“He grabbed a blanket from the bed that was closest to him and, letting it go like a weapon, began to wield it right and left in the air. He felt the thud of his body, the flutter of his wings, but the birds did not give up and each time they attacked him again: they stabbed his hands and head with their small pointed beaks, sharp as a fork.”. Yes, the birds in question are the ones that Alfred Hitchcock immortalized for horror film history in 1963, based on a no less disturbing tale by Daphne du Maurier (1907-1989). And that’s how they sound in Catalan after being translated for the first time into this language, 69 years after the English author included them in a set of stories, also now recovered: The apple tree and other tales (The Other Herbs).
“I have also experienced a certain uneasiness and anguish in some scenes”, admits Marta Pera, translator of these stories and all of Du Maurier’s work in Catalan: the no less creepy and also hitchcockiana Rebecca (2008) and My cousin Rachel (2020). Knowledge of an author “neither experimental nor stylistically innovative, but who has a special ability with intrigue” that allows Pera to dissect her narrative strategy. “He doses the disturbing ingredients well, which he usually places in stories that take place in houses or landscapes where the person feels isolated from the rest of society or where there is already something disturbing; it also places them in the framework of love relationships or marriages threatened by some spectrum, real or psychological, “he says.
“The arguments that link the intimate life of its characters with the sinister are never explicit and they move in the everyday; Nothing very strange ever happens, but the murky, although hidden, is perceived and the reader knows that at any moment all this will explode and surface … She is a master of psychological terror “, adds Ramon Mas, one of the editors of Males Herbes, a label that already publishes Stephen King in Catalan and has partnered with L’Altra Editorial to tackle the Du Maurier de The apple tree and other tales. With that title the book appeared in England in 1952, albeit with only five stories, two less than those of the Catalan edition, which in that copies the 1953 North American one. But it restores an original title that was buried since the success of the Hitchcock’s film, a phenomenon that renamed it The birds and other stories.
Scholars of Du Maurier affirm that the idea of the story that ornithologists hate so much came to him when he saw how seagulls hovered threateningly over a peasant who was carving and add, as a psychological reading, the air attacks that England suffered during the Second World War. There are those who even see a premonition of a welfare state that will stop acting and abandon the population to their lonely fate, as the philosopher Slavoj Zizek has read, a fan of a young woman from a good family, daughter of a theater producer and granddaughter of a writer, who with 21 years already conceives The doll, portrait of a sickly and sexually reminiscent obsession of a young woman with a romper. It will be the first sample of a particular vital schizophrenia: a cultured, refined and profound woman, married to a military man with whom she had three children, Lady of the British Empire, but who did not stop fabricating stories loaded with obsessions, a certain cruelty, paranormal notes. , anxieties and sexual tensions. A Patricia Highsmith before the letter.
Perhaps everything is apparently easier in Du Maurier’s narrative: in a story that is in principle everyday, something disturbing suddenly appears that changes and gives an alternative vision of a reality that is sometimes more gray than uncomfortable. In one case it is the birds, but in the story of The apple tree It will be that fruit tree that seems to the owner of the house that it increasingly resembles the dead woman that he betrayed years ago. And in that of The photographer there is that unhealthy attitude of the rich marquise who enjoys seducing and humiliating a miserable village portraitist for free. On Give me another kiss, foraster, the usher of a movie theater that the young mechanic falls in love with is not far from some crimes; or in Monte Verità I do not know why another beautiful young woman leaves everything to go to a corner of the Swiss Alps to join an initiatory group … The no less disturbing The old i No reason they close the proposal, where nothing always, never ends closed: the new threat is already installed at the door of life.
Women, for the most part, thus star in the stories of Du Maurier, a more or less pale reflection of his own feelings that appear in a good part of the almost forty works that he published. But especially in his other great milestone, Rebecca, inspired by the ailments that she was awakened by finding the letters of an old love of her husband, Jan Ricardo; a surname with r that explains Rebecca’s name, which in turn would end up baptizing a syndrome: that of obsessive jealousy. Zizek speaks of “female masochism” in the entire work of the writer, the presence of “a woman character who enjoys her own ruin, who finds tortured satisfaction in her submission and humiliation.”
The iconoclastic Slovenian thinker developed that theory in 2004 for a foreword to Du Maurier’s stories that the English publisher Virago rejected as too theoretical and disrespectful to the author. It is the one that the publishing house El Paseo rescued in Spanish in 2017. But there it also said that the narratives made explicit “too directly the fantasies that sustain our lives”, in a staging so “direct and stark” and “often shameful” It is one of those daydreams that makes her writing “so captivating, especially when compared to aseptic politically correct feminism.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.