My Life in Books

5 books web series Off Kilter star Alejandro Alvarez Cadilla loved reading

The actor shares the books that have inspired him.

Alejandro Alvarez Cadilla is a San Juan-born dancer, actor, writer and filmmaker. His career has taken him around the world. His first short film, Le Trac, was chosen for the Los Angeles International Latino Film Festival, while his second short, Deep Sleep, won best international short film at the London Independent Film Festival. His first feature documentary, Disportrait, won the Golden Prague Grand Prix TV Award. He now stars in the CBC comedic web series Off Kilter, which premiered on June 12, 2018.

Below, Cadilla shares the books that have both inspired and expanded his understanding of storytelling.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Joseph Heller was an American novelist and author of short stories. (Todd Plitt/AP/Simon & Schuster)

"This was the book that impressed upon me how humour could make drama so much more compelling. Second World War bomber Captain John Yossarian is losing his mind from the fear of being blown out of the sky and though pilots can be removed from flight duty if certified insane, clause Catch-22 of the military code states that being afraid of dying is a rational reaction, therefore he can't be crazy.

"The dialogue is absolutely brilliant, hilarious, the characters absurd and all the more troubling because it is very easy to believe that the military brass and bureaucracy could be that inept and callous. Heller's magnificent satire exposes the brutality and futility of war, but it is his humour that brings to life the desperation of the individuals trapped in that hell."

The Moor's Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie

The Moor's Last Sigh is Brooker Prize-winning author Salman Rushdie's fifth novel. (Penguin Random House/Heike Huslage-Koch)

"This was the first Rushdie book I ever read and it remains my favourite. It's about the rise and fall of a Portuguese merchant family that had established itself in India, told through one of the sons, Moraes Gama Zogoiby, called the Moor and the last of his line, living exiled and imprisoned in Andalusia. Moraes' bloodline has every possible lunatic one could hope for, a family saga that reminds me of Gabriel Garcia Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude — also on my list.

"Rushdie's razor-sharp wit and masterful prose are in full display here. The richness of the imagery and singularity of the protagonists, how they speak for example, made me understand how details, even small ones, could bring life and individuality to the characters I wanted to create."

Not Wanted On The Voyage by Timothy Findley

Not Wanted on The Voyage is a magic realist re-telling of the Great Flood from the Book of Genesis. (Penguin Random House/Viking Canada)

"The Great Flood and Noah's Ark told from the point of view of a 20-year-old blind cat and with a feminist twist to boot. Findley weaves a narrative that is extremely funny and profoundly disturbing. His ability to fill in the blanks, if you will, on so many aspects of the Biblical tale as we know it is fantastic; case in point  — mythical creatures such as unicorns and our ape ancestry. For me, it was revelatory how you can take a universally known story and bring a very different interpretation to it that makes sense. Word to the wise, not for the devoutly religious."

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare's Macbeth follows a depraved man's attempts at ascending to power. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

"I got into Shakespeare quite late in life — in my late 30s, in fact — while training as an actor at The Oxford School of Drama, but it had an indelible effect on me as a writer. I was familiar with his great tragedies, but it wasn't until I had to train with the actual text that I developed a real understanding of his works, Macbeth in particular.

"The transformation that he and Lady Macbeth go through, although interlaced with magic and witchcraft, is acutely realistic. Shakespeare's characters are so complex — good and evil struggling inside each one. The Macbeths betray and murder, but they both go mad from the guilt and horror of their own actions. That, to me, is the essence of any role I write, that no one is just a hero or a villain, be it in comedy or drama."

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez

Gabriel García Márquez is the author of the celebrated magic realism novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. (Harper & Row/Edgard Garrido/Reuters)

"Márquez's masterpiece has been one of my go-tos since I was 17. It narrates the founding of the town of Macondo by José Arcadio Buendía and his wife Ursula and the five generations of descendants that followed. Marquez entwines fantasy, magic and adventure, love and heartbreak, brutality and corruption from the first page until the final remarkable sentence.

"I've read it maybe five times during my life and with each reading I discovered something new, it literally feels like a slightly different story every time I've picked up the book. As a writer and director, that is what I hope to achieve, to create something that the viewer will want to watch again, which is of course easier said than done."

 Alejandro Alvarez Cadilla's comments have been edited and condensed.

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