Anna Moschovakis’s Remarkable Debut Novel Searches For a Way to Present a Woman’s Life – Anna Moschovakis杰出的处女作寻找一种展现女性生活的方式

Opinion - 23 Jul 2018

Anna Moschovakis’s Remarkable Debut Novel Searches For a Way to Present a Woman’s Life

In Eleanor, or The Rejection of the Progress of Love, two women repudiate the long-held expectation: get a husband, make babies

By Sarah Resnick

‘What, if anything, can I do in the time I have left?,’ asks Eleanor, the titular character of poet and translator Anna Moschovakis’s remarkable first novel, Eleanor, or The Rejection of the Progress of Love (Coffee House Press, 2018). The question is, I would wager, unfamiliar to no one. The privilege of youth is to feel that time lies ahead of you; that like a renewable resource we need worry less about wasting it, about whether we are wasting it. The curse (blessing?) of middle age is to perceive time’s abstraction in a new way: it appears suddenly finite, progressing more rapidly toward life’s only certain event. Amid this transition, the chaff of youthful ambition, of ideas and desires unrealized – or worse, maybe, realized but delivering little more than indifferences – can settle as a scrim over the scenery, impairing one’s vision. Now the question lingers, an ambient irritant.

When the novel opens, Eleanor is 39 and living in New York. She drifts amid overcast conditions: a lapsed PhD student, an adjunct professor of literature, a consummate reader, a writer who does not appear to spend much time writing. Her aspirations are dim. She is ambivalent about her lover with whom she shares an erotic connection but little else (they ‘were not perfectly matched, she was the first to admit’). Motherhood lacks appeal, the uniform certainty with which mothers ‘compared the before to the after of the unconditional love they felt for their spawn’ unsettling. Too cash-poor to socialize with better-paid friends, her social interactions dwindle; she texts. The atmosphere sweats news stories of trauma and upheaval in six-word summations. Eleanor meets them with anaesthetized dispassion, unable to ‘muster any of the outrage’ she expects to feel. The numbness extends to a recent trauma of her own, an event ‘that she had caused to happen, or that she had not caused but merely not prevented from happening’, which we never hear described. When her laptop is stolen, a document that has become the ‘site for a certain kind of thinking’ in the wake of the ‘thing that had happened’ is lost with it, and she ruminates on the missing paragraphs.

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Anna Moschovakis’s Remarkable Debut Novel Searches For a Way to Present a Woman’s Life - Anna Moschovakis杰出的处女作寻找一种展现女性生活的方式

Jean Honoré Fragonard, Reverie from ‘The Progress of Love’, 1771–72, oil on canvas, 3.2 x 2 m. Courtesy: © The Frick Collection, New York

Unmoored, flittering Eleanor. One could reach for the metaphor that she is a character in someone else’s story, except that there is no need: Eleanor is, quite literally, the protagonist in a novel-within-the-novel of an unnamed author whose own story transpires concurrently with her own. Moschovakis oscillates episodically between the two stories – both Eleanor’s and the unnamed author’s – in the same austere, exacting prose, with Eleanor’s half narrated in a limited third person, the author’s in the first. Recently separated from her girlfriend, Kat, the author preoccupies herself with how best to describe her character Eleanor’s arc as she leaves New York and gives chase to her lost data, moving from a hostel in Albany to an ‘eco-minimalist’ commune, from Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa to the former home of French poet Arthur Rimbaud in Harar.

An eminent male critic, Aidan – ‘one of those men … who speaks only in subordinated sentences, developed theories’ – has asked to read the author’s manuscript. In a series of emails and encounters, they discuss ‘the function of Eleanor’s lover’ or the anxiety of conforming too closely to the traits of a literary zeitgeist (the use of episodic narrative, for instance) or why the author has chosen the pronoun she instead of I (‘a character who’s lost her data has lost her “I,”’ the critic theorizes). The exchange, with its self-conscious airing of potential flaws, weaknesses, criticisms, feels equally germane to Eleanor the novel.

