I’m wondering why my protagonist in Parvit of Agelast becomes involved in prostitution. It hadn’t been planned. I started from an image and the character arose from there. The image was of a female being curled into herself, wishing herself away from the harsh realities of a perceived world. Originally a state of consciousness, she became formless but sensate matter. Later she took a shape recognisably female but not recognisably of the city in which she had grown. In retrospect I can identify elements in the proto-character that seemed to pre-dispose her to self-commoditisation:
a. Avoidance. Pauline Bewick, the artist whose images inform the book, said that the women she paints in nature embody a desire to escape. Parvit first avoids by forgetfulness then escapes by forgetfulness then returns, remembering, to claim ground.
b. Isolation. Parvit has no visible parentage, no family. Once formed, she makes no friends and is never the “sequestered bride.”(1) Given the opportunity, home is effectively house-arrest and she can’t bear it. She relies on two protectors in turn: Grizman, a bureacrat who loves and protects her, Simo Febrile/Dr Love, who pimps her.
c. The Shining. Parvit has striking looks. Unlike the squat, grey-skinned, marble-eyed Agelastians, she has luminous white skin, orange hair and green eyes. She’s a curiosity, like a strange beautiful gem found in the orebody of the city. Her appearance delights and subverts. Her existence may suggest something beyond, an unknown danger. Consequently she’s both treasure and commodity.
d. Availability. Being high-vis, homeless and in the mode of escape, Parvit is a moving island and a walker. She has nowhere to go and nothing to do. It’s while walking in a new part of the city that she runs into trouble.
e. Pragmatism. Finding herself powerless, Parvit is capable of turning her attributes to pragmatic use. She behaves as a commodity in order to survive.
I suspect that many women will identify with a few of these. Not all will be prostitutes. Not all prostitutes will identify. Many women will identify with them at some point or on some night of their lives. The problem is—sometimes the sweep of the great Composite Eye exposes us to severe consequences for what are passing, involuntary and misinterpreted modes.
Attempting to escape, Parvit has become fair game. Interesting expression “fair game.” It has the same implication as being identified as a prostitute. That is, a person is “stood before”—given over to the public.
THEIR EVERY DROP
This doesn’t really happen does it? Not to women
minding their own busy their selves their walk their
nessness. Really she’s not here but back
in the penthouse with her feet up and the servant who’s
actually a jailor is massaging her neck.
That’s good yes. She takes wide breaths
because pleasure and pain are very close and you bear
them both by the depth of your chest-heaves.
Ahbutitishappeningbecausethisisascream not a sigh
forced from her every nook. It’s a re-enactment now she
sees it of a dream she had when dreams were real. Where
did she lose her runlessness and become wide awake?
They don’t see her as a pain-receiver just a
them-vessel so they pour in what they have and poor
Parvit is so spongy she lives their every drop
of casual ignorance, that most cruel thing.
– Máighréad Medbh(2)
What kind of social matrix allows this to be the case? I suggest that it works on two levels: dark and light. The dark is a “casual ignorance” by which none of us know why we do anything. The light is constructed circumstance, by which a given action will cause a predictable response. We’re always in an apprehensive passage between the two.
The two main characters in the film, Possession, are in a state of terror, consistently reinforced by uncontrollable body-movements and the presence of the actual and symbolic Berlin wall. The only escape is by the creation of doppelgangers. This is no solution because if one meets one’s own doppelganger, one dies, so if two doppelgangers meet they will probably destroy each other.
What I miscarried there was Sister Faith and what was left was Sister Chance.
– Anna, in Possession(3)
Economic and genetic concerns force everybody into some form of doppelganging. The 2016 film, Elle, seems posited on this duality and attempts a kind of conceptual resolution by acceptance and openness, although one pain-causer is killed and the other disposes of himself.(4)
In a society where every day new schemes are proposed to increase “mental health,” can we induce sympathy as a given within our various systems. How can it arise that the phrase “good character” might create the condition of “fair game” as it did in Medieval thought where a farmgirl could be raped at will by a gentleman. How can it be that a woman’s health and various inexorably painful processes can be under-estimated in favour of an ethereal variously-defined “morality.”
These are questions already answered by history. A function of mis-information and mis-behaviour. Must the past be a perpetually generating doppelganger. Must we always suffer severe consequences for the spirit of chance.
There follows one of Parvit’s dreams and a reason for her avoidance:
('Did he rape my head, too?’ – Laurie Halse Anderson)
flesh is not for slicing except dead meat
so don’t with your long hard-as-iron
—you can’t—push until the lock breaks
because me is living down there
and me is insect squashable i know that now
what will i do or what kind of human will i
if you slice off my breast and plough so deep
the soft soil my very root never heals over
i’ve read of a girl hung by her nipples
how would you bear that stop you don’t
i’m a bad story and a dirty dream incomplete
a tooth out blood where my flesh slivered
pit of tearing claws where i was tight tunnel
doesn’t matter why you’re the whole matrix
become a razor wire fence pain has remade me
raw as disembowelled as a mouthless flapping fish(5)
(1) Wallace Stevens: “The Comedian as the Letter ‘C’”, Harmonium, New York: Knopf 1923.
(2) From Máighréad Medbh: Parvit of Agelast, (Part 6: “Parvit at Large”) Dublin: Arlen House, 2016.
(3) Possession (1981). Directed by Andrzej Żulawski, starring Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill.
(4) Elle (2016). Directed by Paul Verhoeven, starring Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte and Anne Consigny.
(5) From Máighréad Medbh: opus cit. (Part 2: “Parvit Dreams of Unhappy Shes”)