Wednesday, November 14, 2007

About women

Ola Hansson tried Impressionism, Decadentism, Symbolism, and Naturalism. As an essayist, he was as well-known in Germany as he was in Sweden, and in France he gained lasting fame for his introductions to Nietzsche. (Sigrid Combuchen)


There is something so terrifyingly sad about running after and catching a woman; it is repugnant and painful from beginning to end. First there they are, both of them, man and woman, rubbing up against one another like two cats in heat, and every clandestine look they exchange, with its greedy ardor or yearning moisture or shamefaced shyness, reveals this sexual urge that physically pollutes them both. I have always been disgusted by the sight of this squalid and ridiculous flirtation at which the whole world smiles knowingly and cynically, and which has always reminded me of the foppish rooster's courtly love songs to the prudish hen. And then when the magnificent joy and great bliss that are the pitiable mating act have been attained, the story is over and there is not very much more to be gained, since nine-nine percent of the time, sooner or later you find yourself face to face with a being you have never seen before, let alone become acquainted with or longed to have for yourself, and you wake up one fine day in your bed with a strange woman beside you, and you do not recognize a single feature in her face or her soul. If she is your mistress without the special permission of our Lord, then all the painful unpleasantness of breaking up awaits you, and if you have entered into a relationship controlled by society, you will be obliged to live intimately for the rest of your life with this unknown being whom you never wanted but who now sticks to you like a bur. No matter how thoroughly you may have studied a woman, no matter if you think you know her inside and out - you can still never be really certain that one day she will not slough off her skin like an eel and suddenly stand there before you, different from the one you once knew and loved as black from white. For you see, people are not permanent and immutable things that we can take hold of and say are like this or that; secretive processes continually take place in their being that metamorphose their bodies and their souls minute by minute, processes within you and within those you have loved in your life and have embraced in tenderness, processes that neither you nor they can fathom. Are you the one who sees things differently, or is it the other who has changed and become someone else? You do not know; you only know that this woman, who came ever closer to you, until you merged with her and she with you, suddenly broke loose and now is far, far away from you and stands there like an indifferent or hated object, something with which you want nothing to do or shrink from in aversion.

This is what my experience has taught me, and now I will no longer run the risk of wholly abandoning myself to it, since then women will do us more evil than good. But for me, the opposite sex is everything, and life without it would be without meaning or sense - and I have never been able to understand how people would otherwise bother to live - so I have learned to enjoy it in another way and in my way, so that I can drink my wine pure without the dregs.

Ola Hansson, Sensitiva Amorosa, 1887, Forlaget
Geelmuyden. Kiese, Scandinavian Airlines, 1999

(Translated by Martha Gaber Abrahamsen)

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