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Anna Moschovakis’s Remarkable Debut Novel Searches For a Way to Present a Woman’s Life - Anna Moschovakis杰出的处女作寻找一种展现女性生活的方式

Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Confession of Love from ‘The Progress of Love’, 1771–72, oil on canvas, 3.2 x 2.2 m. Courtesy: © The Frick Collection, New York

‘I have a question for you about the title of my book,’ the author writes in an email to Aidan late in the novel. Eventually, we learn that she has too many titles in mind and is considering borrowing the form of the frontispiece from Clarice Lispector’s The Hour of the Star (1977) – a list of 12 alternate titles – ‘as a kind of homage’ (the two novels bear many thematic similarities). The list she sends to the critic, typeset in the same format as Lispector’s, includes the two titles of the novel we are reading. This is the first time the phrase ‘The Progress of Love’ appears; it is capitalized, including the T, and set in quotes. Although the novel contains no further discussion of the prospective titles, the style suggests it may be a reference to the short story by Alice Munro, first published in The New Yorker in 1985, about three generations of mothers of daughters on a farm in rural Canada. The phrase appears again some 40 pages later, this time because it is the title of the tetraptych painted by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, four canvases depicting ‘the four ages of love’ – flirtation, furtive meeting, consummation/marriage, happy union. The paintings were, once completed, turned down by the commissioning patron. This is one ‘rejection’, but the word reverberates in other ways: more obvious, perhaps, is that both Eleanor and the unnamed author have rejected heteronormative love and family-making; they have rejected what for a long time women were expected to do with their lives: get a husband, make babies.

There is, perhaps, one further rejection – Moschovakis’s. Western narrative forms have been developed to record and explicate male life (surely, it’s no coincidence that the narrative arc – inciting incident, climax, denouement – hews closely to the male sexual experience), and in a world in which women were denigrated. The novel, its conventional form, descends from this same tradition. As feminist historian Jill Ker Conway has observed, when they began to be told in novels and in memoirs, women’s stories were often shaped by the romantic myth, concluding with some version of Jane Eyre’s ‘Reader, I married him,’ as if, once married, their own lives ended, were subsumed by the man’s. Or stories with women protagonists centred on relationships between mothers and daughters. Shaped by the romantic or familial myth but not invariantly stamped by it – and certainly not wholly absorbed by it. These stories also expressed anxieties about the anonymizing and economic precariousness of being a woman; about entrapment in the domestic sphere, and, likewise, entrapment in the female body (the experience of childbirth was particularly fearsome).

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Anna Moschovakis’s Remarkable Debut Novel Searches For a Way to Present a Woman’s Life - Anna Moschovakis杰出的处女作寻找一种展现女性生活的方式

Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Lover Crowned from ‘The Progress of Love’, 1771–72, oil on canvas, 3.2 x 2.4 m. Courtesy: © The Frick Collection, New York

Today’s literary landscape has no doubt evolved into something much broader. Yet how literary conventions derived from a culture that assumed women’s inferiority can grant integrity to the experience of women seems to be under question right now – both in Moschovakis’s novel and in English-language writing more broadly. The renewed interest in so-called autofiction, a form with which Eleanor shares much in common (the novel gives us clues but does not confirm that some version of Eleanor is the unnamed author is Moschovakis) seems to be one manifestation of this exploration. Moschovakis is in search of a way of presenting a woman’s life that is not expressed solely through family and bonds with others – that rebuffs inherited conventions while acknowledging that women are still labouring their way through the mare’s nest chaotically erected by patriarchy. For a clue as to what she might do instead, Moschovakis borrows from Rimbaud, a figure Eleanor studies closely in the novel’s third section. ‘I am present at the explosion of my own thought,’ he wrote in a letter in 1871. ‘I watch and listen to it.’ It is life that creates Eleanor, life that creates the unnamed author, rather than the other way around. This is in part why the Aidan’s observations cause the author to doubt her choices in the novel but ultimately don’t prove to be all that helpful – Aidan, so convinced of his own ideas, so buoyed by male authority, fails to recognize the nature, let alone the significance, of the rejection she is making.

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Anna Moschovakis’s Remarkable Debut Novel Searches For a Way to Present a Woman’s Life - Anna Moschovakis杰出的处女作寻找一种展现女性生活的方式

Anna Moschovakis’s Eleanor, or The Rejection of the Progress of Love, 2018, is published by Coffee House Press.

Main image: Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Swing, c.1767, oil on canvas, 81 cm × 64 cm. Courtesy: © The Wallace Collection, London

Sarah Resnick

Sarah Resnick lives in New York. Her writing has appeared in n+1, Bookforum, Art in America, BOMB, and Triple Canopy, where she was previously an editor. Her writing was selected for 2017’s Best American Essays and a 2019 Pushcart Prize.

