Weekly Writing Challenge: Golden Years

For this week’s writing challenge, we’re asking you to explore what age means to you. Is the the loss of youth, or the cultivation of wisdom? Do things get better as you grow older, or worse? There are many ways to interpret age, often depending on your relationship with the passing of time.

Seventh Seal I hear your voices: often you are louder than the living, and I appreciate your attention. On a walk, in the agitation of the city, we talk, passers-by may well think I am talking to myself, but, no, I am talking with you.

My dead siblings and friends, how could I forget you? You are just as alive as I am, since in my dreams, I often see myself after, after I have surrendered this fragile frame.  And you are there, welcoming, attentive, wise.

One achieves peace, in latter years, despite, or because, of the small indignities, the effort to do simple things.  Suddenly one knows the meaning of humility, the opposite of thuggery: the smooth appreciation of peace and kindness.

And one remembers, the beauty, the fears, the discoveries, how rich and frightening this was: living.  Walking along the shore, one sees the chessboard, when the Knight plays with Death: the Seventh Seal. The melody of the waves, the cries of the sea birds, the calm majesty of the world, at peace, one is with oneself.  The sky is blue, in this wind I hear your voices again, louder.

Soon I will join you, and kneel in front of my Maker. He or She, will know who I am, and you will vouch for me.

O m’a dit: Régine Deforges’ interview of Pauline Réage (cont’d) #literature

I am posting here, on several pages, the end of my translation of Régine Deforges’ s interview of Pauline Réage (1975) . The beginning is here.

Death of DidoRD – What seduces you in  a woman, what draws you to her?

PR – Her beauty, and her courage.

RD – Her beauty?

PR – In essence, yes. I am full of admiration. I so easily find beauty in a woman, I am so moved by women’s beauty, without the slightest temptation to even touch a beautiful hair, but I always have the same emotion, admiration.

RD – But what is it that moves you so much? Fragility?

PR – But it is not at all fragile, a woman’s beauty, it is not always fragile the beauty of eyes, skin, the beauty of the body, so beautiful. Men also are beautiful, and they have started showing it, fortunately.

RD – And are you a conquering individual when you are interested in a woman?

PR – It’s going too far. I have been, a little. It seemed evident then.

RD – And you could share this love with another woman or another man?

PR – It never was the case, as those were unique relationships, unequivocal. But it felt natural, the one not preventing the other.

RD – Through the ordeals, the tortures you have your heroines subjected to, one senses a contempt for that body that you say , elsewhere, to be an instrument, and as an instrument to be maintained in good order.

PR – Of course, it used for procreation, for pleasure, it’s an instrument. It is horrible not to be master of one’s own body, but it is also wonderful. If you cannot be master of your body, let someone else be, whether by your consent or by your wish. In all cases the body is something to be subdued, mastered, possessed.

RD – It is used, as you say, but why that taste for destroying that body?

PR – Because all things are made to be destroyed, thrown away, not to last. It’s books, or paintings, that last, or stone statues. A bit more than us in any case. When you give birth to a child, you give him death at the same time as life. When you write a book, it may not die.

RD – What strikes me too in Histoire d’O, is that women are treated, and ill-treated, in the most erotic manner, but never men. Why not?

PR – Ah! It’s like that. It’s a world of men who love women, not of men who love men. One of the most interesting letters I received when the book was published, was written by a man who told me that what I was writing about did exist, but to his knowledge for men with “garçons”. For, he said, it was much easier and pleasurable to subdue boys than girls. Strange observation.

RD – But wouldn’t it have been very erotic to place some men in the same situations as O and her colleagues?

PR – I did not even think of it. It meant nothing to me.

RD – So it is really as if eroticism can only be lived through a female body?

PR – For me, yes.

RD – Ah! I, sometimes, would love to see the object changed… There is something that recurs often, that is O’s exposure.

PR – Ah! Yes!

RD – There, you’re going too far.

PR – Yes. In “la Condition Humaine” Malraux makes a short comment about a female character, where he says that for many women “eroticism means being naked in front of the chosen man.” And then it stops there, besides, she’s not that keen on giving herself to him, to sleep with him. Well, I think that exposure is that, I did not think of it, but I realised what it was once, later, it was finished.

RD – Yes, but (in your book) there, O is more than naked, the girls are opened, offered, they are placed in obscene positions.

