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Violeta Parra by the Whim of the Wind [Paperback]

Karen Kerschen

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Book Description

1 Feb 2010
Violeta Parra: By The Whim of the Wind is a biography about Chile's legendary musician and artist who championed her nation's rustic customs, songs and dances against a current of modernization. She left a legacy of topical songs and new respect for the dignity of humble roots. As a visual artist, Violeta Parra was the first Latin American to merit a solo exhibit in the Louvre. A woman of great passion, she paid for her choices tragically. Violeta Parra's story captivated Karen Kerschen when she was caught in the Chilean coup d'etat, September 11, 1973, and forced to flee. A New Yorker by birth, Kerschen's lifelong interest in the threads of folkloric culture date back to childhood stories of her family's emigration from Eastern Europe. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in NYC and worked in both humanities and technology. Kerschen now lives with her husband in rural northern New Mexico.

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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Political Activism in Song a Meritorious Achievement 25 Nov 2010
By L. C. Henderson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This unauthorized biography of the life and art of the notable Chilean folklorist and visual artist, Violeta Parra, provides valuable insights into the emotionally troubled existence of one of the most gifted South Americans of the past century. The book traces her life from when she was born in the small town of San Carlos in the province of Ñuble in southern Chile through her growing up in poverty, discusses her somewhat checkered rise to fame, and ends with her suicide at the age of 49 in February 1967. A political activist, Parra was involved in the progressive movement and the Socialist Party of Chile. Despite being courted by the academic establishment at various stages in her career, she was also disparaged by the politically and socially elite, from whom she all too often alienated herself.

Parra's distinctive voice and concern with wishing to immortalize the cultural heritage of the often landless Chilean peasantry ensured her a unique place in the history of her nation. Despite some fraternization with North American beat poets Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and the exhibition of her art at the Louvre (with Parra being the first Latin American to have a solo exhibit at the august establishment), her primary commitment lay in the upliftment of her own people and in the creation of a folkloric vision. In fact, this is what first drew Karen Kerschen to write about her. As Kerschen says, "I discovered that Violeta's story far exceeded her legend." In addition to recording the traditional customs of her native countrymen for posterity, for which purpose she travelled extensively throughout her country to gain first-hand access to primary sources of such culture, Parra also eloquently described the suffering of the urban poor. Her lack of formal schooling and training in no way hindered her transposing the truth of what she found into both aural and visual evidence of the experiences of the poorest of the poor--proof that financial impoverishment does not rob the people of their soul.

Kerschen's biography is a modest and unassuming tale of a woman whose achievements have been all too little written about so far. The intertwining of Parra's personal and social history with the evolution of her music and art is told in intimate detail, leaving none of the more negative aspects of the artist out, and certainly she was a most troubled and, at times, pugnacious person. However, that her story deserves to be told is a certainty, with Kerschen's telling of it coming none too soon. For anyone interested in the role of women in the evolution of society and art, Violeta Parra: By the Whim of the Wind is a worthwhile investment. [Reviewer for BookPleasures.com]
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Violeta Parra: By the Whim of the Wind 15 Nov 2010
By Lucille Lang Day - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I received Violeta Parra: By the Whim of the Wind as a gift from a friend. Before receiving it, I had never heard of Violeta Parra. After reading it, I immediately bought a CD of her music. I had to hear her! I also started telling friends about this amazing woman. What I love best about the book is its honesty. Parra is presented as a three-dimensional human being with great strengths and equally great weaknesses. She is brilliant, talented, generous, and loving. She is also self-centered, stubborn, depression-prone, and in dire need of anger-management skills. Yet she accomplishes the seemingly impossible in rising from poverty in Chile to become the first woman to have an individual exhibition at the Louvre, and she persists in creating music, tapestries, and paintings that are loved and appreciated the world over. Cheers for Violeta, and for Karen Kerschen for telling her story!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Violeta Parra, the artist 15 July 2010
By Kathy96 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Violeta Parra was a Chilean folk singer and artist who began life in abject poverty and clawed her way from the ghetto to the Louvre by capitalizing on her self-taught skills. She surmounted what seemed insurmountable odds to rise out of her dirt-poor beginning to overcome illness, to maintain friends and family, to develop the ability to play almost every musical instrument available in South America during her lifetime, and to capture the beauty and colors of life in her paintings and woven masterpieces.

The author has captured the essence of this enigmatic artist, who was a passionate, self-centered, self-destructive soul. Kerschen also shows us a brilliant musician, generous with her love, time, money and talent. In fact it was probably Violeta's generosity that kept her constantly overworked and poor. It also fed her temper tantrums, and serious bouts of depression that plagued her all her life, and which ended her life.

With a sure touch, Kerschen has created a full picture of Violeta and her environs and talent: we learn about the clothing styles of the time, hear Chilean music of the 1940s, 50's and 60's, read her poetry, and see the primitive tapestry and paintings she created.

The book contains an extensive Index and "Sources" section that includes a glossary of terms, selected books of interest, discography, film, and the author's website address. A map of Violeta's travels would have been helpful.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another virtually unknown woman, sigh, outside of Chile anyhow... 11 July 2010
By S. Fishburn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Intriguing intro to a volatile Chilean artist/musician who took her own life at the age of 49. Ms. Kerschen's passionate storytelling dramatizes Parra's failures and successes throughout every facet of a fascinating life devoted to both her own poetry and music, and the recording and documentation of a real Chilean folk music archive. Parra was the first Latin American artist (and the first woman) to be shown in an individual exhibition at the Louvre in Paris. Her works include painting, papier-maché masks, ceramics, and fantastically rendered emblematic tapestry-style embroideries on burlap.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Listen God, Won't you command an earthquake for me? 2 Jun 2010
By Kent Price - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book tells the life story of Violeta Parra (1917 - 1967), a Chilean peasant artist famous for her tapestries, singing, and collection of folk songs. The author describes Violeta's loves, passions and eccentricities to the extent that the reader really knows her. For example, the opening chapter tells how she sent a telegram to God, asking for an earthquake.

The story moves right along, punctuated with dialog, quotes, and the text of songs. A good read.
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