Opinion
Books
Anna Moschovakis
Coffee House Press
New York
Sarah Resnick
Jean-Honoré Fragonard


《23—2018》中Anna Moschovakis杰出的处女作小说寻找在埃利诺中展现女性生活的一种方式,抑或拒绝爱情的进步,两位女性否定了长久以来的期望:生丈夫,生孩子。Sarah Resnick说,如果我离开的时候,我能做什么呢?“诗人和译者的名义人物埃利诺,Anna Moschovakis的杰出的第一部小说,埃利诺,或拒绝爱的进步(咖啡屋出版社,2018)问道。问题是,我敢打赌,对任何人都不熟悉。青春的特权在于感觉时间在你的前方,就像再生资源一样,我们不必担心浪费它,我们是否在浪费它。诅咒(祝福?)中年是以一种新的方式感知时间的抽象:它突然变得有限,更迅速地向生命的特定事件发展。在这一转变中,年轻的野心、想法和欲望的糠秕没有实现——或者更糟,也许实现了,但只不过是无关紧要而已——可以像一张文稿一样在风景上安顿下来,损害了人们的视力。现在问题萦绕着,一种环境刺激物。小说开篇时,埃利诺39岁,住在纽约。她漂泊在阴暗的环境中:一个失学的博士生,一个文学的兼职教授,一个精湛的读者,一个不会花费很多时间写作的作家。她的愿望是暗淡的。她对自己与情人有着亲密关系的恋人矛盾重重,但几乎没有什么(他们不是完全匹配的,她是最先承认的)。母亲缺乏吸引力,这是母亲们在无条件的爱之前和事后对她们的产卵感到不安的一致肯定。她太穷了,无法与有报酬的朋友交往,她的社交活动逐渐减少;在六个词的总结中,大气层散发着创伤和动乱的新闻故事。埃利诺以麻木不仁的冷静面对他们,无法鼓起任何她期望的愤怒。麻木延伸到她自己最近的创伤,一个她曾发生过的事件,或者她没有引起,但只是没有阻止发生,这是我们从未听说过的。当她的笔记本电脑被盗时,一个在“发生的事情”之后成为“某种思维方式的网站”的文件就丢失了,她反复思考缺失的段落。TyoLoVeReSuffy-Lovivy-ReaviRay-Y-FravaRAD17171-72.JPG Anna Moschovakis’s Remarkable Debut Novel Searches For a Way to Present a Woman’s Life - Anna Moschovakis杰出的处女作寻找一种展现女性生活的方式 JeaNo.E.Fracon,“爱的进步”的遐想,1771—72,油画上的油,3.2×2米。礼貌:弗里克美术收藏馆,纽约停泊,闪闪发光的埃利诺。人们可以得出一个隐喻:她是别人故事中的一个人物,除了没有必要:埃利诺是一个没有署名的作家的小说中的主角,她自己的故事与她自己的故事同时发生。莫斯科瓦克斯在两个故事中——埃利诺和未命名的作者——在同一个严肃、严谨的散文中摇摆,埃利诺的一半叙述在一个有限的第三个人中,作者在第一个。最近,她和女友Kat分手了,她自言自语地讲述了她在离开纽约时如何最好地描述她的角色埃利诺的弧线,并追寻她丢失的数据,从奥尔巴尼的一家旅舍搬到一个“生态极简主义”公社,从埃塞俄比亚的亚的斯亚贝巴到前者。法国诗人阿尔蒂尔·兰波在Harar的故乡。一位著名的男性批评家艾丹——“其中的一个人,只讲从句,发展理论”,要求读作者的手稿。在一系列的电子邮件和遭遇中,他们讨论了“埃利诺的情人的作用”或是过于紧密地符合一个文学时代精神特征的焦虑(例如,使用情节性叙述),或者为什么作者选择代词她而不是我。她的数据已经失去了她的“我”,“评论家的理论”。这种交流有着潜在的瑕疵、弱点、批评,与埃利诺的小说一样。5C48 E4DC712BFE7EBB72DA48 7000 02.JPG Anna Moschovakis’s Remarkable Debut Novel Searches For a Way to Present a Woman’s Life - Anna Moschovakis杰出的处女作寻找一种展现女性生活的方式 JeaNo.E.Fracon,《爱的忏悔》,《爱的进步》,1771—72,油画上的油画,3.2×2.2米礼貌:纽约弗里克美术收藏馆,我有一个问题要问你“我的书的标题,”作者写在一封电子邮件给艾丹在小说后期。