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!”
I just read the book Adèle by Leïla Slimani. In this book we see a very curious and valuable study of the nature of female sexuality.
In some ways, Adele resembles the heroine of my autobiographical cycle “The Unbearable Longing of the Flesh”.
So here’s what we read about Adèle in Leïla Slimani’s novel: “She was not hungry for the flesh of men, but for the situation itself.” The author of the book describes that Adèle, in the measured routine of everyday life, tried to feel herself in the center of men’s attention, to feel being desired, and then so that this situation would receive some kind of intimate continuation, and this her longing was especially aggravated at parties. In sex, she liked his intimacy, his hidden side. I am writing in Serious Relationship: “In sex I loved the very atmosphere of intimacy most of all, and it was unique with each partner”.
Communication, parties are boring if Adele does not feel being desired. She immediately notices all the signals from men in her direction. Watches how long men resist her advances. At the beginning of Serious Relationship, I detail how my heroine methodically and patiently seduces her boyfriend’s friend.
The second part of the cycle “The Unbearable Longing of the Flesh”. – Serious Relationship – starts like this:
“What is a man? Firstly, this is his eyes, when he staring at you more or less intensely, furtively or openly, with more or less pleasure. Then this is his penis inside you, functioning better or worse, and these more or less virtuoso movements of the penis cause in his biological master more or less self-reflection on everything that happens”.
In her novel, Leïla Slimani gives a more detailed formulation of my thought: “Men, making love, look at their penis. They lean on their hands, tilt their heads and watch as their rod penetrates the woman. They want to make sure it works. For a few seconds they evaluate the movements and they probably enjoy this mechanic, so simple and so effective”.
Just like the heroine of the novel Adèle, my heroine was afraid of loneliness. As for Adele , “she was afraid not of men, but of loneliness. She was afraid not to be under anyone’s gaze, to be an unknown, nameless, pawn in the crowd. “ This is what is told about my heroine in “I am Becoming a Woman “: “Since sitting at home was mostly boring and lonely, I did not refuse any interesting pastimes that fate offered to me. After drinking a little for courage, I used to go off on a date with some new gentleman, whom I intended to charm”.
Here’s what Leïla Slimani writes about forced women integrating into the social behavior model: “Adèle had a child for the same reason she got married. To belong to the world and protect herself from any difference from others. “ I write about the same in “Serious Relationship”: “Gradually, I really came to consider myself as an old maid … I started avoiding people who might ask me if I had already married or not … From now on, a girl of my age needed to get married in order just to increase self-esteem”.
However, Adèle is not too eager to lead just a boring family life. “She will have to find something that transcends the prosaicity that strangled her in childhood, forcing her to say that there is no punishment more terrible than family life”.
This is what I write in Serious Relationship: “Due to the pesky duty of cooking that was imposed on a woman in our society, I never wanted to get married, and besides, I was terrified by the perspective of washing diapers and hearing baby’s crying”.
So do not forget to download my book- my own exploration of female sexuality:
However, there was one friend Lenka whom I was hanging out with. I remember once she invited me to her place.
The September sun that did not warm… Precisely such kind of sun was shining as she brought me from her city apartment to the garden of her country house. The garden was rich with sun and covered in fallen apples – signs of the inevitable wilting of nature. We were picking apples. We satisfied our hunger with hastily cooked potatoes and canned fish. The country house was completely at our disposal, we felt there as sovereign owners. Her naive admiration for her “vast” possessions was transferred also me while she was galloping and frolicking, like a child, jumping on springy beds and climbing trees… Having agreed to share this simple leisure with her, I found myself to have a strange feeling that both boredom and a desire to get away quickly were inevitably taking hold of me. At that time, I had already tasted all the charm of merging and unity with a man, all the exciting and sweet abyss of this game, and therefore I could no longer seek sincerely to harmony in communication with my girl friends.
It was quote from “Serious Relations” (The Unbearable Longing of the Flesh Book 2).
Gradually, I really came to consider myself as an old maid. Although previously the time factor did not pressure me, and I only wanted to have fun, now I really had to think about having a steady boyfriend. It occurred to me that if I was still alone, then something was wrong with me. Perhaps I was ugly, and over time I became additionally old and evil. In my behavior I started noticing such features of the classic old maid as irritability and suspicion. My body started to get old and my feelings, awaiting a man I could love, still remained unused. If I saw couples in love on the street, then I got into bad mood. I started avoiding people who might ask me if I had already married or not… From now on, a girl of my age needed to get married in order just to increase self-esteem.
It was quote from “Serious Relations” (The Unbearable Longing of the Flesh Book 2).
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).
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. “
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) .