DYBBUK OR DÖPPELGANGER?
There are demons and poltergeists, döppelgangers and dybbuks in every culture’s psyche, the writer tells me. And she should know. Taking on the theme of immortality – did I mention that I live forever? – was a bold step where several writers have gone before. The Japanese are mal for it. Hollywood loves a gory ghostly blockbuster. And being, you know, Jewish, she was reluctant to mix it up in the telling of my tale. Don’t worry, I told her, out here in the Pleroma, the muses shapeshift without warning, Tiresius doesn’t know if he’s Arthur or Martha, Jesus is Osiris on a Tuesday, Apollo sleeps with his daughters; it’s a mess.
But, she’s taken it on, she’s got me and the muses whether she likes it or not. The other night she was watching a film with her ex-academic husband, who is filling her head with all this foreign nonsense, and a dybbuk in the form of a dead fiancé possessed a new bridegroom on his wedding day to convincing cinematographic effect. It’s all been done. But, in truth, I think I’m already playing döppelganger to her demons. I’m not quite sure where this is going. We’ve still got time.
Maybe I’m my writer’s dybbuk, taking over her body and soul until the work is done. No wonder the Sandy Headmen forbade graven images. But then again, as Goethe, the secret word-painter, always told me, character develops itself in the steam of life.26 She had to have had that life experience. And morphed it into my vita nueva.
Even though she can insert me into time, running the risk of anachronistic incorrectness, I like to think that I’m the opposite. I’m the new age, baby, rear-engineered through history to take a look at being a woman, a muso, an other through different eyes. It’s what the writer knows, but she has her work cut out for her in suspending disbelief. After all, you can’t have a cellphone in a simlah, fly under the Renaissance radar, sport a sari in a synagogue; it’s difficult keeping the epochs apart and occasionally criticism hits her like a low body blow. To say nothing of the self-doubt when she reaches out for the controls and finds fifteen versions of the same episode, wondering how to transport me from Languedoc to London in the space of three pages. I’ve forbidden the word count; it only makes her hysterical. And I’ve told her, believe me, I’ll let you know if it works or not. She has to learn to trust me. She’s getting better, though. With seven months to go, she’s seeing it as a third pregnancy of a twenty-seven month gestation; she’s got a bit of a thing about numbers.
She is that I am: Wanda B. Lazarus, the Wandering Jewess. A dead ringer for the archetype of the trickster, the outcast, the lowlife, the whore and the embodiment of feminine autonomy that goes back to the invention of the modern novel. And prior.
By consciously channeling the Picaresque genre into her character, attitude and plotlines, the writer now has a course to follow, a map, even. This discovery, fusing archetype, thematic and genre with her MA work of fiction, has infused her writing with a purpose, she could almost say, vision.
The writer realised that she could make all this shit up. But only if the story rang true, if the historical and cultural elements had resonance in my voice. Of course it would take about two hundred years to make all the links in my story link up as historical fact, but what’s a little imagination between friends? The writer must tell my stories; we’ll fill in the facts later.
The strategy for the novel is now burned into her mind; the picara as a symbol of autonomous feminine, the muses tasking me to retrieve the music of the spheres, the tale of the Wandering Jew. Any tale must audition for the part; any historical fragment must be placed seamlessly into the frame. The Wanda sightings abound.28 And of course, the writer is compelled to piece together fact and fiction, self and other constructing experience and imagination from the fragments to create a full picture, The Gypsy Girl Mosaic made manifest. One of the great qualities of the Picara is chaos. But, in order to give birth to me and know my essence, the novel requires a scaffold upon which to drape its wild imaginings. Or, as I put it to my good friend Nietzche, with whom I exchanged impassioned letters and a few chaste gropings: “You need, a touch of tummel, Freddie, to get a little jiggy with it.’ He worked on it a bit and gave it a Teutonic twist. It loses something in translation.