PR – Atrocious, grotesque.

RD – And why that desire for grotesque? They could be exposed without it.

PR – It’s a form of nastiness, of anger…

RD – Towards?

PR – I don’t know. Oneself? Yes, towards oneself. This need to go all the way, that furore, it’s a form of destruction, the need to break something, to desecrate something.

RD – Furore towards that body?

PR – Towards that body. But that body is something atrocious.

RD – Something that betrays you, that deserts you?

PR – Something that drops you on the way, that cannot be trusted.

RD – One feels that, at times, you are not so sure what to think of the female body?

PR – But I don’t know what to think of any kind of body! A body is the locus of happiness and unhappiness, of triumph and sacrifice, and finally and always, of disaster. What better use for it than to prove to whom we love that one belongs to him, and thus that one no longer belongs to oneself? Do you want a sacrilege quote? What O says to her lover, without saying it, is what believers repeat endlessly: in manus tuas, Domine (in your hands, Lord). It is just that, for her, and her companions, the proof which is requested from them ceaselessly, they are ready to provide, ceaselessly. The fate they meet is the demonstration of their will to achieve a total abandon, to submit themselves totally. They want to be possessed, utterly possessed, to death. What they seek is to be killed. What does the believer seek, if not lose himself into God? To be killed by someone one loves seems to me the ultimate rapture. I can’t think otherwise. And I am not alone. The famed Japanese suicide contracts are but examples in reality of a phantasm which is wide-spread.

RD – What do you exactly mean by “abandon”? Listening to you, one would think that is what you are seeking most, but also, that being abandoned by the one you love, is what you fear most?

PR – Thank goodness my unhappiness is behind all my hopes. I don’t see the contradiction, or rather the ambiguity, other than the use of the same term. Active in one case, passive in the other. But this is clear: to give oneself to one, is to depend on him. You are no longer your own, you rely on him, you are carried by the noise and fire you have given yourself to. But if the one you love ceases loving you, looking at you, living at least in part for you, as you live for him, if he abandons you, then you fall back in the outer darkness, the obscurity that is hell. Hell is every day life when no-one loves you, when you are alone. But, at the same time, that has not such importance. One gets used to it,  and that is for the best. One learns modesty. One should not take one too seriously, and use big words. It’s the common fate from which, from time to time, one is freed by the love of someone one loves. I don’t know if you have noticed them, sometime in the tube, on a bus, in the street, women, girls, men, with a sort of radiating face, who say nothing, walk as if on a cloud, those are in love, probably. It is that kind of blessing that means that all a sudden, one feels preserved, protected, for a while, for sure, one knows it’s precarious, that it won’t last. But while it is there, one is alive, one is in a sort of paradise.

RD – Why does it not last? It should last forever.

PR – It’s a fact, it never lasts, there is always something, one of the two gets tired, leaves, or dies. “Two doves loved each other tenderly, one of them was bored at home.” It happens: one of the two gets bored.

RD – Ah, this is so unbearable.

PR – What can I do? I think so too!

RD – Ah, I can’t stand it, one would rather die.

PR – Particularly if it is always the other who’s bored, but let’s be honest, it’s sometimes us.

RD – That’s what (Françoise) Sagan was telling me last night, love, passion, never lasts more than two years.

PR – She’s right, only, for some people it’s two years, for others it’s twenty years.

RD – You think so?

PR – Naturally.

RD – I am not completely utopian then, if I pray for it to last?

PR – Or, it’s me who is. But one cannot receive one thing without also its opposite. Love is a garden which is open to you, whose fruits you can enjoy for a while. Then, as in Arabic tales, the garden disappears, and you find yourself in the desert. But don’t complain: you had the garden (for a while), you were lucky.

RD – Why does one find peace in torment?

PR – Because one is taken out of oneself, I think. But torment is always the same: it is purely in the mind. I have no taste for tortures, which I feared dreadfully. But I had that obsession from childhood, perhaps from pious books. There is nothing better than pious books to give one a good idea of tortures. For example the Golden Legend of Jacques de Voragine, with pictures. I was given a nice copy, a strange idea, with pictures of wood prints from the fifteenth century. There I could look at all the tortures of martyrs and saints.

RD – And was it voluptuous for you that reading?

