The Religious Metaphysics of Simone Weil by Miklós Vető (trans. Joan Dargan). State University of New York Press, 246pp., $24.95.
“It is through the imagination that the immediate passage from error to crime is established.”
One photograph of the writer Jane Bowles, walking arm in arm with her Moroccan lover Cherifa through the sun-bleached marketplace at Tangier, remains burned into my memory. And this, for its several incongruities: Jane’s white tea dress, her thin, tan limbs, her eyes peering in the light and heat; Cherifa, in her niqab and dark glasses, slightly bent, and her arms caught, oddly, behind her back, as if she were being led in handcuffs; and finally, the bystanders, enjoying the camera as if witnesses to an arrest.
The first image of Chris Marker’s Sunless, “of three children on a road in Iceland, in 1965,” is what fictitious cameraman Sandor Krasna says to be “the image of happiness.” And so, for me, the photograph of Jane and Cherifa in Tangier must be the image of unhappiness.
And indeed, many years later, Paul Bowles would suspect Cherifa of having poisoned Jane, of having induced the stroke that would leave her mentally and physically handicapped until the end of her life. Whether Cherifa did poison her or not, it is certain that she left little parcels, containing herbs, menstrual blood and pubic hair, in her houseplants so as to put curses upon her. Paul believed Cherifa capable of anything, especially where his wife was concerned, and fired her several times over the years from her position as housekeeper. But Paul lived far from Tangier and returned only briefly, if periodically, to visit Jane. And however forcefully and permanently he dismissed Cherifa, returning to Tangier, he always found that Jane had taken her back.
When Millicent Dillon, Jane’s biographer, visited Cherifa in the seventies—the latter by then an old woman with bad, yellow teeth—she laughed about Jane’s stroke, her subsequent condition, and her eventual death, alone, in a Spanish convent. But Cherifa had also led a very hard and lonesome life. Before meeting Jane, she was the only woman in all of Tangier to manage her own market stand. She was still a teenager then, with no family. She refused to go with men, and, according to some accounts, carried a knife in her coats at all times to castrate any one who might dare make advances upon her.
Jane Bowles met Cherifa in Tangier in 1948, when she moved there with her husband Paul, a writer, composer, and all-around travel enthusiast. As for Jane, she hated to be displaced. It distressed her. But then, a great many things distressed her, and often to the point of real fear and panic: bats, bugs, elevators, new places, water, fever, all manner of tropical illness, and, truly, the possibility of any sort of sickness or injury.
It would seem as though the vast majority of her anxieties had their root in some deep fear of pain. In one long and honest journal entry in 1954, Jane wrote:
A play. There comes a moment when there is no possibility of escape, as if the spirit were a box hitting at the walls of the head. Looking at the ocean is the only relief. I have trained my eyes to look away from the beach where they are going to build the new docks. I cannot look at that part of the beach unless I think of my own end, curtail my own sense of time, as Paul says that we must all do now. I can do it, but it’s like: “You too can live with cancer.” When I was little I had to imagine that there was some limit to physical pain in order to enjoy the day. I have never yet enjoyed a day, but I have never stopped trying to arrange for happiness.
Perhaps, what she feared, in part, was loss of self-sovereignty, of freedom? This may have stemmed from any one of several unfortunate events: her father’s sudden, incongruous death from “hypertension”—he had never been ill before—when Jane was thirteen; her fall from a horse at the age of fifteen, resulting in a broken leg; then tuberculosis in the broken leg, forcing two-years’ confinement in a French sanatorium, far and away from her family home in Woodmere, Long Island.
But, how bitter!—that the possibility of just such a loss of actual freedom should be the root of her fear, as it was precisely this fear that crippled her, that rendered her, by all accounts, a complete dependent upon her husband, her mother and stepfather, her friends, the Moroccan women whom she loved (who despised her in return). And the irony that she should die finally confined to a bed, cared for by Spanish nuns. All this makes little sense: fear that harm might limit one’s freedom compels one to limit one’s own freedom to avoid harm.
