Fascinated by “Alcestis”, The tragedy written by Euripides that tells the story of a beautiful woman who sacrificed herself so that her husband would not die and that by her sacrifice the gods returned her from death, the writer Alex Michaelides wrote “The silent patient” (Alfaguara, 2021), a sort of update of the myth of Alcestis turned into a thriller that has been translated and published in more than 40 countries and that will be made into a film by the actor and producer Brad Pitt.
That which is in one of the earliest tragedies of Euripides was the impulse that for years guided the writer and psychotherapist Alex Michaelides (Cyprus, 1977) for a universe that explores the childhood trauma, the pitfalls of parenthood, fear, love and hate, psychiatric institutions, circles of violence and human tragedies through the story of Alicia Berenson, a successful painter who fires five shots in the head of her husband, then enters a total silence and as the only testimony paints a self-portrait entitled “Alcestis” and years later comes out of silence prompted by his therapist: Theo Faber.
“Actually what I wanted to do was update and retell the myth of Alcestis and also my main goal was to write a detective novel, of detectives, but I found a problem that I did not know much about policemen and detectives, so I was putting everything in the field of Unit psychiatricBecause I do know about that and I was able to do it well, because it was a fairly organic process that dealt with my interests, ”says Michaelides.
The writer, who with this is his first novel has reached more than 2.5 million readers, assures that he had the tragedy of Alcestis and for a long time he thought about the silence in which she entered when she was reunited with her husband again, “I spent time thinking about what happened after she returned from death, but also what happened before, what happened in her childhood, why it devastated her, why what her husband did broke her so much; I was looking for the explanation in his childhood and suddenly I found it ”, says the narrator.
Alex Michaelides did not know the mechanisms of thriller, but the mechanisms of trauma, the marks left by the childhood tragedies and the artifacts that are activated by pain, hatred, afraid, the depression and the anxiety, “I am very interested in childhood and the trauma experienced in childhood,” says the writer who puts Alicia and Theo, who had a hard childhood, as before a mirror, and from that mirror reflects the anguish of the readers.
“Alicia and Theo suffer from this type of trauma and I was personally interested in putting them in the characters because when I was a teenager I had depression and anxiety and when I was 20 I started receiving therapy and that lasted 10 years, then I studied psychology and also worked in a psychiatric unit, and as Theo says in the book, many enter these professions because they want to heal themselves ”, says Michaelides, who assures that we have to look very deeply inside ourselves and our parents.
A tragedy by Euripides gave rise to the novel by Alex Michaelides, published by Alfaguara. Photo: Courtesy Alfaguara
“There is a quote from a psychoanalyst that I quote in the book, she says that in order to free oneself from the unconscious repetition of the cycle of trauma, one has to understand their childhood but also the childhood of their parents, so as not to follow that generational trauma and unconscious; then you just have to be aware of that. The point is not to blame, because parents are also victims and are trying to do the best they can, but in order to get out you have to understand, you have to understand in order to forgive and not repeat the cycle of violence“, it states.
The cinematographic rights of “The silent patient”Have been acquired by Brad Pitt, who is producing the film adaptation, “I don’t know if I am going to act in the film although I think I would be a good Theo,” says Alex, who adds that he knows there is a director, a script and before the end of the year there will be a announcement about the movie.
Although Michaelides has been a screenwriter for films such as “An Unexpected Robbery”, starring Uma Thurman and Tim Roth, he assures that he does not participate in the adaptation of his novel because if something he learned is that “I am not a good screenwriter, I loved movies and that is why I thought I wanted to do that, but I could not find a way to give it depth until I wrote a novel Then I found my voice, I could get into the heads of the characters and I could make everything flow better ”.
So now he is very happy not to be involved in the details of the film about his novel, “I leave that to those who have more talent to write the script, I will just go see the smiling film without being involved in the development”, concludes.
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