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Profile Mi alma en otra parte

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Profile Mi alma en otra parte
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The country belongs to women

by Sabine Leucht

Perhaps knowing the author's origin gives the sense of heat and dryness from the first scene onwards, which characterises Spain's most southern region in the summer. Not even a gentle wind breezes through José Manuel Mora's short family portrait "My soul elsewhere" (Mi alma en otra parte), that could come from Andalusia, where the author was born in 1978, from the Atlantic or the Mediterranean Sea. Rather it is the dust from equally close Africa that really bothers the characters and their feelings. It almost seems as if earth, blood and death are more important in the country of flamenco and bullfighting than elsewhere. Or closer.

The atmosphere is oppressive, evanescence is ever-present in the six intimate play-like scenes, which are characterised by two settings – an old house and an olive groove with a shed –, three generations and a decade. This is what a reader who calculated it would come up with, yet the relationship to time in "My soul elsewhere" is arbitrary. The story is, so to speak, told from a perspective of eternity, in which a few years more or less don't matter.

Sick dogs, bitter-tasting coffee
Details are also fairly unimportant. The scenes don't linger on naturalistic insignias of despair for long: There's not much of that here apart from many sick dogs and black, bitter-tasting coffee. Everything that matters has already happened in their lives. Marriages emerged without love as a supposedly escape from other dead ends and so it goes on. If fate is a virus, this clan is infected.

The first feeling of discomfort in Mora's atmospheric and dense text derives from the fatalistic basic tenor that continuously simmers all the character's feelings on a low flame. Soon the family-orientated person inside the reader will long for the imbalance of temperaments at home and the purifying storm of the argument. But at least there is a tear in the eye of a dying person at one point.

"Mi alma" is a strangely serene piece of work for a 31-year old, which protocols wounds – usually matter-of-factly, sometimes murmuring, but always precisely –, and has years or days go by from scene to scene. The pictures in between invariably supply close-up views in which each of the five characters is alone with one of the others: The "elderly man" with the "elderly woman", with his son, his daughter-in-law, their son and his favourite dog, the "young man" with his wife and his father, the "young woman" with her husband, the "elderly man" and their daughter.

Your body, about 20 years older
In a suggestive dialogue, which sometimes consists of parallel monologues, the relationshis and their secrets slowly unfold, which only seem dark at first sight: The erotic relationship of the "elderly man" Antonio with a ten-year-old girl, who is to become his daughter in law. His son who looks and learns for the future was always there – and never goes beyond the passive role, even as a husband. But after all, he had to endure sentences like this: "I imagine your body about 20 years older, his face with your aged features and beg you to fuck me while I'm half asleep."