By all appearances and for those who knew her and spoke of her to Millicent Dillon, she was as free as wanton winds, adventurous to the point of recklessness, mischievous, brash: “an imp,” in the words of Truman Capote. She was wild, then, but also babyish, nervous, panicky, fragile. It was perhaps not only or even principally the curtailment of her personal freedom that she feared, but freedom itself. She agonized over the simplest decisions: where to go for dinner, what to eat, etc. Her fear and pain, so unfathomable, were seemingly two-fold. There was the fear of freedom, but also the fear of never claiming it. The result was a paralysis that kept her from working. In fact, her whole oeuvre consists of only a novel, a play, and seven short stories, as well as a few other bits and pieces. A great many of her stories remain incomplete.
But it would be wrong to regret this scarcity. What she wrote could not have been written in any greater quantity. Her prose was not troubled by darkness, as houses are by bad weather. Darkness was, unfortunately, the territory. In 1954, in the same entry, Jane wrote:
Nothing has changed. My father predicted everything when he said I would procrastinate until I died. I knew then it was true. In America it was terribly painful to know this as a child. Now that I am nearly forty and in North Africa it is still painful. [ . . . ] A play. Is it writing I’m putting off, or was it always something else – a religious sacrifice? The only time I wrote well, when I passed through the inner door, I felt guilt. I must find that again. If I can’t, maybe I shall find a way to give it up. I cannot go on this way.
Her fear of pain also represents the fulfillment of a certain, inscrutable, perhaps spiritual longing, for the pain that abolishes personality. I speak not of the chronic, tedious pain that she would suffer trying to spell the simplest words in the simplest letters to friends after her stroke, but of the so-called pure and total pain of ‘religious sacrifice’. Indeed, describing the essential, unwitting decision of any personality, Millicent Dillon writes of “sin” and “salvation”, in which sin would be something like self-indulgence, dependency, parasitism, and salvation would be utter detachment: freedom from fear and even, perhaps, from love or—at least—from self-interested love.
In these same terms, Simone Weil writes:
We love as cannibals. [ . . . ] Beloved beings [...] provide us with comfort, energy, a stimulant. They have the same effect on us as a good meal after an exhausting day of work. We love them, then, as food. [ . . . ] We love someone, that is to say, we love to drink his blood.
And indeed, in an early letter to her friend Miriam Levy, Jane writes: “I’m tired of loving and being loved. I’m sick of my own voice and I hate books. I’m not even hungry.” Perhaps this was depression, but it’s also true that she had read Simone Weil obsessively, had wanted, as a child, to be “a religious leader” herself, before deciding finally that she had “a sensual side.” Even Dillon, in her 1998 biography A Little Original Sin, recognizes some dark thread between sex and eating in Jane’s fiction. At least insofar as the ‘metabolization’ of loved ones is concerned, Jane seemed to love in precisely Weil’s terms:
I love Tangier. But like a dying person. When Tetum and Cherifa die I might leave. But we are all three of us the same age, more or less. Tetum older, Cherifa a bit younger. I’d like to buy them meat and fish and oil so that they will stay alive longer. I don’t know which one I like best, or how long I can go on this way, at the point of expectation, yet knowing at the same time that it is all hopeless. Does it matter? It is more coming home to them that I want than it is they themselves. But I do want them to belong to me, which is of course impossible . . . If I have broken through my own prison—then at the same time I have necessarily lost whatever was my place of rest—Tangier cracks—I love it—But it can no longer contain me . . .
So that they will stay alive longer. A strange manner of speaking. Wouldn’t one say rather: so that they will live longer? “Stay alive” seems to describe less the perpetuation of life than the procrastination of death. Peculiar, too, given the vitality of the two women in question. But, as Jane says, there is no greater procrastinator than she. To procrastinate the eventual deaths of her two lovers, however distant those deaths may have been, was to procrastinate her own independence, her own freedom from them. She does not love them as persons but as sources of “supplementary energy”. Her own need, “the attachments of self”, makes human relationships into idols, as Miklos Vetös explains in The Religious Metaphysics of Simone Weil:
Motives fill the imagination and cause supplementary energy to flow. Idols, those motives solidified, give permanence and generality to our energy, which, deprived of them, is suddenly unoriented.
Cherifa and Tetum were not kept alive for their own sakes, but for Jane’s, because they were her sustenance. And again—necessarily—pain, an appreciation of the impossibility of having and of keeping, steals away her “place of rest”, frees her, if only briefly, from her “own prison”. And it is precisely such complications concerning the scales of imagination, fancy, necessity that her two serious ladies fail to resolve in Two Serious Ladies. Truly, Christina Goering and Frieda Copperfield seem, as writes Alec Irwin on Simone Weil, “condemned to reproduce the same roles in the same monotonous cannibalistic dramas”.
