Book 1 from “The Unbearable Longing of the Flesh” cycle
In our youth the idea of the future is imbued with an alluring foreboding of love, since all songs and books say love is something special, and the body is excited by the anticipation of something sweet and forbidden. Love longing is precisely what allows sometimes complete strangers to enter your life and sometimes even become a part of your life. What do we expect from love and do we then get exactly what we expect?
In this exquisitely written romantic book the author analyzes the experience of her youth in search of love. She recalls the time when the iron curtain separating Russia from the Western world was destroyed, the country stopped building socializm and tried to adopt the so-called “Western values”.
Sometimes such films serve purely utilitarian purposes – they help to “while away the evening” for a lonely bachelor or they are used to give a new impetus to a new or obsolete relationship between the two partners 🙂
Nowadays, the existence of such films has become familiar and self-evident for us, but everything in this regard was not so simple, and on this occasion I will soon cite the book of Theodore Roshak “Flicker”.
The experienced moviegoers may have noticed that if in European films it is quite in the order of things to see a hero or heroine with a bush of vegetation in the appropriate place on the screen, then in sterile American films everything looks somehow much more aesthetically pleasing, and while the conversations of the heroes seem monstrous cheeky in an usual American way, still cheeky in non-specialized cinema the angles and timing of shooting such erotic scenes will be verified to the millimeter.
So, let’s move after the hero-protagonist of the novel “Flicker” to Central California, USA, to 1958.
I had a natural youthful interest in the mysteries of sexuality. But American films could not satisfy my curiosity – on the contrary, they instilled in me absolutely wrong ideas about women. On the screen every now and then the heroines of chaste purity flashed – Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Deborah Kerr – they seemed to be born in clothes and could not even imagine that lovemaking could go beyond the innocent touch of dry lips. Anything below the collarbone and above the kneecap was automatically excluded by the Legion of Decency (1934-1975). Even Marilyn Monroe always seemed to me like a clockwork doll – it seemed to me that at the end of filming she was put into the closet, where special props are kept.
But one day the hero and his friends from the graduating class of school were lucky: “staggering on Saturday in one of the decent quarters”, they noticed a poster of the film “Lovers” by the French director Louis Malle at one of the cinemas.
For me, this film gave the camera a reason to demonstrate in all their splendor the intimate details of the adultery scene. A man and a woman in bed, in a bathroom … The ease with which a man and a woman did all this. So indifferent, so businesslike … And no blurry frames or light spots for you. The film seemed to say: such spicy details are commonplace in adult life. And there is nothing to be surprised at. Don’t all of us viewers know about this?
That is why the future film fan became so carried away by French and Italian cinema, as opposed to his own domestic, too sterile American.
Well, in general, are they really needed – the frank love scenes on the screen?
This is what the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk writes in his “Black Book” about an incident that happened to one of his heroes, according to my estimates, around 1965.
I watched in an old movie theater the old American detective film “Red Light”, which was filmed maybe even before the movie theater was built. There was a kissing scene in the film – the most common one, no different from those that can be seen in other black-and-white films, and besides, it was also cut down by our censorship to four seconds… However, when I saw it, I wanted so badly to kiss the woman, to press my lips to the woman’s lips, that I even took my breath away. I was twenty-four years old, but I hadn’t kissed anyone yet. That is, I, of course, have been to the brothels, but the women never kissed on the lips there, and besides I had no desire to kiss them either.
So that impulse imperiously pushes the hero out of the cinema even before the end of the film, and he, as if possessed, begins his wandering through the streets of Istanbul, for some reason quite sure that somewhere in the city there is a woman who, in turn, also dreams of kissing him .. …
He recalls some of his old acquaintances girls and, trying to restore their address in his memory, rushes chaotically around the city … Gradually, the desire for a kiss became so obsessive that it already occurred to him to forcefully kiss some woman, and then do pretending that he made a mistake …
You see how powerful movie magic can be without any gimmicks like explicit scenes …
“In the search for the man of my dreams, I used the special parties called “dating balls”. Such events for youth were organized by the company called “The Scarlet Sails”, which rented assembly halls of universities and houses of culture from time to time on Saturday evenings.
