(on Goce Smilevski’s novel Sigmund Freud’s Sister. – Skopje: Kultura, 2007, 182 pp)
#1 In the reception process, we all learn from each other. We are constantly borrowing eternal themes and motives, but we do not give up the wish to also tell our own story. This story of our own is built by Goce Smilevski as quite a credible story told by Sigmund Freud’s sister, who never left Vienna (5). Via her, the author wisely explains the thing that is not so easily accepted: that all of our dilemmas and wonderings on our own past1F, on our forefathers’ past, are not only a story of our origin, our roots, but also a story of the specific misconceptions of a (some) time. Adolphina Freud returns us to the time when we were able to listen only, but not tell stories, to the time when we were not even allowed to tell them. Still, she is one of the rare ones that the author Smilevski allows to take their pen, that is, their brush in their hand: The brush moved to the board and it chose the black color, then it touched the canvas, wanting to put a dot, but the dot continued into a line, and the line expanded into a surface. In the end, the black color fully covered the small canvas, as a replacement for the silence, as a proof of the ignorance how to start the painting and telling of my life, as a question why I decide to paint again, and why to tell again, and why I have chosen my past as an object of my painting and story telling (9). Her story is a collection of several stories: the one of Sarah Auerbach, the girl imprisoned in a space, immobile, tied for her bed, a girl who wants to dance ballet, who wants to know how to paint; on Gustav, who was a winner in all battles, except in the one with his mother; on his sister Clara; on Verter as a literary character whom Dolphy wants to paint; on Verter with whom she develops a real, honest friendship because she simply can talk with him about what she always wanted to talk about: and mostly about Rainer, her love to Rainer.
I do not remember if any text has caused me so much pleasure as the recent novel by Goce Smilevski. I do not remember a text that has awaken the pain in me so hard, a text that has so strongly burdened me with its uneasiness. As a matter of fact, the novel Sigmund Freud’s Sister has uneasiness as it main motif and in this respect Smilevski makes a Sartre-like move – he gives his motif a physical appearance, placing it in Adolphina Freud’s body, but he also gives it color and taste most of all. What is scary and shameless in that image is not the horrible outlook of the world, but the fact that the consciousness (especially the one of Adolphina) merges with this horror, it participates in this existence, it sinks in it, it sinks together with it and produces “horrible enjoyment”. Rainer, her only and biggest love, tells it to her face, saying: And the most important of all, you have no need to love and to be loved. You have the need to suffer (91). Nobody before has managed, like Smilevski does, to describe the experienced or dreamt feeling of inflicting and suffering the pain. Nobody has sown the attitude to this pain so strongly. Nobody has described the disgust caused by this pain so expressively. Smilevski goes back to those scenes with a horrible fascination, but it would be very wrong to think that he enjoys these descriptions. On the contrary, it seems that he wants to ask the key question in their presence: How to wash out the sin of our existence? By non-existence? This is what is asked by Rainer and Adolphina:
I asked him: “Where does the enjoyment to cause someone pain come from? Where does the desire to cause someone pain come from? Again and again… Where does this evilness come from? Where does the desire for someone’s suffering come from, the wish to hurt someone’s gentleness, to push the weak?”
He asked me: “Where does the wish to be hurt come from? Where does the desire to experience pain come from? Again and again and how many more times… Where does the desire for one’s own suffering, the wish to have your own gentleness hurt come from, the insisting to be weak and to be pushed?” (92)
Adolphina Freud, who is called Dolphy by her family, is the one that will remain for the historiography “Sigmund Freud’s sister” (6). In Smilevski’s novel, she is the character which confirms the well-known thought that the female offspring is an anomaly or a variation of the main theme of the masculine gender. Even Aristotle stressed the manhood as a human standard, an idea which was also reflected on his conception theory. Aristotle said that the principle of life is in the sperm itself, while the female genital tract is but a passive shell for human life.
Adolphina Freud, despite feeling that she is an intellectually defined woman, still remains stunned before her wish to oppose the image of the woman with a defined identity solely in her sexuality and motherhood, that is, the image of a woman who is defined only via her bodily functions. There is a painful information that sounds like this: The names of her sisters would be related to the names of their husbands and children, between the dates of their births and deaths they will have the dates when they got married and gave births. Dolphy Freud would remain alone with her name, with her dates of birth and death only. The biographers of her brother would only mention her name (6)2F. The idea that the entry to culture, language, and meaning is marked by the image of an incomplete woman, also suggests the story of Dolphy. During the long civilization life there is a massive cultural perception of the female body as insufficient, partial and especially a body with a mistake3F. This feeling is especially stressed by the castration complex, and that is why Freud considered the female need for beautification a unique “normal” way of denying the inferior position due to lack of a falus, a feeling that Dolphy tries to live with: This first understanding of the difference did not cause any envy, I don’t think that this envy ever appeared; instead of an envy, the girl that I was felt a sorrow equally deep as the fear of death, because it could not endure the changes of the body that were to be followed, nor the separation from the closest ones, and the closest of all, Sigmund, whom I felt related to as with an umbilical cord. Since then, it was no envy, but a strange fear, a sorrow of a restlessness followed me as I grew up, when my body changed… with my first period, when I sensed the depths of the openings of my body (24-25). The woman, as Freud stresses, starts to develop a secondary Narcistic feeling to her body, in a same way as the male sees a love object in the female/other body. That is why Clara Klimt, Gustav’s sister, Dolphy’s friend from the Vienna Art School, Clara, the first woman in Vienna who wore trousers instead of dresses with lace, bows, artificial flowers, and a simple, short hairstyle instead of the delicate hairstyles of that time, Clara, the fighter for rights of girls, housewives, women, would constantly stress her desire to herself and Dolphy: Sometimes I think that it would have been better if I had never been born, the forbidden passion expressed in an unbelievable uneasiness: And I would like to much to have been able to again give birth to myself (46-47, 90, 144). As a matter of fact, this strong wish would lead her to a fetus like position before her death, with an expressionless face as an embrio, in a phase in which she can not move on, she can not give birth and start life again (145).
1. What Gilles Deleuze stresses in his work Proust and the Signs on the novel In Search of Lost Time is also a guiding thought of Smilevski. In his novel Sigmund Freud’s Sister he proves that the search for lost time, the one of the girl, woman, old woman Dolphy is a search for truth. One should stress here that this search does not result in a simple listing of memories, but it develops a story about learning, The learning is essentially based on signs, Smilevski stresses what is provocative for him at Deleuse, and learning means to observe a matter, an object, a creature, as they emit signs that should be interpreted (…) the material signs have their value only if they merge in the non-material ones – the signs of art. In this context, one can make a serious analysis of what signs are being sent to us by Adolphina Freud. See Goce Smilevski “Bodies between Textualization and Silence” in Спектар. – Скопје: Институт за македонска литература, 2007, no. 49, 127-139, a text that is an excerpt from his bigger study on Body in Milan Kundera’s Novels.
2. The woman of today asks for her right to act, to name herself, not only as a gender but also as a historical and culturological subject. That is why, as Angelina Banović-Markovska stresses, she rejects all versions of the essential womanhood. See: „Идентитетот на половите: Едип или Едипа, параноја или шизофренија“ [Identity of Genders: Oedipus or Oedipa, Paranoia or Schizophrenia] in Групен портрет. – Скопје: Магор, 2007, 60-69.
3. See Јасна Котеска. „Жена без заби“ [A Woman Without Teeth] in Санитарна енигма. – Скопје: Темплум, 2006, 64-71.