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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Portrait In Sepia by Isabel Allende: Sneaky Peeky Sunday

Am reading this gorgeous book right now titled 'Portrait in Sepia' by Isabel Allende. 

Hubby picked this up for me as a surprise from a very old style and old bookstore in Hong Kong - a wooden old atticy kind of bookstore..wow! Of course he knows my love for old books, books that have been with other keepers, who've been with other hands, yellowed pages filled with memories from some other reader, some other place. So it is that I'm now reading this 'old' copy of the book and absolutely loving this treasure of a book...Here's the page I'm on now...

'.....photograph the dark shadows in your nightmares,' Severo del Valle said as a joke, never suspecting that that would be my one objective for months, and that in the task of deciphering that nightmare I would end up in love with the world. My grandmother took me to the Plaza de Armas, to the studio of Don Juan Ribero, the best photographer in Santiago, a curt man as dry as stale bread on the outside, but generous and sentimental inside.

 'I've brought you my granddaughter to you to be your apprentice,' my
grandmother said, laying a check on the artist's desk while I clutched her skirttail with one hand and my brand-new camera in the other.

 Don Juan Ribero, who was a half head shorter than my grandmother and half her weight, settled his eyeglasses on his nose, carefully reading the amount reading on the check, and then handed it back to her, looking her up and down with infinite scorn.

 'The amount isn't a problem. You set the price,' my grandmother wavered.

 'It isn't a question of price, but of talent, senora,' he replied, guiding Paulina del Valle toward the door.

 During that exchange, I'd had time to take a quick look around. Ribero's work covered the walls: hundreds of portraits of people of all the social pages, but the people gazing at me from the walls of his studio were not bigwig conservatives or beautiful debutantes, but Indians, miners, fishermen, laundresses, poor children, old men, many women like the ones my grandmother helped with loans from the ladies club. There I saw represented the multifaceted and tormented face of Chile. Those people in the photographs touched something deep inside me; I wanted to know the story of every one of them. I felt a pressure in my chest, like a closed fist, and an uncontainable desire to cry, but I swallowed my emotions and followed by grandmother out with my head high. In the carriage she tried to console me: I shouldn't worry, she said, we would get someone else to teach me to operate the camera, photographers were a dime a dozen; what did that second-...........' 

- Debolina Raja Gupta