Tuesday, July 14, 2009
“The truth is not the truth”
by Helena Parente Cunha
Translated By Fred P. Ellison (Author), Naomi Lindstrom (Author)
Reviewed By Ezzat Goushegir
Woman Between Mirrors by Helena Parente Cunha the Brazilian novelist, feels as close and intimate to me as if I were the author of this book, virtually writing it in my own rhythm and style, with my own words, voice and breath.
Although it derives from feminist schools of thought of the 80s and 90s, I believe this is a novel for all times. Like Clarice Lispector, the prominent Brazilian writer, Cunha is in search of identity. Cunha not only emphasizes Brazilian national identity and its historical and mythological relation to Africa, but also in the discovery of “self”, the physical space of the body and the exploration of womanhood.
The novel consists of a long first person monologue narrated by a house wife from the upper middle class family. Using a psychoanalytical perspective, she explores how the process of sexual and intellectual awakening, transforms her into an independent, liberated woman and an author.
One of the devices of this novel is the protagonist’s relationship to the author who is separated from herself. She constantly scrutinizes this “woman who writes me” often in a critical dynamic way including analyzing her as “a slave to liberation”. This labyrinthine relationship goes beyond the conventional relationship between the author and her character. In fact the narrator tries to convince us that the protagonist is more perceptive than the author, and she revolts the author’s one dimensionality. “She’s as much a prisoner as I am. Being free by needing to undermine standards is the same as being a slave. She is a slave to liberation. My submission liberates me.” (p. 9)
The narrator then explains that “Each thing has many sides, each person has many voices…and that way we know the truth is not the truth.” (p. 15)
At the end of the this multi-layered, multi-dimensional, multi-disciplinary novel, a thunderstorm shatters the mirror into a thousand pieces and the narrator sees her entire face in a shard of glass. Her face is as complex and blurred as the Jorge Luis Borges’ character in “The Aleph” and Fernando Pessoa’s multiple personalities.
This enigmatic novel succeeds at revealing the complexity and ambiguity of the human mind.