The good life doesn't roll here; what rolls is intoxication. The town seems half dead. Stony beaches, picturesque alleys, isolated bays. Here one can be at leisure; here one can be adrift among the old cobblestone streets. Here, if you are intoxicated, even the rough winds feel gentle. Here, alcohol is consumed at all hours of the day and night. This is Cadaqués in Catalonia. The people here who relish their wine and tequila aren't down and out tramps. They are artists. Or better still, alcoholics who aspire to be artists. Under the spell of surrealistic painters, writers, and film directors like Salvador Dalí, Man Ray, Buñuel who all ended up in Cadaqués, they seek the artistic highs reached by those great artists by fostering their creativity through drugs and alcohol. There is Cal, the 40-year-old American actor; David, the painter; Wiggels, a failed actor; aging hippies and former Dalí models.
There is only one choice for the pseudo artists in Cadaqués, and that is to slow down. Here they drown their artistic failures with alcohol. Then they're in a good mood and they smoke a joint or chain smoke. By finding the right balance of their alcohol levels in this illusory world, they flee from the painful realization that they are not great artists.
Just as they devote themselves to alcohol, they also passionately devote themselves to sex and love. When Cal meets young Layla, he feels magically attracted to her. Their relationship rapidly develops into an affair. Since Michael Lederer compares Cal's love for Layla to that in the ancient Persian love story of Layla and Majnun, he clearly shows the intoxicating nature of their relationship. However, it is obvious from the outset that this relationship has no future. Just as in the story of Layla and Majnun, Cal will search for his Layla. Just as in that story, they will not remain inseparable. As portrayed by Michael Lederer, Layla is in sharp contrast to Cal. She does not drink any alcohol and is a down-to-earth, levelheaded person in the midst of the drinkers. She is increasingly disturbed by the thrill he gets from his addictions. Despite his solemn promises to Layla, Cal's alcohol level remains high. She abandons him. The separation tears Cal apart. He turns his back on Cadaqués and heads for Berlin. Only here he turns around the downward spiral of his life. Cal begins the fight against his addiction. Years later he returns to Cadaqués. All is now deathly still at the artists' favorite hangouts. Some have disappeared; some have become derelicts.
Michael Lederer portrays Cadaqués as a Mecca for forlorn artists. The spirit of the great painters, poets, actors and directors of the past magically attracts them. They seek inspiration from those artists' Muses and yet they only can numb the meager existence of those artistic years with drugs and alcohol. The author portrays unstable characters. Even his contrasting character Layla escapes from her addictive past. The only character who seems to move outside this circle is Paul, Layla's elderly companion. Yet even this father figure has lost contact with reality. Although his restaurant is called "Paradiso," it functions more like a gambling den. Besides, Paul has an inflated opinion of himself, seeking his Muse in Adría, the celebrity chef. Paul also acts intoxicated in his pursuit and humiliation of Layla. In the end he likewise proves himself to be an unstable character.
Can these characters escape from their addictions? Perhaps, however not having been in Cadaqués, "It would always be there," and with it, the craving for a high.
There is definitely a good reason to travel to Michael Lederer's Cadaqués. By using a highly artistic mixture of passion and direct speech he gives us a glimpse into the marriage between artists and addiction and holds the reader's interest throughout the book.
Michael Lederer, Cadaqués, Novel, Translated from the English by Esther Kriegel, Berlin, PalmArtPress 2014, 472 pages, paperback, ISBN: 978-3-941524-34-7, 18.90 Euros
© Soraya Levin
Review by Soraya Levin translated into English by Gunter and Mary Nitsch