Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Reviewing The Lost Diary of Don Juan by Douglas Abrams

The Lost Diary of Don Juan is a novel which purports to have found the diary of the shameless Spanish seducer of women. The diarist is thirty-six years of age and his entries record his exploits in ‘sensual Sevilla’, a city that is rocking and throbbing with passion at the end of the sixteenth century.

Californian author, Douglas Carlton Abrams has in this book sought to recreate history furnishing the diary with insights into Spain’s burgeoning empire, its growing stocks of gold, the power of the Catholic Church with its Inquisition and the bloody action in the bullring.

The Lost Diary can be read simply as a gripping story about the legendary and lusty libertine who renders a service to lonely and neglected women by skillfully moving from bed to bed. At another level the diary can be understood as a historical thriller focusing on a Spanish Robin Hood who eludes the authorities in the knick of time but amidst such pressure is able to enter into sexual touch and intimacy with the impressive composure and patience of a master guitarist.

For readers who want to think further Douglas Abrams puts into focus the dynamics of lust and love, to reveal, without being moralistic, the ingredients that go into a relationship that is mutually satisfying for partners.

A central question that is raised by Don Juan’s experience and by the author is how one stays passionately married to a partner ‘until death do us part’. In countries like the United Arab Emirates, where up to multiple marriage partners are permitted, Abrams might extend the question and ask how a person might stay passionately in love and loyalty with four marriage partners.

The book presents an old, universal story with freshness as it teases out strands that are pertinent to modern day loving. These issues include the caged and cloistered existence of many women, the preoccupation with virginity, the obsession of many fathers and brothers to maintain the purity and honor of the family and the seductive power of masks and veils. Setting the sexual encounters against the background of the Spanish conquest, religious tyranny and the amassing of treasure raises the question about the relationship of power to seduction.

The Lost Diary is a rich banquet of dancing and dueling, kisses and communion, convents and brothels, fighting and fiestas and pain and pleasure. Like its subject the book begins slowly and sometimes there is fumbling and faltering but it picks up the pace until it reaches its heart-thumping climax.

Douglas Carlton Abrams, The Lost Diary of Don Juan (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson), 2007 is available in the United Arab Emirates from Magrudy’s bookshops at a cost of Dh66.00.

Geoff Pound

Image: Front Cover of The Lost Diary.