Fuck, Marry, Kill
Your favourite fictional character to fuck?
I am happily married to the incarnation of my secret dreams, including the wet ones, so it’s a challenge to fantasise of a late afternoon or early night-time with other creatures, even if they are made of printing ink. But all right, for the sake of argument. In that case I choose Leni in Kafka’s The Trial, the evasive yet bewitching maid with webbing between her right middle and ring fingers, which I suppose means she could never slip on a wedding ring ... Undoubtedly whip-smart Doris in Irmgard Keun’s The Artificial Silk Girl would also be an exciting encounter – this 1920s Berlinerin who, with her rare gift of the gab, dreams of »a white car and bath water that smells of perfume and everything is like Paris«. Or why not an entire Greek harem while I’m at it – all the muses plus Arachne, Daphne and Medusa (before Athena, Apollo and Poseidon ruined their lives) so that the sacred number of twelve is observed? Now that would be a communion worthy of the name. What is it the priest says when bidding the congregation to partake of the transubstantiation (the Eucharist, that is)? »Take this, all of you, and eat of it . . .«
It would have to be a rock of a person, mindful but independent, full of mischief and reflection. I’m sorry to say, but few fictional characters measure up. Emma Bovary? With that heart? Cathy Earnshaw? With those nerves? Thank you very much, but no. I imagine wedlock as the canniest of connivances, in which one is both partner and accomplice. In short: a sacred sort of sibling. If I may be allowed to remove one of the rs in your query, the answer can really only be: Mary. That is, the protagonist of my novel of that name. As the whiff of incest would be a tad too strong with a character from my own fiction, however, I will have to choose Franny Glass in Salinger’s famous short story – but twenty or thirty years after her breakdown and religious brooding. Perhaps she married dull Lane, that waspy and bland college intellectual, yet by this date, surely, she has divorced him. Middle-aged Franny would undoubtedly evince the best combination of traits I can imagine in a life partner: discretion and chutzpah.
May I go on a slaying spree here? There are oh so many darlings to deep-six. Pippi Longstocking! Singoalla! The ennervating Gretchen! Or take Ophelia, that fair creature who always does as daddy Polonius wishes and who goes mad when the Danish prince contaminates everyone with his ambivalence. They are all so immutable – indeed, so static of character that one would be forgiven for thinking their souls had been cast in cement. But I choose André Breton’s Nadja. Not the real personage on which the eponymous novel is based; she was a middling actor who made ends meet by working as a prostitute. Chance brought them together one October afternoon in 1926 on a Paris street. But whereas Breton turned the encounter into art, Léona Delcourt ended up in the loony bin, where she remained until she died two decades later, probably of starvation. No, I mean the incarnation of convulsive beauty that he deigned to discern in her pitiable person. »Nadja« is the ideal image of the male gaze, made of equal parts flesh and projection. While it is true that such women have been the source of some good literature, is it not high time we killed off fictional characters whose principal purpose is to give the narrating protagonist self-insight and cause to celebrate himself as the best thing since pomade or the band-aid? Yes of course, we might as well stab Breton in the back while we’re at it.
(SVT Babel, April 2, 2023)