I gained very little from The Yellow World. I respect Espinosa’s experiences but his book is unfocused and doesn’t do them justice.
Albert Espinosa was educated as an engineer but is more renowned as a Spanish screenwriter. He’s also known for surviving a 10-year battle with cancer which cost him a leg, a lung and a chunk of his liver. Not wanting to write a book directly about his experiences surviving cancer, he instead chose to write The Yellow World, originally published in Spanish as El Mundo Amarillo, a book which pretty much details his experiences surviving cancer anyway.
It’s hard to define exactly what The Yellow World is about. In the prologue Espinosa explains that he feels an affinity for the colour yellow and that the ‘Yellow World’ is a way of seeing things and approaching life differently. But 70 pages in and I still could not figure out the crux of this ‘yellow’ world-view. The problem is that this book is exactly what Espinosa says it’s not. He that it’s not about his battle with cancer but every second page deals with his cancer experience and he claims it’s not a self-help book but the pages are littered with advice and suggestions on how to live. In fact, the majority of the book is made up of 23 self-help-style ‘lessons’ that Espinosa learnt from his experience with cancer. Although calling them ‘lessons’ is a bit misleading; they’re more like anecdotes and many of them are so subjective and personal that they’re hard to fully appreciate. It’s like of a sequence of “you had to have been there” moments; only you weren’t there.
In truth, I only got as far 70 pages of the 200 book before giving up because I didn’t feel I was gaining anything and it was arduous to continue. Perhaps it’s told better in Spanish but, in the English version, Espinosa is not a natural storyteller. I just couldn’t find myself getting caught in the narrative of each short chapter and I found the language to be colloquial to the point of sounding dopey (“I think X is cool”). There just wasn’t much going on in the pages other than some guy with a life-altering experience talking about himself. It actually reads far more like a series of diary entries than a structured book; it even has that ‘first draft’ roughness to it.
I have the utmost respect for Espinosa’s hardships and for his successes after his recovery but the description of his experience is so difficult to relate to. He starts off by saying that he associates cancer with happiness but the dreamy way he describes things comes across as outlandish. Perhaps to him it makes perfect sense but a writer needs to work a bit harder than “Cancer wasn’t so bad” to make an audience understand such an unusual viewpoint.
In the end, I have to say I gained very little from The Yellow World. I respect Espinosa’s experiences but his book is unfocused and doesn’t do them justice.
See you next week