Usually, before going to such a disco, I used first to go somewhere to have a little drink to get in the mood. Once I managed to go into one of the “nest of vipers” as Vlad used to put it, just near the October Field metro station. There I came to the attention of some dudes who started expressing signs of approval to me. These guys turned to have come from Sochi city.
Feeling that I was being watched, to keep my face, I ordered a little more vodka than that was needed, and, of course, there were no snacks, and this led to sad consequences… In one of the periods between memory lapses, I suddenly found myself standing in the street in front of some kind of entrance of the house where they were trying to make me enter into. As I understood, these dudes were renting an apartment somewhere nearby, and at the sight of my sociable behavior – in fact, I just wanted to show that I was really cool in my ability to drink, and there was absolutely nothing personal in it – they had the idea to drag me in there…
As a result, I got off with a black eye, but the degree of intoxication was too great to go to some disco after this, and I went to the side of my home instead and as soon as I reached my bed, I fell right to sleep at once. “
It was quote from “Serious Relations” (The Unbearable Longing of the Flesh Book 2).
Today I’m going to open a little the mysterious curtain over my book “I Am Becoming a Woman” so that interested readers can get an idea of what kind of text they have the possibility to immerse themselves in.
So, in my book there is nothing invented – this is a real true story about my relationship with numerous men in my life, about how my body was trembling with the desire to surrender to every next man, and, due of my inexperience, still not quite understanding what kind of desires made me experience such a strong excitement, that I almost reach the feeling of nausea. … About my fear of loneliness and about my willingness to spend the evening with almost any man interested in me as in sexual object. About my lonely evenings, when I was sitting at home and waiting for the call of my next gentleman, going over in my mind all the words that I said to him during our previous meeting, in order to convince myself in a fit of euphoria that I did everything right and that therefore I would surely hear right at that moment a phone call from him, or, on the contrary, to remember something from my words or deeds that might have disappointed him, and by this to explain to myself why the phone was so silent all the time and that meant my current boyfriend decided to break his promise and not to call me and thereby to cut off our communication right at that moment, sowing the numerous complexes in my soul that something was wrong with me and that I was not attractive enough.
I will now quote a small fragment from the text of the book:
He admitted he would be very sorry if I “flew inside” – it was the first time I heard this strange slang expression. After having told me about his occupation – he worked … as a pimp, – a guy asked if I had a man. I answered in the negative. “Do you want me to do for you what every woman dreams of?” At that moment, I was all ears since, of course, I was eager to learn what a real woman should dream of. “I will introduce you to a foreigner, you will marry him, go abroad and see the world.” Then there was darkness, the film and his hands. He was affectionate, gentle and attentive. “Do you feel uncomfortable when you are kissed?” he guessed. “Suppose I feel good, but how should I express it?” I tried to joke in response. “You could simply look at me, and I would be pleased.” In order to cheer me up, he said, “You are just a little girl and you do not want to learn anything!”
Once, having come to my office room, he drew me close to him and started speaking we needed to meet, looking at me with a desire that really excited me. He was looking at me with passion, but not as a romantic young guy usually did, but as a man who knew clearly what could be obtained from a woman, and including a good idea of what he could get exactly from me. Every time he was looking at me, I felt excited as if he was climbing into the most intimate parts of my body – therefore, he seemed to have possessed me already by means of this look.
It was a quote from ” Flirting over a Cup of Coffee” (The Unbearable Longing of the Flesh Book 3) .
At the disco that started, some kind of melody performed by accordion was turned on suddenly , and the inspired couples started dancing immediately. The space around me changed suddenly – it was as if I found myself in a Parisian street, and I remembered the movie”Le Ball” by the Italian filmmaker Ettore Sсola.
