(a review about the exile, writing, woman and “pure” through the diary and camera of a nomadic poetess)
#1 What do Sylvia Plath, Marina Tsvetaeva and Virginia Woolf have in common? All three of them were well known writers and all three of them committed suicide. What makes the women writers decide on this kind of “self-homicide” (let us use Lidija Dimkovska’s term from her book of poetry “Nobel vs. Nobel”1F). Is it because they are unable to fully fulfill themselves in the world of writers that has been known as a “male” one or because of the deeply complex nature that is independent of gender and social circumstances. Is the deep ingeniousness the reason for the death or fragility of the “sweet-melancholic” nature of art and the artist. When looking into their biographies we come to different conclusions. But are biographies always valid? There are mean mouths that would say that their biographies are more valuable and more interesting that their written works. The well-known Romanian unsystematic philosopher nihilist Emil Cioran says in his book “A Short History of Decay”: “Biographies of poets were invented to replace the life they never had…”2F Are the prosecution and exile of Cvetaeva guilty for her fate? Are the frequent infidelities of Ted Hughes to Sylvia Plat hand her inability to get out of the “poetic shadow” of her husband the reason for her death? If the split in Woolf’s soul, her concealed lesbian feelings and the fear of war the things that brought her closer to her decision to drown? We will never be able to fully penetrate the psyche of these talented women writers.
Women writing (if the division of the logos to men’s and women’s exists at all?) has more that definitely been established at the Macedonian literary science for several decades, and if we go back a century earlier one could see that it existed, even in a blurrier form, in the stories and songs of the “sources” of the collectors of folk work, such as: Grigorovič V; Verkovič S.; Miladinovci brothers; Šapkarev K.; Gjinovski P. and a number of other people from the canonized Macedonian folk literature. The women rhapsodists as Depa Kavaveva, Dafina from Prosinek, Gjurgja Koteva, etc. appear as the most important informers on the folk tradition and folklore. It is not by accident that we called them “sources” (the “nature” of the woman is the same as the one of the source and the land – she gives birth and recreates). The old stories, songs, customs had practically passed through the “creative filter” of these famous singers and as such they were canonized in the collections. However, it seems that there is a marginalization of these “interpreters” and the women authors in general until the period of 70es of 20th century. In one of the most important studies on the Macedonian women authors, prof. Jasna Koteska reveals the scandalous and miserable 2.7% women names in the book “History of the Macedonian Literature of 20th Century” by Miodrag Drugovac; some of these names and mothers and sisters of Macedonian writers, and some of the names are reserves for the “muses” of the authors3F. Why has the literature created by women authors been marginalized? The explanations are in Koteska’s study. The long lasting, even millennium long domination of the men’s writing has created a field in which the women authors are marginalized or present in a very small number. The woman is removed from the libraries and it seems that she has no predecessor of her own; for a long time it was considered that every woman author was born by her own “phoenix”, without predecessors and influence of her ancestors. This is the thesis of Virginia Woolf in her most famous work, the essay “A Room of Their Own”. Looking for herself on library shelves, the woman loses herself and she is a witness of her own exclusion. Developing the story about the potential Shakespeare’s sister, Judith Shakespeare, who is as talented as her brother, but can not reach a third of his glory and productivity simply because of the patriarchal code that obliges her to give birth to children, and not to books, obliges her to clean the kitchen rather than “cleaning” the sentence and to mend clothes rather than “mend” dramatic dialogues. To show that beautiful literature does not know of sex and gender, we have decided to analyze Lidija Dimkovska’s novel “Hidden Camera”4F for which she received the Stale Popov award of the Writers’ Association of Macedonia in 2004 (this novel was also in the closest competition for the “Novel of the Year” award of “Utrinski vesnik”). It is not by accident that we started this review with the names of Plath, Woolf and Tsvetaeva. These women writers appear as part of Dimkovska’s obligatory reading when she asks the question of exile, writing and woman in her novel. This triad is constantly observed by the main narrator in the novel, the hidden camera.