But, despite her own seeming epiphany, “Tangier cracks”, Tangier was a city, or “prison”, that she would never freely, or properly leave. Only her stroke—for medical and financial reasons—would budge her. At the time that she wrote the entry in question, Jane had been courting both Tetum and Cherifa. Cherifa was younger, more resistant. She had been with other women before Jane—Moroccan women.
Why did she insist on loving those persons least likely to love her back, to understand or appreciate her? Some explanation exists already, to be sure, according to which she is a tourist woman who covets the “native other” as an exotic object. Such shades in her work should not be ignored. Millicent Dillon considers that perhaps in the person of Cherifa “this wild creature, this illiterate but powerful peasant girl nineteen or twenty years old, a descendant of the patron saint of Tangier”; with “beautiful shining black hair” Jane recognized possibilities of freedom, of escape. Cherifa drank openly and was known to be a lesbian.
Notwithstanding, the same structures of dependency, of “eating”, persist throughout Jane’s work, much of which treats western interfamilial relationships. The not infrequent choice, then, of “exotic” subjects seems more often a means of deepening private impossibilities. In “Everything is Nice”, Jane writes of an American woman visiting a Moroccan town—of her day spent in the company of one Zodelia, and finally, of her walk back, alone, through the town at dusk:
Although the sun had sunk behind the houses, the sky was still luminous and the blue of the wall had deepened. She rubbed her fingers along it: the wash was fresh and a little of the powdery stuff came off. And she remembered how once she had reached out to touch the face of a clown because it had awakened some longing. It had happened at a little circus, but not when she was a child.
For Jane, misunderstanding—failing to understand or to be understood—was all part of being “out in the world”, and not only in the non-western world.
In Two Serious Ladies, both Frieda Copperfield and Christina Goering meet briefly at a cocktail party, before going their very separate ways. From that moment, Frieda Copperfield seeks above all her own comfort, happiness and pleasure, as she relocates to Panama with her husband. A study in contrast, Christina Goering resolves to strip herself of all loving contact, of all desire for loving contact. The first step, then, is to sell her parents’ beautiful, Victorian home for pennies and to purchase with those pennies a “little house”—which is to say, a fishing shack. Quite often the many forces for misunderstanding at work in Jane’s writing are to comic effect:
“Where is your little house Miss Goering?” Arnold asked her, trying to introduce a more natural tone into the conversation. “It’s on an island,” said Miss Goering, “not far from the city by ferryboat. I remember having visited this island as a child and always having disliked it because one can smell the glue factories from the mainland even when walking through the woods or across the fields. One end of the island is very well populated, although you can only buy third-rate goods in any of the stores. Farther out the island is wilder and more old-fashioned; nevertheless there is a little train that meets the ferry frequently and carries you out to the other end. There you land in a little town that is quite lost and looks very tough, and you feel a bit frightened, I think, to find that the mainland opposite the point is as squalid as the island itself and offers you no protection at all. … ” Arnold shifted about uneasily in his chair. . . . “I am sure that the island has certain advantages too, which you know about, but perhaps you prefer to surprise with them rather than disappoint us.” “I know of none at the moment,” said Miss Goering. “Why, are you coming with us?” “I think that I would like to spend quite a bit of time with you out there; that is, if you will invite me.”
Jane Bowles’s prose is terrifically funny, managing even to make light of Simone Weil. This is important: it makes light, but it never makes fun. She believes too deeply in her own “sin” for mere mockery. When things are unpleasant, tragic even, all remains kind and bright: “everything is nice.” Nor does her writing ever practice violence (actually, the deepest and most startling act of violence therein is inflicted upon a mannequin.) Jane’s fiction is always sociable, sometimes silly, but even so, it has a dark and fearful heart. In some sense, its comedy always involves evasion or prevarication. Often agitated, fitful, and suffering seeming glitches, it is as if there was sand stuck within its machinery. Indeed, Jane’ prose is scandalizing insofar as it eludes true comprehension, while, in principle, making perfect sense.
Jane suffered terribly in her writing, spending days on a page, on a sentence. Very little came easily or naturally. Her prose is so absolutely contrived, so smooth, as to seem counterfeit. There were many who did write weird and snappy burlesques of the same order. What distinguishes her work is its sense of “sin”, something Bowles detected in herself, even as a child. Psychic dependency became the matter of her fiction: how to gratify it, how to control it, how to cope with it.