PR – I can’t say, but I was greatly impressed.

RD – Did you not think that by describing complacently erotic tortures in Histoire d’O you would inspire a following?

PR – No, absolutely not. Tortures and violence in Histoire d’O are entirely of the same order as fights in crime novels. Heroes get butchered on page ten, then pop out on page fifteen, fresh and healthy, it’s phantasmagoric and unreal. It belongs to the domain of dreams. It’s the same thing for Histoire d’O. This is, if you will, a sort of convention of the genre, not that I wanted to follow a genre, it is just that the genre imposes itself spontaneously, innocently I dare say. One over-does this in order to give the idea of what it is about, one puts in more of it to say very little. The excess is a symbol, not a reality. I can assure you that the tortures of erotic novels, and the fights, injuries and violence of crime novels, are the same thing. This arises from the same principle, the same genre.

RD – Okay, and as Jean-Jacques Pauvert [publisher of Sade’s work, and of Histoire d’O]  has often said, Sadism existed before Sade, and even before Gutenberg [Johannes Gutenberg, the German blacksmith credited with the western re-invention of the print press], but it would appear that, as soon as one enters the erotic genre, one touches more than a simple description of tortures or fights. Those scenes are not merely spectacular fighting.

PR – But the clashes in crime novels are not only spectacular fighting. They are enlarged images of the courage, of the strength of the story’s hero. They are proof of his invulnerability. For O, the accepted torments are proof of her abandon. They are there to signify, and make closer, the impossible, the inconceivable, the absolute.

RD – I’d love to know what remains now of O for you. Do you feel tenderness for her now?

PR – Tenderness goes too far, I see her with a little pity, and sympathy. She was very courageous.

RD – But when you say “pity”, you are saying that she always had a choice.

PR – Yes, but it’s very cruel all the same, even when one has a choice; she was not free, since she loved, one is not free when one is in love.

RD – Why not? Why can’t we be free and in love?

PR – Because one depends entirely on the feelings of the person one loves. One depends on him, on his happiness, on his unhappiness, on his breathing. One of the most admirable sentences I have heard, that was just before the war [WWII] with a man I loved [probably Thierry Maulnier]. I could not be with him in public – another clandestine life – and we had booked a private box, to be private, to watch Ondine, Giraudoux’ play. At one point, you might remember, Ondine realises the knight  no longer loves her, and she says: “The grass has turned black.” It’s like that. When one loves, and one believes, fears, that one is no longer loved, the grass turns black.

RD – But isn’t your freedom returned to you then?

PR – No, your freedom is not returned. I have never forgotten the grass turned black. Many years later, one of my friends was left by a boy he was very much in love with. There was over Paris a splendid sky, with grey and pink clouds. “Ah,” he said, “one cannot be entirely unhappy, for as along as there are clouds like that.” And I replied: “But, Pierre, this shows you are not really unhappy, when one is really unhappy, one cannot see the clouds.”

RD – There is no longer any beauty, when we are really unhappy?

PR – No, all is gone. It comes back later, love gives, love takes away. Love is something really cruel. You remember Virgil? One of very few quotes I have retained from my classical studies, there is nothing more pedantic than quote the Aeneid.

RD – It’s a very beautiful story. I read it three times when I was fifteen to seventeen.

PR – But who now reads it, or re-reads it? Not me, evidently. The only episode I remember is Aeneas in Hell, who sees Dido through the shadows, as the moon through clouds, Sicut per nubile lunam, and explains:

Hic quod durus amor crudely tabe per edit

Secreti celant calles, et myrtea circum sylva tegit.”

“Where, those whom pitiless love has wounded of its cruel pestilence, secret paths hide them, and the forest of myrtle surrounds them in its shelter.” Those woods of myrtle ands asphodel’s, inhabited by white and sad ghosts have always stayed with me, mysterious and familiar. Those stances I translated and learnt by heart when I was fifteen or sixteen, and never forgot them,  for I read and learned them at the time I was reading and learning Racine [Jean Racine, French dramatist], and as I fell in love for the first time in my life. With one of my school girl friends as it was; classical, perfectly innocent love. Every day that summer I was waiting for the postman. I learned a lot that year. I learned all this together; and it was learnt once and for all. Today I feel that I have followed those secret paths all my life. I really believe that the joy of living, the possibility of living I was given, were given through love, so that when love goes away, all goes away. It is not true, of course, since nothing stops, and there comes a time when pain gets diluted, one sees the clouds again, when grass no longer is black. But at the time, it’s really black grass, gone clouds, dead light.