The complete novel is a made in a form of a mélange of two plots, one of them led by the narrator, the hidden camera, stored in the right toe of Lila Serafimovska (the main character of the novel), whose task is to write a novel about Abroad in her writing and life, to make a diary fiction or a fictional diary, upon the “order” of an Austrian foundation; the other story is practically the diary records of Lila, made during her numerous poetic events and studies abroad. In the novel, there are almost all of Lila’s travels: the study and lector stay in Bucharest, the poetic events in Sweden, the USA, Taipei, Amsterdam and many others. Practically, numerous characters who also tell parts of their life stories appear in the novel, thus enabling the novel to “branch the tree of plots”. Instead of a diary, Lila offers a fragmented biography that depicts her fears, frustrations, anecdotes of her life, all of them deeply contemplated and poeticized as a result of the abundant reading. The choice of the author is really interesting. Why was the toe chosen as the main narrator and spectator of all events and meetings, even the most intimate ones? Was it because the toe is the most remote part of our body and our heart, and thus being more objective in presenting the “real life story of Lila”? Is it because it is on a spot where the people do not keep their eyes? Why did not the author choose her breasts, her hair, her belly button as the narrator? According to the dictionary of symbols, the toe symbolizes power, but it is also brought into relation with the phallic symbol. Is this male symbol necessary for the author to keep the necessary duality to create an “androgynous literary product”. But the author is not one of those women writers who pay attention to sex/gender of their writing. The camera appears after the small surgical intervention that Lila had as a small child, when careless during her bath, her mother cut her with the stone of her ring. The camera has existed since then and it marks all events that happen to Lila. The camera through the novel addresses with We taking into consideration its owner as well. The title of the novel itself corresponds to the task given to her by the foundation. “Write a book about that!… about all of your countries, about the spirit of nomadism with rough feet!5F Therefore, one of the explanations about the selection of the toe as a spectator is maybe because of the nomadic nature of feet. The eye observes the “newly discovered” city or state, and the foot (leg) is what walks on them. The metatextuality of the novel is interesting: Lila should write a book to justify her scholarship. The book is made of a diary A.-fictional writing, which is inserted in the integral narration reserved for the camera. The omniscience belongs to the camera, but it is a seeming omniscience only. Even the camera has a “subjective” note in its story telling at moments. So, Lidija Dimkovska’s novel about “abroad” entitled “Hidden Camera” has the task of Lila Serafimovska to write a novel about “abroad” that would be like a hidden camera, and it is helped by her diary records about the past and her fellow traveler the “hidden camera”, Several of the plot lines in the novel are built on the basis of the poems that Dimkovska has published before in her poetry collections “Bitten Nails”, and “Nobel vs. Nobel”. This is the case with the poem “A Punjabi Addresses Jin in His Dream”6F which is related to Joseph’s (one of scholarship roommates in Vienna) dream and the poem “Hair Conditioner”7F, where there is the conversation of Lila with a person in charge at a hospital in Greece, when she finds out about the death of Edlira (the third member of the apartment for paid artists of the Austrian foundation).
1. Димковска, Лидија: Нобел против Нобел, Блесок, Скопје, 2001.
2. Сјоран, Емил: Оглед за распаѓањето, Култура, Скопје, 1996, стр. 133.
3. Котеска, Јасна: Македонско женско писмо,– Теорија, историја и опис–, Македонска книга, Скопје, 2002, стр. 26.
4. Димковска, Лидија: Скриена камера, Магор, Скопје, 2004
5. Димковска, Лидија: Скриена камера, Магор, Скопје, 2004, стр. 8
6. Димковска, Лидија: Изгрицкани нокти, Култура, Скопје, 1998, стр. 27.
7. Димковска, Лидија: Нобел против Нобел, Блесок, Скопје, 2001.