Translated by: Elizabeta Bakovska
Between Lilith and Eva
(Frida Kahlo in Slavenka Drakulić’s novel about pain)
Slavenka Drakulić’s novel Frida’s Bed, containing the biography of Frida was recently translated to Macedonian (Фрида, или за болката, Икона, 2015). Frida is a well-known name that has left its mark on history and art. I will not stress her as a woman artist, because being a woman implies being a woman artist. Every woman, is an artist in her own way, because since the beginning of history until nowadays and who knows until when, the survival and endurance of a woman has constantly been in chains and limitations, almost always on the edge of margins, implies art. And those women, when they have managed to liberate themselves from these limitations, or to make them invisible for themselves, can by all means be called masterful. There have been quite a few of them, some of them are still mentioned nowadays, while the names of some have been forgotten or purposefully hidden by history.
One of those women that the history could not hide or forget was Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón, known only as Frida Kahlo. She was a person that the world knew as a fighter, lover, adulteress, communist and painter. It is questionable if pain has made her a well-known painter or painting made her pain well-known. Whether she found a way out in ideology or ideology was but an entrance to Diego’s life.
It is known that Eros (the awareness of body and corporal nature and experiencing of sexuality) causes Thanatos (death). The awakening of Eros causes the awakening of Thanatos. However, in the case of Frida, it has been the opposite. Thanatos has awakened her Eros. She first felt the closeness of death and then her yearning for Eros was crated, along with the insatiable sexual thirst, which she used to hungrily quench. Her Eros woke up not only when it comes to this erotic love, but also a yearning and desire for everything that she can get from life. She would leave her mark and soul in everything, but she was misinterpreted. Frida’s character brings to mind pain and suffering, which is quite wrong. The fact that she had first awaken Thanatos does not mean that she lived less and was less happy than somebody else; if one looks deeper in the history of her illness, one would realize that the tasting of Thanatos made this surrender to Eros even bigger. It is not vain that “border situations” are considered one of sources of philosophy. Frida is a philosophy in herself; her arch- is neither painting nor Diego, but the pain. Aware about the meaning of pain since she had been a child, she returned to it and fell into it upon her own will.
Be it by chance or not, one women would find herself almost completely in Frida Kahlo’s pain, and maybe also in her life story. However, as any woman, thirsty for her originality, she would not show her pain by painting. She would paint because of pain, but she would write about it, and maybe because of it. This woman would write a novel about the life and survival of Frida Kahlo, who would face her physical pain as early as a child, and with her psychological one even earlier. The novel written by Drakulić speaks about a real and closely watched life story. The reason for this is, just as Kahlo did, so that her story is known. Writing about the obvious and well-known, she will also show the less obvious in a subtle way, which is actually more important for Frida’s destiny. The matching point that connects these two women, the one from the novel and the one that writes the novel is pain and therefore the title of the novel (in the original) is “Frida, or about the Pain”. This sincere and close description of pain is given by Slavenka because she too (and haven’t we all) has often sat alone, in the same room with pain. Tired of being alone with her pain (she had several surgeries, divorce and an abortion behind herself), she would get inspired by Frida’s pain and personality, to show the world her own pain and the unbearableness of living alone with it. Regardless of whether it is experienced as an affective state of bare essential, the pain is in constant contact with being. Most often as an inevitable component of one’s own existence. While aware of its temporariness, we often experience its presence as eternity. Soothing the pain is often found in the thought that we are not the only ones that have faced it. That there is somebody else with whom we can compare notes on the intensity of pain. The thought that we are not alone in the madness makes eternity of pain transitory. It is more convincing when we are observers of somebody else’s pain; when we are an omnipresent observer of somebody’s life and we can see the beginning, know that the end will come. This is the case with Slavenka, by telling about somebody else’s pain, she would soothe and forget her own. It is important to mention that these two women here, Kahlo and Drakulić, observe the pain from a privileged position, just as both of them have the possibility (and time, which is something the women always lack) to express pain in an aristocratic way. There have been many women in history that simply had no chance to show their pain and humiliation, easing it in such a way, which does not mean that there was no pain.