And then something happened, closely reminiscent of the very scene from the “Cook, Thief …” movie by Peter Greenaway, that I once had retold to Paul. My beloved man, taking the advantage of a fuss – well, I may say he was a rather prominent person at the research institute, to be always in sight – and swept me off from the illuminated beautifully decorated hall of the dining room, where the celebrations were taking place, into the dark kitchen, deserted at that time, and there he put me on table, and we had the opportunity to have some fun and some exciting talks alone with him there. At that very moment I recalled the moment in Greenaway movie, when the camera moves from the lighted restaurant hall to the kitchen with animal carcasses suspended from the ceiling, and the couple in love retires in one of the kitchen rooms, while other guests, without suspecting anything, are feasting at the restaurant table.
It was quote from “Flirting over a Cup of Coffee ” (The Unbearable Longing of the Flesh Book 3).
I was amused by
the peculiar style of the world of dust-covered appliances, typical
for a research institute. It came to my mind that no one had touched
these old devices for years, and even if they had been touched, they
still looked abandoned and disused.
In addition to
such devices in the premises of institutes one could come across
other curious objects that existed in a single copy in the whole
world. For example, in the room of one head of the laboratory, I was
attracted to a skull-shaped ashtray which seemed something pirate.
And while on work-related trip in Nizhny Novgorod, I noticed a goose
feather inserted in a special stand swinging like a Weeble.
laboratories of the Institute, I came across sheets with funny
inscriptions. For example, in the “List of Brilliant Ideas” it
was proposed to appoint such-and-such staff member as a director of
the institute. I saw “Leaf of Rage. In the case of rage, this
leaf should be grabbed , crumpled and teared up in little pieces”
with the image of a furious bull depicted below. Or the inscription
on the door “Our joy of your visit knows no bounds”, featuring a
giant with an ugly grimace.
Later it turned out that this humor had been borrowed from some American physical journal.
It was a quote from ” Flirting over a Cup of Coffee” (The Unbearable Longing of the Flesh Book 3) .
Recently, I have been analyzing a lot of what exactly gave me the impetus, what exactly motivated me to write my story “I am Becoming a Woman”. The novel “Christine” (1952) by English woman writer Pamela Hansford Johnson is one of those books that, since having been read by me many times in my youth, influenced some part of my life after that – for example, what I was like in my 17-18 years old. Thus, the reasoning and behavior of the Hansford Johnson’s heroine influenced indirectly the heroine of my own novel.
Now, when I decided to re-read this novel in order to find out how much echoes of this text can be found in my own story “I am Becoming a Woman”, I was surprised to see a fragment from the novel “Towards Swann” by Marcel Proust as an epigraph to “Christine”, including such words:
“all this was not only experienced, thought out, kept by me for a long time, but … it was my life and it was me myself.”
Yes, I was really surprised because it was Marcel Proust and his literary style who gave me the idea of writing my autobiographical novel, and thus both names – Marcel Proust and Pamela Hansford Johnson – turned out to be indirectly related and, so to speak, “the circle has beem closed” in a way.
As we recall, critics initially found the style of Proust’s first novel unusually confusing, especially when it comes to the chronology of the events he described. Life events, sometimes rather chaotical and unpredictable, emerged in the memory of the protagonist, serve in Proust’s book only as material on which endless analyzes of “elusive sensations” are built. In his text, Proust gives very little development of the plot in terms of the amount of “action”, but at the same time, a certain impressionable young man with a fine mental organization was chosen as the main character of the novel, who perceives these ordinary and unremarkable things that happens to him in a rather sharpened manner. Therefore, on the pages of the novel, we come across literally “kilograms” of the author’s reasoning on general themes and an analysis of the elusive feelings of this young man. And all this is held together solely based on the unique recognizable author’s style and on this very analysis of the smallest sensations, plus on not too banal – and sometimes, on the contrary, even on a little paradoxical – reasoning on general topics.
