Is it duende yet?

So there’s this really cool concept in flamenco and Spanish art called duende (pronounced like doo-wen-deh). It’s one of those words that’s difficult to define, even in Spanish. You know that feeling you get when you go to a performance, and the music is so incredible that the rest of the world falls away? Like somehow, the artists have created something that reaches into your soul and just shakes you to your core. That’s duende. Federico García Lorca explains that this magical audience experience actually has a lot to do with the artist’s struggle the angel (the idea), the muse (the form), and the soul:

“Angel and Muse come from outside us…while the duende has to be roused from the furthest habitations of the blood.”

Duende has been on my mind a lot lately during this collection phase of producing the multi-touch edition of A World Between Us. It’s a delicate task to find just the right pictures, or audio, or video clip to sit beside a text that conveys such strong emotion. Because above all, these multi-touch extras have to plunge the reader deeper into the narrative experience, not disrupt their connection to the story.

We’ve frequently struggled with our angels and muses (manifested in our constantly growing list of ideas) throughout this process, because there are just so many interesting things we could include about the Spanish Civil War. The pain, suffering, and bravery of the time is reflected in countless works of art, music, and in the handwritten letters of the volunteers. And of course, our angels and muses want us to use every last original scrap of paper we can get our hands on.

But creating the perfect multi-touch version of an already fantastic book is not just about dumping stuff into the book, just like performing the perfect dance is not about adding every last bit of fancy footwork. It’s about finding a new way to create that perfect feeling for the reader, and finding that perfect balance between “the stuff” and the narrative. Lorca said that when duende is present, it is actually a breakthrough in form, it is something that “brings totally unknown and fresh sensations.” That’s exactly what we want, and we’ll keep struggling to make it happen.


2 responses to “Is it duende yet?

  1. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, I love what you guys are doing with the e-book format.

    It seems like in this day of technology a lot of people/companies/etc. will just throw stuff in with their products to be gimmicky in order to pull people in and once they buy it or whatever they are on their own.

    So of course it makes me feel very happy–even if I don’t have an Ipad–to see that you at Hotkeybooks are not only setting the tone for how e-books should be created, but also caring this much about the content that’s added and how it’s added and how it fits in with the actual novel.

    You aren’t just working to get sales (even though those are nice!), but also to leave the reader with a memorable experience that makes them say “you know what? That was pretty incredible.”

    That’s passion. Keep it up.

  2. Pingback: Angel muse | Lentablog

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