylvia Townsend Warner. Perhaps it’s that I don’t really appreciate Spanish culture fully – I’ve never been to Spain and don’t speak a word of the language. (Well, I think hamburger is something like hambergesa – but that’s really about all I know.) The descriptions of the country in the book were beautiful, though.
I know from reading the introduction that the book is supposed to be a parable relating to the Spanish Civil War, which was going on at the time that Warner was writing. I also don’t know anything about the Spanish Civil War.
So, obviously the nuances of the book were lost on me (even more than usual). And maybe if I did understand the Spanish Civil War or more fully grasped the culture, it would make more sense. I was following everything that went on, but then toward the end it got really confusing. Don Ottavio went back to kill Don Juan, but wound up banding together with him to fight the peasants? And why did they tie up Don Saturno? I just felt like the whole thing got very muddled at the end. Also, the back of the book and the introduction both hint at the fact that Dona Ana might be pregnant as a reason why she is so relentlessly pursuing Don Juan. I didn’t pick up on that in the text at all.
In fact, some of this stuff was SO lost on me that I needed Mike to explain to me the idea behind Don Juan. I couldn’t really figure out whether the legend of Don Juan came from this book or whether Warner used the legend as a jumping off point for the story. It probably would have helped if I knew the Don Juan legend before starting to read this book.
So, interesting book, definitely see why it’s good literature, but not my favorite.
Embarrassing confession: Mike had to explain to me when I was about halfway through that all the characters were not actually named Don.