Mind-Dancing the Loneliness of Freedom: The Life-dance-story of “Sanmao”1943-1991

But that is the form of exit that Echo chose: and even co-pacted (below) with her 6-years younger fiancee before she even married him – her so much weaker and faux brave young husband. In her obituary for him (appendix) she conveys knowing (let me go wild) that he would not ever be up to the task of forever-hero but that it was her role as woman-lover to keep him believing, knowing that the cementing compathos was (had been) electric and poetic – a once in a lifetime fantasy experience (her first description of him in his chosen profession- as diver/ spearfisher – is as “a Poseidon”, Echo watching) – but that recollect might as well also be fiction-of-memory

Her suicide is well documented: it took place on Jan 4 1991 in a Taibei hospital (her reason for hospitalization is not mentioned anywhere, but sees to have been gynecological – she was unable to conceive – accompanied by severer “writer’s depression”. (so her by-her-beside patents read it). But her means suggests her usual spontaneity and impulsivess (“freedom”) without warning she used a pair of knotted nylon stockings, suspended from an IV-stand. A last grasp for absolute freedom? A depressives’ curiosity about how it would feel, how far she could take it. Which indeed she learned.

Yet that form of suicide: hanging (the complement of Ophelia’s and Jose’s drowning). The breath is slowly extinguished while the brain still lives to experience the decline, until an often slow-to-come blackout. For a woman who lived by speech (in writing) to cut off her voice just at the physiognomic point where it BECOMES voice. ..all this sounds very carefully pre-imagined, dreamed out, or perhaps extracted from myth.

It was impulsive but yet a fulfillment of a kind if suicide pact – not to outlive her husband – which had been discussed in Taiwan. But it also suggests (as did her frequent flirting with other men) that she must have foreseen that he would never be up to (have the confidence) to bear the weight of her fantasy, coming (provoked by, is more accurate) as it did from such a naked and open and unabashedly self-revealing spirit – one who did not lie or let things slip past. (Her diary of their first encounter repeats over and over how frail, how easily hurt he was). She felt she owed, but what? Her impulsive (on the rebound) return to Spain after a planned marriage to her German teacher collapsed – and instant marriage in 1972, reads almost as if it was to assuage his hurt after her first walkaway (1967) – a union that she swiftly promised then gave herself over to – a self-avowed ugly duckling to a handsome boy 8 years younger. Her intuition about his fragility had been spot on; and perhaps his knowing that the she was aware of this was the final nail in his psychological coffin, or so I suspect. Had their (her) decision to try to save the marriage with a childbirth – one that went wrong – further lowered his self-confidence ? (a horrible cliche but apt – and who of us has not tried this in desperation?). Certainly they were trying to have a child, even arguing about which sex would be better, but just as clearly, nothing came of it, and thus things stood when they last parted. Given her mothering instinct, it must have been more than disappointing.

But then she was not just a diarist and a close watcher, a goddess -protectress with no embarrassment – but also a creature of impulse – what in the end she means most consistently when she stresses her “freedom”-ness. Her writings are short, recollective: one stands always ready for there to be no next page, a new “letter” will be under way in a moment, even before the last is finished. So her pre-scripting takes us only halfway. The rest wouldn’t have happened without her addiction to spontaneity (freedom again, to self-destruct).

If it works as a dance-script, and works so well, that is I think in large measure because it had in her “olive tree” fantasy been worked toward it as it were in dream (something dance conveys best) Poetry can record life, even predict it. but it can also predetermine it and kill it. The Shelley thing all over again. Did she not understand?

There is in the dance, however, one instance of “other”: a child who seem her double. The message (image) I think is that she can “talk” to her child-self, or perhaps ensure that the child would understands her eccentric mother.

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