RD – When all beauty, all life disappears.

PR – All life. One lives for the other, and if he goes, what remains?

Thus my life, thus my body

My spirit being joint to yours

The union of our fires

Makes one soul of our souls

You live in me, I live in you

I am more you than not me…

RD – Who said this?

PR – (Jean) Bertaut, a writer of the sixteenth century who wrote a poem about the legendary Hermaphrodite, named Fantasie. 

RD – Fantaisie!

PR – Fantasie – as in the English fantasy – in sixteenth century French, meant imagination, phantasm. It’s a beautiful baroque poem. I copied it, kept it, I still have it, on the right in my desk, in the folder where I keep phone numbers.

RD – You spoke earlier of clandestinity, we come back to that often.

PR – Ah, yes with the theatre box. It was at the Edward VII theatre, with Madeleine Ozeray and Jouvet, and I recall being moved by Ondine’s despair. Everything then was for me so precarious, so threatened. Threatened. Vigny: “Her quiet and always threatened love.” You see I am full of literature, as others of religion. But literature helps to live too. My country is books.

RD – It’s weird, we have had quite different lives, but we have this in common: we belong to the world of books. I have been librarian, publisher, book binder: with passion. Literary prestige is the one I am really sensitive to. My lover told me once, after ten years: I know what we have deeply in common: literature. What books do you reread most often?

PR – Proust, whom I discovered at the NRF [La Nouvelle Revue Françcaise, the literary magazine of Gaston Gallimard. Pauline – Dominique Aury, was literary secretary of the NRF until Jean Paulhan’s death in 1968], as he was published. Shakespear, Villon, Beaudelaire, the Bible. I have four versions. The one I prefer is King James’.

[to continue on next page]

Talking about Maxine

Takahiro Shimatsu I haven’t finished reading Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge, and I will later adorn my Goodreads page with my conclusion. Suffice to say that Thomas Pynchon is, for this reader, one of the four vortices of the magic square, that which is at the heart of my love for contemporary American letters: Pynchon – Stephen King – Neal Stephenson – Bret Easton Ellis. Those guys are, to my mind,  America, through and through.

Re-reading Christian Lorentzen’s review of Bleeding Edge in the 26 September 2013 issue of the LRB, I found myself, a rare event, in some disagreement with the respected editor of the said LRB. Bleeding Edge is not, in my reading, “a period novel” about New-York City’s Silicon Alley, that is merely the backdrop. Bleeding Edge is, literary speaking, about the atrocity, about 9/11, in the same way as Gravity’s Rainbow is about the nazi weapons of reprisal, and their aftermath.

Pynchon’s genius, once again (as, in Gravity’s Rainbow, the surreal connection between Peenemünde and West Africa), is to link the Saudi-perpetrated-and-funded outrage with the preceding, less bloody, but no less potent, disaster: the collapse of the first corporate attempt to subjugate the Internet, known as the “*.com” bubble. The link – shadow of Stephenson’s Snow Crash – is DeepArcher, a “piece of code” that turns out to be a deep metaverse, malevolently seductive to the hero of the tale, Maxine Tarnow, fraud investigator by profession, and to survivors of the outrage. The book mentions a number of fraudulent plots, real or supposed, the main one being the subject of Maxine’s own quest for truth, about Gabriel Ice, corporate predator, pervert, double or triple agent, and purveyor of funds to shadowy Gulf’s paramilitaries.

Thus the novel skirts around the trinity: late capitalism – “War on Terror” and, finally – the Terrorists among us, bankrolled by successive US administrations (the “ben Ladin’s network” and its successors) and the Saudi’s evil empire. In the meantime we get the “period piece” about 2001, which could be described as the last year of innocence of the 21st century. Worse was to come.

Maxine, a hero for our time, is left, bemused, abused – on her own volition – but still kicking, incredibly.

I am taking my time to finish the book, and will write again. Incidentally, my definition of the atrocity, is my own, not Thomas Pynchon’s.

