What influenced my story “I am Becoming a Woman”

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.

 pamela hansford johnson

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. “

You may follow and like me

“I Am Becoming a Woman”

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”.

You may follow and like me

I love Turkish hotel entertainers

“Why is everyone interested in Ozzy and not in me?”
“Well, you know …”
“So I’m going to ask Ozzy that question right now. I will call him.”
“Will you really call him?” At this moment, to my surprise, I discovered that for a long time already I had been smiling cunningly to my interlocutor, caressing his fingers enthusiastically with my own ones.
And also I noticed that a couple of Germans at the next table near the pool were getting up to go away.
And now, finally, Ozzy is in front of me.
Oddly enough, I was not overwhelmed by any excitement – on the contrary, I became bored since I realized that my eternal striving to find objects of attraction for myself would not lead to good.
It turned out he could not make head nor tail of English, that meant I didn’t need him at all. Really, how will I charm him, how will I make an impression on him if I am deprived of my main weapon – the ability to use all shades of words of the Great and Mighty language?

He has a hint of sideburns, and his hair is pulled back in a ponytail.
I first saw him rimmed with masculine monkey antics, dressed in a thin white jacket, dotted with stripes of inscriptions, in jeans and sneakers.
He is rather temperamental, but his face seems impenetrable precisely because of his Indian structure, and it is namely this contradiction that attracts attention to him.
He walks in a wobby sort of way, like a football player, and has some more arsenal of antics so attractive for women …
I am looking at the water surface of the pool, and I am alone, that is completely natural for a person. I can allow myself to laugh out loud or to say something to myself.”

This is the very beginning of the fifth part of my “The Unbearable Longing of the Flesh” cycle called “The Souvenir from the Midday Region”.
But you may ask why I suddenly remembered about animators in Turkey? Perhaps I am thinking about failed summer tourism in the era of coronavirus?
But no, that’s not the point. Simply to make Livejournal allow search robots to index my blog, I had to show some social activity yesterday, so I went to the top posts on Livejournal and among the posts about Navalny’s poisoning and about events in Belarus I found a post about the special love of Russian women for Turkish animators and I wrote my own comment on the topic – something like that:
“Oh, there are really such sultry men in Turkey ….When I am looking in their direction I always really fear I will not be able to keep my legs closed.”

Бассейн.jpg
You may follow and like me

The woman who stayed unknown

A few days ago, in the very end of one of my favorite films “Deja Vu”, I saw Claire, unable to tear her seemingly hypnotized gaze from Doug’s face, nodding in response to his question if they had met earlier – indeed, these things sometimes happen when the time space is warped. And at this very moment I asked myself: where else – in what kind of invented world – did the woman know so much about the man she met while he was convinced that he was meeting her for the first time in his life?


Now I think that, of course, it would be much more logical for me to remember “The Time Traveler’s Wife” and the very moment when Henry meets Claire (Claire again!) for the first time in his life at the Newberry library, but she has known him for a long time since her childhood and knows that sooner or later the day will come when they will meet …
But at that moment I remembered about the “Letter from an Unknown Woman” by Stefan Zweig (1922).

What it is like to re-read a book you read in your youth, and to recognize suddenly those passages in the text that once made a special impression on you? … For example, I remember I felt lost in thoughts when reading these lines in my youth:
I understood that you the one, who loves only everything that is carefree and easy, who seeks only play in love …
You love only everything light, weightless, fleeting, you are afraid to interfere in someone’s fate …

“To you, who never knew me,” – this is how the letter from an unfamiliar woman to the subject of all her thoughts begins. And a little further we read: “Fate doomed me to be unrecognized by you all my life, until my death … Even a fleeting memory of me never bothered you. Nothing reminded you of me, not even the most subtle thread of memory has not been stretched from your life to mine. “

What it is like to look at a heartfelt, screaming message about devoted love a hundred years after it was written, of which the last few decades have been decades of a kind of struggle between traditional values ​​and monogamy with something completely opposite?

