The Chantal Chawaf Newsletter, Volume I, Number 2-3 (Summer-Fall 1997)
"To flee from your embrace which grips me ...," by Magda Costea, University of Ottawa, Canada
This paper was written during the 1996-97 academic year for Dr. Metka Zupancic's course on literature and women at the University of Ottawa. Students were to write a letter to one of the characters in Chawaf's novel, Blé de semences. In this paper, Magda Costea deals with the need for the daughter to leave her mother.
I love you very much, mother. I love you, as I love the life which you gave me as a present. But this love binds me, in the same way to this existence which holds me in its invariable cycle, which obliges me to follow the precise stages of the body without leaving me a chance to run away towards something else where there would be no more shadow of age. I have too much pain, mother, pain of loving what I detest at the same time: the too strong bond which fixes us to one another, the weight too heavy for our unbearable resemblance.
You are so exclusive, my mother, so beautiful, so much the queen of my universe that I see painfully your shadow which leaves me nothing to myself, not even my body, because you try hard to shape it according to your image of flesh. I look at you, mother, and I forget who I am, what I want. And your voice charms me, ties me to you and without me sensing it, you stop me close to you, you pamper me in order to smell me in your cocoon, in order to smell me protected and weak at the same time.
But me in all this, what is it that I seek? This is the fear which paralyzes me, saying to me that without you I am nothing, that without your help I could not exist and could not survive. And I have felt grateful to you for loving me, I have been submissive and I have followed the laws of your world that I believed to be mine.
Yet my need to cross the barriers of this existence is very strong, despite you, despite me. I am ungrateful, admittedly, but your generous love, which seeks to satisfy all my weaknesses, weighs upon me because I no longer know if what you have given me is truly what I want, what I need. I must liberate myself from you, I must escape from your world of women, which is like a great mother-family.
I want to seek myself across myself and not become an extension of this feminine society. You, mother, as all women, seek to construct me by destroying my special features. I submitted myself until now to your desires and to your favors but the pressure that you impose is too strong, because in return you enslave me to your habits.
It is beautiful to see feminine solidarity, united by their motherhood, by their obligations, by their need to overcome the fear of famine, of death and of the obscure unknown. It is beautiful to follow the history of women to this moment of accomplishment, to see them united in order to survive, united as those of one single body, in love and harmony. It is so beautiful that it seems to me sometimes almost unreal, this union which stretches to perfection. You are strong and stable upon this nourished earth, upon this fertile and good mother, protector of her daughters.
Look, mother, how women repeat the design of the earth, as they welcome and carry in their bodies the seeds of life, as they console in their arms and as they give the fertile nourishment of their bodies. The force of your existence is rooted in what you are -- a living myth.
And yet it is almost impossible for me to integrate myself into your image: you anchor yourself the one in the other as the earth is anchored to your feet. The sun sustains you, but it fixes you forever. Your terrestrial security settles you, ties you and weighs you down. And me, the opposite of you, I seek the joy of the lightness of the earth; the unknown attracts me, frightens me and gives me the craving to face it, to find the courage to move forward contrary to myself. I would love, mother, to raise myself above my nature; I would love to identify with myself, to break away from the many who standardize me in everything.
Oh, yes! There is something unbearable in the group. You are strong, almost indomitable; my words, you do not understand them, they are unknown to you like another language, because you do not comprehend my desire for something else. Yes, you have lost the sense of words by dint of following your laws. How have you forgotten the desire for leaving? Is it so dangerous for you?
By dint of all waiting -- the sun and matruity of wheat and man -- you have forgotten yourselves. By dint of working you no longer perceive the light which is in you. Worn out, exhausted, you sacrifice your body to the perpetual dependence of nourishment. Stop hurting yourself; stop getting bigger and more peasant-like! This gigantic reserve of fat accumulates under the skin to secure you, to heal you of other lackings, but you are also fragile.
Me, I want to liberate myself from the nourishment of the flesh, because I must feed another part of myself. I seek to flee the repugnant chores, the unceasing work in order to find the time to dream, to satisfy another hunger: that of travelling in other spaces, to know myself, to love myself, to give myself happiness as a present. Why always wait when it is so easy to go there where our dreams call us?
I remember the time when I scraped the bone with a flint, when I sawed off, when I polished the skull in the silence of my own solitude. I sensed at the bottom of my being a virgin source, that I did not know to explore again, but from which I wanted to take the key to my freedom. This freedom will save me forever from silence and I will know one day to explain to you in more comprehensible words the reason for my leaving. Now I need to leave your shelter, your cave, this house, the apartment, the particular hotel, the corridors, the dining room, the bedroom, the kitchen, short of all the defensive fortifications that you have constructed in our history. I said to myself that it is time to give up the hiding places and to leave, to go towards myself. To no longer hide yourself, no longer shut yourself up! Why repeat the story to infinity?
You want to clear, but I want to know who hides behind the edge of the forest, behind the bushes, to climb the trees. You no longer ask questions, you are submissive to the laws of the body, to the laws of existence without piercing the mystery which is perhaps hiding behind the bushes.
Look at yourselves, women-mothers! Do you love your dehumanized bodies? Do you love the deplorable state in which your work, like an iron chain, binds you? Don't you deserve something else? I want to flee this primitivism, flee the terrible odors and the dirtiness which decomposes the body like death will decompse us so that one returns to the look of the earth -- which nourishes us and which is nourished by us.
I would languish from this freedom that today I no longer ask for -- it is in me -- and I hate to leave. I will go where perhaps I am awaited. I will go there where love no longer will be long in coming, there where men, builders of cities, want to give birth by their hands from the roofs which guide their brows towards the sky. I want to penetrate the world of the chief, the prince, the sun and see if there are frontiers between these two worlds. I do not know if there is a place for me in this city, but it will be important to do: the unknown will be cleared and from there all will be clearer to me.
And how to tell you what I sense now when all is ready for the departure? I have a hard time reducing us into two distinct bodies. I have a hard time leaving the world of mothers. All resounds in me here: my gluttony, the tender arms that today stop me from separating us. How many times before I will not want this nourishment which reduces me to reason -- the reason of mothers? Love, mothers, you transform into supervisors, guards, and without knowing it you want me to be dependent, feeble, anxious.
Each time that I tell you of my departure you cling to me, you want that I would no longer have the power to think of leaving. Above all, you do not want me to come to terms with my remoteness, you do not want to let your fruit launch into a life which is no longer yours. But the separation across all our history of mother-daughter has felt like a need to look for our own identity and even if my leaving -- there has always been a leaving between us -- makes us suffer, I cannot not follow my path.
And how your love does not make me tender and why not see you in all these mothers who carry their child in the hollow of their abdomen? I see you in the past becoming rounded to carry me by life which takes place under your skin, beautiful in this ugliness of gestation, beautiful under the weight of my life. I sucked the blood from you, I took your beauty and today you want to guard me as if the cord which bound us had never been cut.
I will always remember you, mother, my first house, my ground prepared to nourish my roots. I will never forget our history, nor your teaching. And everywhere in my life I'll know that something very deep joins us. The past of a history not again born, finds us in the sources of the beginning. The future projects us towards the stars of the universe, because in our flesh there is one part of immortality -- we are the creators and educators of a world: that of the body and the spirit. The spiritualization of our existence is and will be the love which metamorphizes everything. Thank you, mother, for having taught me to recognize love, thank you for having taught it to me.
To you forever your flesh, your daughter, who carries you towards the future, towards the stars,
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