Picks and Pans Review: Frieze
by Cecile Pineda
Pineda's first novel, published a couple of years ago, was a tale of a man in the slums of Rio who was horribly disfigured by a fall. It was called Face, and its special qualities attracted a couple of prizes. Now Pineda has written another magical story, about a sculptor who helped create Java's great temple of Borobudur in 800 A.D. Facewas inspired by a newspaper clipping. Frieze, the author tells us, "invaded my consciousness in 1984 when I spent a solitary hour scampering over the vast pyramid/stupa/shrine which lies on the Indonesian island of Java." Her artist-craftsman hero is Gopal, an Indian who becomes a kind of treasured slave to rulers who have grandiose ideas for temples and palaces to build. Gopal's first wife is fragile and loses her mind after childbirth. Their daughter is put out into the hills to die. His second wife is sturdy, practical and bears him two sons. Gopal's fame spreads, and he is traded by his lord to a great king for the Java project. Gopal's job is to create 120 large bas-relief stone panels describing the life of Buddha, and 20 years go by in intensive labor. The panels end up describing not only the Buddha's life but his own. Pineda is of course writing almost entirely from her imagination; the world she creates is made up of misty fragments, brief moments in a long life, sometimes beautiful but often cruel, irrational and violent. Frieze is every bit as haunting as Face. (Viking, $16.95)
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