Related articles:

The Crying of September 11

The New American Way of War

#WritersWednesday ~ Melissa on Readers and Shadows

It seems befitting, on Writers’ Wednesday, to make space for one of our beloved characters, one of the “little ones”, to express herself. Today, we welcome Melissa.

Simple Portrait I am grateful to the author for making me alive, again. Maybe I sense that, for him, it is a way to give justice to his own memories, or maybe, I am just that: a character out of his magic box ? Who knows?  I don’t mind either way, since he gives me a chance to get closer to the one I love, will always love.

 If you read his stories – he writes about us quite often, turning our lives into a sad novel – you will know that my childhood friend, sweetheart, protégé, my beloved Julian, had some difficulties in believing I was me, I mean the Melissa he knew, had known long ago. Of course none of us remembers exactly when that was, and I have to say, I don’t think the writer is too sure about it either. Nonetheless, this is a neat little trick: having the main character, the hero, doubting the reality of the one he loves, or loved, so much.

 So, I started my new life as a ghost, or a shadow. I even frightened the dear sister, young Jane. I read – yes, I can read –  that Jane complained a bit about her treatment under our author’s pen. I don’t understand why; she has a nice, undemanding role, and he, the author, portrays her always in the most admiring terms. But then, Jane is a bit of a “prima-donna”, someone used to have her own ways. Once strutted the catwalk etc…

For me, being cast in this work is an honour. Otherwise who would bother to get me out of the deepest obscurity, of the endless night I would otherwise be confined to? For this is the simple truth: authors get us, shadows, out in the open, they let us breath, they make us almost real, in the sense that you, readers, are real. For Melissa to exist, other than perhaps as a flutter in Julian’s mind, she must be there, in front of you, reader, not naked (necessarily), but warm enough to be credible, acceptable, adopted by you.

Someone said once that writers start a book, but readers finish it. I think it applies even more to characters like me: the author sets out the main traits, the prototype, of the person who may later come to existence, but readers are the ones to turn that shape, that promise, into a “real” being. I exist, for you are reading about me, and only if. So, the author’s pen only opens possibilities, and the author’s work is never completed, it always has to wait for the reader to become more than lines on the screen, or the page. And for each reader, Melissa exists with subtle differences from another.

Thinking about this could make one dizzy: there isn’t a single Melissa, but as many as there are readers who are patient, or deluded, enough to read about her. In one recent chapter of the book, my dear Julian is walking in a park. Suddenly he sees me, walking toward him, but apparently not seeing him. He looks at me, and despairs for not being visible to me. Yet I smile looking at him. Then I disappear, and Julian finds himself elsewhere. For him I have become that elusive ghost, again, that I was at the beginning. Is Julian ill, mentally disturbed, or merely confused at the reality of Melissa? Or, is the Melissa he sees, yet another creation of imagination, perhaps incompatible with yours?

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#WritersWednesday: Obsession and manipulation in fictional characters

Mirror or mask?In Bret Easton Ellis’s Glamorama Victor Ward is obsessed, by his look – the better you look the more you see – by his women, or at least some of them, and finally by the solitude he faces once his devilish dad, the ominous senator and presidential candidate Johnson, has manipulated him to exile, near death, and substituted his shadowy alter ego, his doppelgänger, the fake Victor, to himself. The whole story is that of a long destruction through obsessive behaviour and manipulation of a fragile human being by people close to him. ““You want to know how it all ends?” Chloe asked, eyes closed. I nodded. “Buy the rights,” she whispered.” Spare me.

In Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl Amy Elliott Dunne starts her career as the baby obsession of her parents who end up building a fortune writing stories about their daughter. She then becomes – apparently – obsessed by her sexy and devious husband Nick: “I am fat with love! Husky with ardor! Morbidly obese with devotion! A happy, busy bumblebee of marital enthusiasm. I positively hum around him…” When Amy’s true nature is revealed to the reader, some 200 pages into the novel, it becomes clear to us who the manipulator was: she’s no Cool Girl, although she played the part to perfection for the benefit of her parents and husband: “But it’s tempting to be Cool Girl. For someone like me, who likes to win, it’s tempting to want to be the girl every guy wants.” Amy frames Nick who does not stand a chance, now obsessed by guilt about his supposedly dead wife… And when does it go wrong? “Can you imagine, finally showing your true self to your spouse, your soul mate, and having him not like you? So that’s how the hating first began…”

In my novel, The Page, Julian at first does not recognise his old flame, Melissa, who, in their youth, was obsessed by him, by his look: he was then the Cool Guy. It is now his turn to wonder, to question, to suspect that the too young woman in front of him may not be what she seems to be. But who is behind the scene? Is she the victim of an abhorrent plot? Or is she a willing actor in manipulating him? I am at the crossroad now, having to decide whether Melissa is on the side of evil, or is still prisoner of her devotion to Julian – or both?