Nowhere is this dependency more clearly defined than in the novel Two Serious Ladies, when Frieda Copperfield, who cannot swim, is taken into the water by Pacifica:
Mrs. Copperfield held onto Pacifica’s hand very hard. Soon the water was up to her chin. “Now lie on your back. I will hold you under your head,” said Pacifica. Mrs. Copperfield looked around wildly, but she obeyed, and floated on her back with only the support of Pacifica’s open hand under her head to keep her from sinking . . . Pacifica started to swim, dragging Mrs. Copperfield along with her. . . . The touch of her hand was so light underneath the head of Mrs. Copperfield was very light—so light that Mrs. Copperfield feared being left alone from one minute to the next. She looked up. The sky was packed with grey clouds. She wanted to say something to Pacifica, but she did not dare to turn her head. Pacifica swam a little further inland. Suddenly she stood up and placed both her hands firmly in the small of Mrs. Copperfield’s back. Mrs. Copperfield felt happy and sick at once. She turned her face and in so doing she brushed Pacifica’s heavy stomach with her cheek. She held on hard to Pacifica’s thigh with the strength of years of sorrow and frustration in her hand. “Don’t leave me,” she called out.
There are a great many moments in Jane’s fiction in which one character takes another into water. At the start of Two Serious Ladies, Christina Goering, a small child, closes a yet smaller child in a burlap bag for a game called “I forgive your for all your sins”. Christina rolls the girl in the bag in mud, and then submerges her in a creek, despite the little girl’s frightened protests. In the short story “A Day in the Open”, during a picnic Senor Ramirez carries the sick prostitute Julia over slippery rocks:
“If I let you go,” he said “the current would carry you along like a leaf over the falls and then one of those big rocks would make a hole in your head. That would be the end of course.” Julia’s eyes widened with horror and she yelled with the suddenness of an animal just wounded.
In fact, Senor Ramirez does drop Julia, moments after, and she cuts her head rather badly: “She was not sure that she was not dying, but hugged him all the more closely.” Millicent Dillon suggests that all such moments are—to an extent—baptismal, especially where one considers Jane’s own peculiar fixation upon “sin”. But I think that sin is perhaps rather a secondary concept, just a word to contain all the impossible wickedness of dependency. But it is not only that little Christina and Senor Ramirez enjoy the pain and fear of their own captives, dependency proves much darker still. Because meanwhile, Mrs. Copperfield’s swimming lesson with Pacifica had “very strongly reminded [her] of a dream that had recurred often during her life:”
She was being chased up a short hill by a dog. At the top of the hill there stood a few pine trees and a mannequin about eight feet high . . . fashioned out of flesh, but without life. Her dress was of black velvet . . . Mrs. Copperfield wrapped one of the mannequin’s arms very tightly around her own waist. She was startled by the thickness of the arm and very pleased. . . . Then the mannequin began to sway backwards and forwards. Mrs. Copperfield clung all the more tightly to the mannequin and together they fell off the top of the hill and continued rolling for quite a distance until they landed on a little walk, where they remained locked in each other’s arms. Mrs. Copperfield loved this part of the dream best; and the fact that all the way down the hill the mannequin acted as the buffer between herself and the broken bottles and little stones over which they fell gave her particular satisfaction.
The wickedness, the sin that Bowles fears is precisely this: impossible to shortly synopsize, and still so cleanly contained within the one, strange image. It is an image which serves, imaginarily, to qualify the “imaginary act” itself, not only as sinful, but also perverse, uncreative:
An imaginary act is necessarily an unreal act, for it meets only shadows . . . not to see obstacles is the terrible secret of the carnage of the victorious warrior and of the misdeed of the criminal; victims are in their eyes only shadows without substance, inert and inanimate objects. Thus an imaginary act is sinful because in being unaware of them, one violates the boundaries of another being.
