Orths, Markus. “Catalina”, The Toby Press, 2007.
A Woman’s (?) Defiance
“Catalina” by German author, Markus Orths, is based on the true story of Catalina d’Erauso who was born in 1585 in San Sebastian, Spain. She was delivered by her older brother, Miguel and later began to worship him. It completely tore her up when he embarked for the New World in search of silver mines. Deperate, Catalina joined a convent, realizing that she needed an education which average women were unable to have and by being an educated woman, she would be allowed to follow her brother. Because of the temper and mores of the time, she was forced to disguise herself as a man so that she would be able to move freely.
Catalina became Francisco and began to live and act as a man and she soon found comfort in the role. She was able to fool everyone, including her lovers. Believng she was honestly on a quest to find her brother once she reached the new world, she soon discovered that she was actually on a journey to find a way to be herself as a man.
This is an absolutely amazing story. Following Catalina as she quested after her borther on two continents, we become drawn intop a world of violence as she managed to hold her male identity within and then without as natural gender was supplanted.
Catalina managed to be what she was thought to be—she became male in thought and function. Known as the “Lieutenant Nun”, she successfully lived as a man while being a female.
The writing is excellent and exciting as history is interwoven with fiction and legend and fantasy merge completely. Orths knows how to tell a story and does so brilliantly, The narrative provides food for thought in a straightforward and linear storyline and the language translated by Helen Atkins is pure beauty.