As for the literary cycle “The Unbearable Longing of the Flesh”, then as for events retelling, it is built much more linearly, although from time to time I am also quite a bit distracted from the main narration – well, I am doing this like in some play the actor sometimes utters next remark, addressing not to his partner, but turning conspiratorially to the theatrical auditorium.
In my immodest opinion :), the events of my youth were much more exciting than the measured life of the hero of Proust’s novel, and besides in my reasoning I stand on the position of a person familiar with the much later and more sophisticated fruits of intellectual achievements of human civilization than Marcel Proust used in his reasoning.
As for the novel “Christine”, this is a very interesting reading, first of all, for connoisseurs and lovers of the Clapham area and Clapham Common park in London – Pamela Hansford Johnson “dilutes” the diary of her main character Christine with numerous nature descriptions in these places at various times of the year… Besides this novel is interesting as a reflection of that distant era when pneumatic mail was used in London, and electric lighting was installed in houses for the firt time… The era of popularity of Hawaiian guitars, when young people first were eager to dance in clubs of London suburbs, and later were eager to drink cocktails in bars in Mayfair … But, of course, the novel is interesting not only for researchers of the habits of Londoners in the early thirties.
Now, after many years, it was really touching for me to discover unexpectedly in the novel text those passages that I once carefully reread and which have become part of my personality. Of course, I have remembered for the rest of my life the final phrase of the novel “A stranger here, I was free,” it marked how the heroine is pleased to realize that she had long since escaped from the oppression of endless thoughts about her past. The image of Christine in some way reminded me of the very image of a girl that looms in my own cycle “The Unbearable Longing of the Flesh.“ Most likely, I became just what I was because I repeatedly re-read the novel “Christine” in my adolescence.
So, Christine is looking for her love, not knowing yet what kind of the chosen one the fate will send her. Of course, in your youth the idea of the future is imbued with an alluring foreboding of love, since all songs and books say love is something special, and the body is excited by the anticipation of something sweet and forbidden. Love longing is precisely what allows sometimes complete strangers to enter your life and sometimes even become a part of your life.
Pamela Hansford Johnson writes about the sexual side of Christine’s emotions with caution, noting that at that time (late twenties and early thirties) young people were still very innocent, and even in English there was no corresponding expression “to make love”. The author exquisitely compares the excitement of the heroine at the thought of sexual intimacy with “the fluttering of a flower in the close shackles of a bud,” and Christine, inspired by reading some love stories, imagines her wedding night in a dark room on the seashore, full of aromas flowers.
Of course, in my novel, I pay much more attention to the physical component of love than in this novel of the early 50s.:) My first book describes the habits of Russian youth in Moscow in 1987-1989.
The heroine of my novel, like Christine, is always very attentive to what exactly her boyfriend is telling her about his other women.
Following the young Christine, my heroine is sometimes vain and is fascinated by men’s age and status – indeed, what girl does not dream, for example, of an overseas prince who will take her away to the castle in his country? She is waiting with patience when, finally, cavaliers with their own cars will appear in her life. The third part of the cycle, entitled “Flirting over a Cup of Coffee”, describes the love affairs of my heroine with mature, respectable men almost 30 years older than her.
Christine feels being in love and charmed by the male charisma of the boyfriend caring for her, despite her boredom already on the second date with him and realizing that the two of them will have nothing to talk about. Later, Christine tries to convince herself that, probably, there is nothing special in the love and attitude of women towards her husband, and probably everyone has known this for a long time except her.