最后,我们知道她脑子里有太多的标题,正在考虑借用Clarice Lispector的《星辰时刻》(1977)——一个12个交替的标题——“一种敬意”(这两部小说具有许多主题相似性)。她向评论家发送的名单,排版与LISPECOTER的格式相同,包括我们正在阅读的小说的两个标题。这是第一次出现“爱的进步”这个短语,它是大写的,包括T,并在引语中设置。尽管这本小说没有对未来的标题进行进一步的讨论,但这一风格暗示着这部小说可能是Alice Munro在1985年初在《纽约客》上发表的短篇小说的参考,在加拿大农村的一个农场里,大约有三代母亲的女儿。这个短语在大约40页后再次出现,这次是因为Jeang-ReaveFravoar画的四分音符的标题,四幅画布描绘了“四个爱的时代”——调情、鬼鬼祟祟的相遇、完美/婚姻、幸福的结合。这些画一旦完成,就被委托人拒绝了。这是一个“拒绝”,但这个词以其他方式回响:更明显的是,埃利诺和无名作者都拒绝了异乎寻常的爱情和家庭制作;他们拒绝了女人们长久以来期望做的事情:找个丈夫,做个宝贝。锿。也许,还有一个拒绝——莫斯科瓦基的西方叙事形式已经被开发来记录和解释男性生活(当然,叙事弧——煽动事件、高潮、结局——与男性性体验密切相关),并不是一个巧合。其中女性被诋毁。这部小说,其传统形式,源于这一传统。正如女权主义历史学家Jill Ker Conway所观察到的,当他们开始在小说和回忆录中被告知时,女性的故事往往是由浪漫的神话塑造的,用Jane Eyre的“读者,我嫁给他”的某些版本来结束,好像,一旦结婚,他们自己的生命结束了,就被男人或女人的故事集中于母亲和女儿之间的关系。被浪漫或家族神话所塑造,但并没有被它压倒——当然也不是完全被它所吸收。这些故事也表达了对作为一个女人的匿名和经济不安的焦虑;在国内范围内的圈套,同样地,在女性身体中的圈套(分娩的经历尤其可怕)。ResiZeMatFaltuff.JPG WPAP602602IMG JeaNo.E.FravaRad,情人从“爱的进步”,1771 - 72,油画上的油画,3.2 x 2.4米。礼貌:弗里克美术收藏馆,纽约今天的文学景观无疑已演变成更广泛的东西然而,从一个假定女性自卑可以赋予女性经验的文化中衍生出来的文学习俗现在似乎受到了质疑——无论是在Moschovakis的小说中还是在英语语言写作中。对所谓的自我修复的重新兴趣,这是一种与埃利诺有很多共同点的形式(小说给了我们线索,但不能证实埃利诺的某些版本是未命名的作者是Moschovakis)似乎是这一探索的一种表现形式。Moschovakis正在寻找一种展现女性生活的方式,这种方式并不是通过家庭和与他人的关系来表达的——它拒绝了继承的习俗,同时承认女性仍然在父权制的混乱中苦苦跋涉。作为一个线索,她可能会做什么,Moschovakis借用Rimbaud,一个人物埃利诺密切研究在小说的第三部分。他在1871的一封信中写道:“我现在正处在我自己思想的爆炸中。”“我观察和倾听它。”是生命创造了埃利诺,创造了无名作家的生命,而不是另一种方式。这部分是为什么艾丹的观察导致作者怀疑她在小说中的选择,但最终并没有证明这一切都是有益的——艾丹,他相信自己的想法,如此被男性权威所鼓舞,没有意识到拒绝的本质,更不用说意义。E正在制造。咖啡馆出版社出版的《97 815689895088》FC JPG Anna Moschovakis’s Remarkable Debut Novel Searches For a Way to Present a Woman’s Life - Anna Moschovakis杰出的处女作寻找一种展现女性生活的方式 Anna Moschovakis的《埃利诺》或《拒绝爱情的进展》2018。主要形象:Jeang-ReaveFracon,Swing,C.1767,油画布,81厘米×64厘米。礼貌:华勒斯收藏,伦敦莎拉雷斯尼克莎拉雷斯尼克居住在纽约。她的作品出现在N+ 1,书坛,美国艺术,炸弹,和三冠层,在那里她以前是一个编辑。她的作品被选为2017个美国最佳散文和2019个推车奖。意见书安娜Maskvakas咖啡馆出版社纽约莎拉雷斯尼克让荣誉


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