I will quote here from Davis Robertson’s recently re-read “The World of Wonders” (1975):
“If you listen to what people are talking about, or see what they read and what they go to theaters and cinema to, you might think that a real man is certainly amorous and the more women he has, the more masculine he is. The ideal man for them is Don Juan. An unattainable ideal for most men, because if you want to devote your life to lasciviousness, you must have leisure and money, let alone the fact that such a life requires inexhaustible energy, unquenchable lust, and the sexual organ must be as strong as the woodpecker’s beak. An unattainable ideal, but nevertheless thousands of men try themselves in this field, and in old age they sort out their miserable victories, like beads of a rosary. But a one-woman man is a very rare occurrence. He needs spiritual resources and psychological artistry – no match for mediocrity, but he also needs luck, because a one-woman man must find a woman of outstanding qualities. “

I have experienced very conflicting emotions, rereading this text again after so many years! At first I thought about the extreme self-deprecation of the heroine, about the need, so to speak, of the timely intervention of a psychologist… But soon I got involved and started accepting the “rules of the game” in this text.
I recalled a similar obsession described in Kuprin’s “Garnet Bracelet” (1910) and the words addressed to the object of worship, putting thus woman on the same level with a kind of shrine: “Hallowed be thy name!“.
And finally, as a person who likes to mix the invented life and the reality, I was damn sorry that, during their nights of love, the heroes did not discuss the books writen by the object of love- “the fiction writer R”, which the heroine, she claimed, knew by heart – of course, this not too serious detail would reduce significantly the high degree of self-denial in the novel.
Probably every man can only dream of such an enthusiastic secret admirer who says in a letter to her beloved man:
“What was my whole life since the very awakening from childhood, if not expectation – expectation of your whim!”

You may follow and like me

In summer one should dream of the blue sea

Just think how great it sounds: “My father rented a large secluded and delightful white villa on the Mediterranean coast, and we srarted dreaming of it as soon as the first hot days of June came” …

“Hello, sadness!” – this is what young Françoise Sagan says in the title of her novel, written in 1954, meaning that in addition to unbridled fun and flirting, there should still be such moments in life when it would be nice to stop for a while and think about something not too funny.
The events of this novel about sensual pleasures and the fickle nature of love take place in the summer on the French Riviera on the Cote d’Azur.
Perhaps the intonations of this novel, after many decades, still sound bold and psychologically accurate, but over time, it also obrained an attractive retro character and became the part of French literature history.
“And in Paris I had no time to read: after classes my friends dragged me to the cinema – I did not know the names of the actors, and this surprised them – or to the sun-drenched café terraces. I reveled in the joy of mingling with the crowd, sipping wine, being with someone who looks into your eyes, takes your hand, and then leads you away from this very crowd. We roamed the streets, reached my house. There he used to carry me into the entrance and kissed me: the beauty of kissing was revealed to me. It doesn’t matter what these memories were called: Jean, Hubert or Jacques – these names are the same for all young girls. “ It seems that while reading these lines, one immediately recalls many French black-and-white films of that time.


Cecil ponders the phrase of Oscar Wilde: “Sin is the only bright smear that has survived on the canvas of modern life.” It is clear that Oscar Wilde was, so to speak, a “singer” of sin, he loved to talk about human vices and was well aware of what exactly he was talking about. Of course, in the 21st century, traditional family values ​​are no longer as unambiguous and obvious as for Wilde’s contemporaries. But the heroine of the novel by Françoise Sagan, like a child of the middle of the 20th century, is constantly torn by contradictions between her natural desires and the idea that perhaps for someone this type of relationship is rather painful – in fact, she can be convinced of this by the example of the women of her father who suffer from his impermanence. And if Elsa – “something between a corrupt girl and a demimondaine” – is accustomed to changing partners and only her vanity is a little wounded, then the extremely intelligent and reserved “indifferent” woman Anna simply can’t handle her dissapoinment that a fickle man, who firstly obediently declared himself as her future husband, suddenly felt an irresistible desire to assert himself by making love with the other woman.
Perhaps adherents of Freudianism may think Cecil does not want to share her father with any noteworthy woman. Cecil values ​​a lot this comfortable frivolous lifestyle she leads and is ready to fight for it … And if in the end someone suddenly suffers, then Cecil is ready that such not too frequent bouts of sadness will appear in her life.

You may follow and like me