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Daily Prompt: The Interview

Interview your favorite fictional character.

Honoré welcomes Fraa Erasmas, in direct from the Concent of Saunt Edhar on Arbre.

Anathem, a novel Q ~ Fraa Erasmas, let me say first how moving it is for me to meet you, at last, and be in a position to ask you questions that have not left me since I read the story of the Convox…

A ~ Ah, yes, I assume you’re referring to the Geometers Convox?

Q ~ Indeed, and the long journey you and Fraa Orolo undertook after being evoked… But let me ask you first: are you pleased with the way you fraas and suurs of the Edharian math behaved during the whole period?

A ~ We, in the mathic orders, have an understandable loyalty to our respective concents, and for us Edharians this has a special significance. As you know ours was one of the three Inviolates…

Q ~ Indeed, and I pray for Saunt Edhar to continue to protect your brethrens, I mean the fraas and suurs of your order, fraa Erasmas. May I ask you how suur Ala now is?

A ~ Oh, Earth people have a direct way… You obviously know of our liaison, and how distraught I was when the suur I – how do you say that?, loved? – was evoked. My ancestor, Erasmas, who founded the metatheorics branch named Complex Protism would have explained this to you better than me, his 37th century namesake ever could… But fraa Ala is fine and is due to deliver our baby in a few weeks time…

Q ~ Congratulations to both of you fraa Erasmas. May I ask what happened with fraa Jaad, the Thousander?

A ~ I understand fraa Jaad is alive and well, and is pursuing his studies of HTW in the Concent of Saunt Edhar, our concent.

Q ~ I have never quite understood how was resolved the… long Dialog about cosmi and Hemm configuration Space?

A ~ Oh, you got as far as that? Not bad for a scribbler of the old Earth then! No, really, don’t blush.  As a Tenner I have to say that I doubt that you have the theorics – sorry, you’d say mathematics – to grasp any of it. But then you will have to excuse me, I have to be back before Provener! Nice meeting you Honoré. I enjoyed our… small Dialog… Good bye

Q~ Good bye fraa Erasmas, Saunt Edhar bless you!

Inspired by Anathem, by Neal Stephenson

#WritersWednesday ~ O m’a dit/Avant-Propos

O m’a dit ~ Avant Propos

This translation of  “O m’a dit” is my own. I acknowledge all copyrights: editions Jean-Jacques Pauvert (1975 and 1995), Régine Deforges, Gallimard, estate of Ms Aury.  An American-English translation of  “O m’a dit” was published in the 80’s by Viking Press.

Dominique Aury Régine Deforges interviews Pauline Réage in 1975, twenty one years after Histoire d’O was published (1954).  Régine is then forty, and in 1968 has founded her own publishing house, “L’Or du Temps”, and its first erotic novel, Irène, was banned by the censors.  Pauline is sixty-eight, but her true identity as the author of O has not yet be revealed (it will be in 1994, as the following text mentions).

For the new edition of O m’a dit, in March 1995, Régine wrote this introduction.  Pauline will die three years later.

“I have with the author of Histoire d’O a relationship of infinite tenderness, made of profound affection and respect, and I know she has for me the softest of friendships.

She is now an old lady [in 1995 Pauline is eighty-eight] but I cannot see her as such. I see her rather as a lost child, as I am, in the world of adults; always capable of saying things that surprise them or shock them.  This submissive is a free and loyal being.  Even though I am not so sure that loyalty be such a great quality.  One uses it when one needs it, as one can conclude by merely looking at our politicians…  The loyalty, which one believes to owe to others, is a trap in which someone as free as Dominique Aury [Pauline’s “official” literary name]  may sometime be caught. But I love her the more for it.  Don’t we love the very weaknesses of those we cherish?