To imagine is to exploit the living substance of other beings toward the fabrication, the ‘fashioning’, of lifeless, ‘pleasing’ objects. These objects are precisely the “idols” that Vetö describes. According to Simone Weil, imagination never creates: it fabricates. And indeed, over time, Jane had crowded her life with so many unnatural beliefs and attitudes. She was an atrociously imaginative woman. It would seem that to renounce her imagination would entail relinquishing her own voice, her own heart. And yet, it was, finally, her extraordinary imagination that prevented her from understanding and loving others. It was her secret sin. It was not apathy or indolence, as is commonly thought, that kept Jane from writing, but her conviction that the imaginary act was, fundamentally, wicked. Vetö explains:
Ordinarily one understands by the imagination the discovery, or rather the invention of new things; that is to say, an imagined being has the “vocation” of becoming a real thing. For Weil the imagination takes on another meaning. It changes its objects into imaginary things . . . [they] become, as it were, unreal; they serve only to maintain that precarious balance we call personality. Once that balance has been shattered by the blow of external reality, all our desire tends toward reestablishing it.
While reading, one cannot but feel a creeping intuition that Jane’s fiction is, despite its stylishness, very deeply defective, unnatural. A reader feels the ‘inertia’ of imaginary objects. And Jane’s characters, always ‘imagining’ each other, are often struck suddenly by “the blow of external reality” and so shattered.
In “Camp Cataract,” Sadie has gone to retrieve her runaway sister Harriet from the vacation retreat after which the story takes its name. The compound consists of cabins and canoes built around a very loud waterfall. Sadie searches the camp for her sister and finally approaches an Indian selling trinkets at a souvenir stand. She understands of a sudden that he is in fact a man in costume:
She stared intently at his Irish blue eyes, so oddly light in his brick-colored face. What was it? She was tormented by the sight of an incongruity she couldn’t name. . . . “Listen!” she clutched his hand. “We must hurry . . . I didn’t mean to see you . . . I’m sorry . . . I’ve been trying not to look at you for years . . . for years and years and years . . . ”
But Sadie is delirious. She dreams that she’s taken her Indian’s hand and that she’s led him across a rope bridge and behind the falls:
Her heart almost burst for joy, because she had hidden the Indian safely behind the cascade where he could be neither seen nor heard. She turned around and smiled at him kindly. He too smiled, and she no longer saw in his face any trace of the incongruity that had shocked her so before. The foaming waters were beautiful to see. Sadie stepped forward, holding her hand out to the Indian.
Sadie’s own fall is not explicitly written. Later, Harriet hears from the Indian that a “Polish woman” had lingered more than an hour before his stand, without moving, and then gone behind the falls. But the ‘incongruity’ Sadie has tried for years—“and years and years”—not to look in the face falls with her, hand in hand to death. It would seem that for Jane only the “cataract’s deafening roar” can still fear.
In 1942, Jane wrote a short lyric “Farther from the Heart” for her husband Paul:
Oh I’m sad for never knowing courage,
And I’m sad for the stilling of fear.
Closer to the sun now, and farther from the heart.
I think that my end must be near . . .
Here, relief entails, as above, the “stilling of fear”, but also a parting with the heart. When she wrote these lines, Jane Bowles seemed really to believe that only the renunciation of her own heart could absolve her—could still her fear and solve her darkness. But there is one last fall described in a play started in 1954 in New York, while she was at work on In the Summer House. Also involving hearts, the fragment describes, in some measure, the incongruity of her characters and the seeming fundamentals of “dependency”:
She believes that she has a second heart and because she believes this she can accept a lie and protect it. Her wild clinging to this false trust is a result of her not wishing to discover that she has only one heart after all . . . She protects her lie—she guards her false trust in order not to fall into her single heart— . . .
Sadie’s Indian is her imagined second heart: the false trust, the incongruity, the lie, the dependency she’s formed upon her sister Harriet during “years and years and years” in order that ‘she’ might keep from falling into her single heart. As Vetö writes “‘the void-filling imagination’ rushes forth to supply the self with lies, consolations, little tasks to carry out.” The false trust, the second heart, is her imagination. And, as “Farther from the Heart” would seem to suggest, there was a time when she thought that this imagination, “the lie” she must protect, was her only heart.
In her journal, in 1954, Jane writes: “the only time I wrote well, when I passed through the inner door, I felt guilt. I must find that again. If I can’t, maybe I shall find a way to give it up.” Was writing only ever an imaginary act? Was it only ever sin? She writes of an “inner door”, of guilt. Could it have been that writing was, and only rarely—when she passed the “inner-door”—absolution?