I will quote here the clever words spoken to the heroine of my story by one of her men about the selection of her future husband:
“Regarding vital precepts оf a wise knowledgeable man, addressed to a girl“ considering her future living ”, he advised me in any case to marry a man with a”lofty”education (he used not”high “but namely”lofty”as a joke), otherwise we would have nothing to talk about in the evenings of our future family life. “
Christine tries not to take to heart the fact that her chosen one is indifferent to literature close to her in spirit, and his ear pathologically does not distinguish melodies, although for Christine herself the power of music and memories of the melodies she has ever heard is of very great influence. For comparison, I will give a quote about the meaning of music for my heroine:
“At that time – however, and now too – my ecstasy from music was so great that as the highest form of interaction with a guy I liked I was dreaming about joint listening to my favorite music. This obsessive desire of mine is somewhat similar to the idea of the Marcel Proust hero, who was eager to admire the Gothic castles together with a beautiful girl, so that her presence would enhance his aesthetic pleasure of the beauties of ancient architecture. “
Inside Christine’s thinking there is some internal struggle all the time, and sometimes she even gets angry with herself because of feelings that go out of her mind control. In building relationships, inexperienced Christine acts intuitively and sometimes makes mistakes, which brings her a lot of problems with her boyfriend. Here’s what I write on this topic in my novel:
“When I still had no experience in dealing with men, then, finding myself in some situation together with them, I acted as some kind of instinct told me. And It seemed that this was exactly what the men expected from me. Most likely, I behaved like this according to some woman in me who existed separately from me and who had lived much longer than me. Maybe she lived by some life of my dreams and wishes or continued her existence in the memory of previous generations – in a word, it was an “archetypal woman” in me. “
He sat me on a chair in front of himself and began to caress my legs, acting greedily, but still giving me time to get used to his touches. Climbing higher and higher with his hands, he was spreading my legs with irresistible male perseverance, noticing with satisfaction my growing excitement , and then skillfully caressed my womb through my panties, that made me fidgeting in my chair with eyes rolled up from pleasure. He tried to get into my panties, but at this moment I jumped up and began to resist his hands, muttering, “Don’t do that, it’s not good,” but I have no doubt that a lascivious smile was playing across my lips at that moment…
It was a quote from ” Flirting over a Cup of Coffee” (The Unbearable Longing of the Flesh Book 3)
Few things affect our mood and the state of our mind as directly as music – its enchanting sounds seem to appeal to our subconscious, to some deeply hidden desires and, maybe even against our will, affect our sensory component – perhaps that is why sometimes it is difficult to resist the dreamy mood after watching of some ordinary advertising videos on some quasi-romantic topic, such as enjoying the taste of coffee, and so on, if they are accompanied by proper, “good” soundtrack.
In general, I like both music, full of unbridled fun that made me start to dance, and melodies that make me want to start suffering from unrequited love – in a word, from music I may get high even more than from alcohol.
In the novel “I Am Becoming a Woman” from the cycle “The Unbearable Longing of the Flesh” I write the following on this topic:
“ My ecstasy from music was so great that I dreamed of listening to my favorite music together with a guy I liked and I considered this the highest form of interaction with him. And therefore, when I have some man in my mind, the pleasure of romantic music and the yearning of my body is associated with him in my thoughts . “
But then I suddenly discovered a completely unexpected characterization of this very process of dreaming to music in the Australian writer’s book Liane Moriarty called Nine Complete Strangers. ·
Thinking about the dubious value of those revelations that a person makes during psychedelic therapy, one of the heroines notes skeptically :
“It’s like mistaking lust for love, or believing in the authenticity of the sentimental feelings that you experience when listening to certain songs. Come back to reality! These are artificial feelings. “
So I thought about the fairness of these words …
Perhaps we should agree with tis reasoning, since sometimes music allows you to experience a huge emotional uplift, which is completely disproportionate to the degree of attractiveness of the person about whom we, with bated breath, think about during our imaginary musical journey.
But remember – once it was said: ” You easily can mystify me, I cannot wait to be deceived!” (The final lines of Alexander Pushkin’s “Confession” poem , 1826)
That means these dreams are good in themselves, regardless of any connection with reality.
So let’s join the singer Patsy Cline, played by Jessica Lange in the 1985 Sweet Dreams film , and sing to pay tribute to fruitless and disembodied dreams:
“Sweet dreams of you. Things I know can’t come true … “