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!”