Why Dominique Aury instead of Pauline Réage? She herself lifted the veil over the identity of the author of Histoire d’O in a long interview with the New Yorker, in July 1994 [Pauline’s/Dominique’s real name was Anne Desclos but she was known in her profession as journalist and literary editor only as Dominique Aury].  There she “admits” being the author of the most erotic and troubling novel of the 50’s, which only knows a worldwide success twenty years later.

Cinema has not done justice to the book, the great film of O and her love is yet to be realised.  Perhaps it is too late?  Histoire d’O talked to us, as a disciple of Fénelon and of Madame Guyon (classical mystics of the 17th-18th century), of “abandonment in the hands of the Loved one”.  This quietism is no longer of our time.

To please me, Dominique Aury agreed we composed O m’a dit. I owe to this proof of friendship to have overcome my fear of writing; she forced me to develop some of my questions or digressions.  I obeyed her and this work appeased my anxiety. One or two years later I published my first novel Blanche et Lucie [Blanche et Lucie is the history of Régine’s two grand-mothers].  For this I am for ever indebted to her.  The following year it was Le Cahier Volé [the Stolen Notebook], in which I tried to describe what would hinder my writing for more than twenty years.  Of that fear I am not completely cured.

For a while Dominique and I thought of adding a chapter to O m’a dit. “But my child, I have told everything and I am so tired”.  I did not insist.  This book expresses the essential on the manner (the writing of) Histoire d’O was undertaken.     Perhaps today I would be more combative, more incisive, more brutal?  But already then, I wanted to protect her, and, I admit, she intimidated me still a little.  I was amazed to know her so well, she the author of a book that had so much taken hold of me, that I had read so many times with the same emotion, the same deep effect on me.  This was childish on my part.

Now, when we evoke Histoire d’O and O m’a dit, we feel that a long time has gone by, that women and men, overfed by television and films with forcefully realistic images, can no longer be moved by O.  I did a survey of twenty and thirty year-old women [Régine writes “girls” and “young women”] who have read O. All have recognised, even when they disagree with the tortures O accept, that they felt like making love when they discovered the story.  Thus the words still have the greatest strength of evocation.  As for the men, something like nostalgia of a time that preceded feminism seems to float on their eyes.  But they are wrong, one can be a feminist and take pleasure, like O, in being a sex object.  For who decided to be that object, if not her?

O m’a dit is a sincere book, where neither Pauline nor I have cheated.  It still looks like us.”

#AtoZChallenge: April 16, 2013 ~ Naoko

norwegian_wood_by_himekavya-d3hn542 “It takes time, though, for Naoko’s face to appear.  And as the years have passed, the time has grown longer.  The sad truth is that what I could recall  in 5 seconds all too soon needed ten, then 30, then a full minute – like shadows lengthening at dusk.  Someday, I suppose, the shadows will be swallowed up in darkness.”

So speaks Toru, the narrator of Norwegian Wood, Haruki’s Murakami’s immortal love story.  This harrowing tale of desire, impossible love and loss lingers forever in the reader’s memory: what could have been, the search for reasons, the desperate hope.  This is a romantic heroine, doomed, condemned to a personal hell: “Don’t you see? It’s just not possible for one person to watch over another person forever and ever.  I mean, suppose we got married. You’d have to work during the day.  Who’s going to watch over me while you’re away?”  As for him, Toru, there will be no peace, those fleeing memories do not reduce the pain, so there is only one choice:

“Once, long ago, when I was still young, when the memories were far more vivid than they are now, I often tried to write about her.  But I couldn’t produce a line… Now, though, I realize that all I can place in the imperfect vessel of writing are imperfect memories and imperfect thoughts.”

The thought of Naoko, for us who have met her only in the book, fills us also with an unbearable sorrow.  So is the power of great literature.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/dec/06/winter-reads-norwegian-wood-haruki-murakami

Daily Prompt: Judgment Day

If you were to judge your favorite book by its cover, would you still read it?

1Q84 1Q84, Haruki Murakami’s masterpiece, is a long poem to love and the irrepressible human spirit: this cover is a joy to look at – the butterflies in the greenhouse, and the two moons.  The two moons signal that this world is another world, and that finding one’s beloved soul mate is to find the way back to the old world, the one before the fall.

Yes I would fall in love again with this novel, just looking at the cover! But then I am a fan of Murakami…