In order to achieve perfect obedience, one must exercise one’s will; one must strive until one has exhausted in oneself the finite quantity of the kind of imperfection that corresponds to effort and will. The effort of the will must wear down this imperfection in finite quantity in the way a wheel wears down a piece of metal. After this, there is no more effort or will. All that appears to be resistance is overcome, inertia, fatigue, inferior desire on the level of will—all of that, when one has passed beyond a certain threshold, becomes suffering passively undergone; and movements are no more action than is immobility. When one is at that point, there truly is obedience.
Obedience is the experience of the void and redemptive suffering. It implies pure relationships, consent, and freedom. After all, the single heart is: “herself—it is suffering—it is God it is nothing— . . . ” It is a place of salvation, but, again, of much suffering. She has spent her life stealing away from this place, from this single heart. Then, writing is also an effort to wear down imperfections, the second heart, just as “a wheel wears down a piece of metal”.
The exercise of the will is “attention”. According to Weil, one can “pay attention” only to that which exists, which is real. Just as, Vetö writes, one gives one’s full attention to a difficult mathematical problem or Latin translation. Attention is purifying in that it involves total psychic devotion and the temporary suppression of the self. Weil considers that there are two kinds of attention: “intellectual attention” (attention given to, say, Latin or mathematics) and, more importantly, “superior attention”:
. . . in the beautiful—for example, the sea, the sky,—there is something irreducible. Like physical pain. The same irreducibility. Impenetrable to the intellect. Existence of something other than myself . . .
And this attentiveness can be creative. Often enough in Jane’s writing, imagination is pierced through by attention: “ . . . and she remembered how once she had reached out to touch the face of a clown because it had awakened some longing.” It is at such a moment that Sadie notices the Indian’s “Irish blue eyes”, and understands that he is not as she had imagined him.
In “Going to Massachusetts”, Bozoe is departing for Massachusetts by bus, and leaving Janet behind. The exact nature of their relationship is unclear, but they have apparently lived together unhappily for some years. Janet owns a very profitable garage; “her sense of responsibility was overdeveloped, but she was totally lacking in real tenderness.” Bozoe cries “in earnest” at the bus stop. And sometime after Janet receives a letter from Bozoe:
. . . The truth is that I am only twenty-five miles away from the apartment, as you have probably guessed. In fact, you could not help but guess it, since you are perfectly familiar with Larry’s Bar and Grill. I could not go to Massachusetts
In her letter, Bozoe proceeds to explain exactly why she could not go to Massachusetts. She feels largely that it is her God-given duty to prevent Janet from sinking “into the mire of contentment and happy ambitious enterprise.” Bozoe is “against happiness”, though she loves it. She feels that she and Janet must suffer together. The letter is very funny, but also wicked, delusional. The last remark cited from Bozoe’s letter is also incongruous:
The room here over Larry’s Bar and Grill is dismal. It is one of several rented out by Larry’s sister whom we met a year ago here for a meal. You remember. It was the day we took Stretch for a ride and let him out of the car to run in the woods, that scanty patch of woods you found just as the sun was setting, and you kept picking up branches that were stuck together with wet leaves and dirt . . .
The image of Janet walking in the woods and, for no apparent reason, picking up stuck branches, is beautiful because irreducible, because it is an image of perfect attention. It is Bozoe’s first image of Janet, containing nothing of Bozoe. For Simone Weil, full attention is “love and free consent.” However, the letter goes on, it would seem, and we don’t know how it ends (whether Bozoe starts to imagine things again . . . )
Jane Bowles’s power of imagination is her “false trust”, her “sin”, her imaginary second heart; and in her fiction, it is constantly at odds with her power of attention, her single heart. To pass through the “inner door”, over “a certain threshold”, was to vanquish the “false trust” by means of attention. Then, it is from this first, private “sin” that spring all the psychological strangeness, the astonishing originality of her prose. Millicent Dillon, in her research, unearthed a short and teasing rhyme that Jane wrote in Miriam Levy’s autograph album at age twelve:
You asked me to write in youre book
I scarcely know how to begin
For there’s nothing orriginal about me
But a little orriginal Sin.
Loads of genuine love
Youre best friend
Her “sin” was the reason she wrote and why, finally, she could not. It defined her life and her work; it was at once the source of her suffering and of her strangeness. And as Jane, still a child, surmised, it was an “orriginal Sin” that would give rise to the astonishing singularity of her prose.
Christiane Craig is an American student of literature living in Paris. She has worked as a proofreader and assistant on several of The Cahier Series’projects.
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