Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, December 31, 2012

"The Lotus" by Jean Rhys Project 196 Dominica

"The Lotus" by Jean Rhys (1978, 15 pages)

Country 12 of 196
Jean Rhys

  1. Georgia 
  2. Canada
  3. U. S. A.
  4. The Republic of Korea
  5. Antigua and Barbuda 
  6. Haiti
  7. Trinidad and Tobago 
  8. Ukraine
  9. Cameroon
  10. Botswana
  11. Sudan
  12. Dominica 
f you are an author and want to represent your country, please contact me.  If you want to do a guest post on your favorite story for the feature please contact me also.

If you are a publisher that has an anthology that is done in the 196 spirit, please contact me as I will be spotlighting appropriate collections.  

At first I thought I was setting myself an impossible task but a bit of research has made me optimistic  that I can find a short story from all 196 countries in the world.   I feel this part of the project will be completed.   I also hope to publish a contemporary short story from an author from all 196 countries and I know this is a crazy idea.

My post on "Illusion"-this has a link to a podcast of the story 

My post on After Leaving Mr. McKenzie (based on her relationship to Ford Madox Ford)

I love Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (1890 to 1979-Dominica).  When I posted on it a number of people took Rhys and me to task for backing her up on the claim the narrative suggests that Edward Rochester is a  selfish exploiter, not overly intelligent abuser  of women, a man who epitomizes the colonial despot.   I mean no offense here but I think that many of the readers of Jane Eyre first read it as teenage girls and developed a crush on Rochester and take anything critical of him personally.  In an effort to increase my unpopularity with most readers of Jane Eyre, I also did a post in which I depicted it as a deeply racist John Bull mentality book.  I also love the book but facts are facts and we have to acknowledge them as when we read.  (I invite any and all comments or criticism of my post on Wide Sargasso Sea which I concedes reads like a love letter to Jean Rhys.)   I am not objective, if such a condition really exists, about Rhys.  I am way predisposed to like anything she wrote.  I have read her biography and I know she had a difficult life brought on largely by her own choices and I know she could be a very hard to deal with person but I don't care. 

In my trip through the Caribbean, upon reaching the tiny country (275 square miles with under 100,000 people) Dominica I was very happy to find a short story by Rhys, "The Lotus" in one of the books on my Ipad.  (As far as I know none of her work is online-it will be under copyright in the USA and Commonwealth until at least 2029 -the only place to experience her work on the net is in the podcast I reference.)
Rhys at 25

I found this story to have a very auto-biographical feel.  The story opens with a Christine and Ronnie talking about Lotus:  "A tart!  My dear Christine, have you seen her?  After all their are linits?...she writing a novel.  Yes,dearie--he opened his eyes very wide and turned the corners of his mouth down-all about a girl who gets seduced on a haystack".  I know I have said I don't like stories about drinkers but when Jean Rhys writes one I do!  Jean Rhys was a very bad alcoholic and was very fond of herbal drugs.  She was also a street walker for a while in the rougher parts Paris and London because she found office work boring and she did not want to be a rich man's mistress.  She was strikingly beautiful.  She went twenty years "missing" in London and was arrested several times for being drunk and disorderly in the streets.  She was basically a crazy old woman of the streets getting into stupid fights with people around her. She was a mess!  
Rhys at 80

This story is Jean letting the world knows she knows how "respectable people see her".  She knows she is way smarter than the people who look down on her, way better read, an accomplished poet and writer and she knows they see only a frumpy middle aged drunk.   During he visit Lotus scores as many free drinks as she can, that seems her main reason for the visit. OK she is obnoxious!  Then as she leaves a big commotion is soon heard in the streets.  Lotus in an advanced state of intoxication (and the police see drugs in her behavior also) has stripped off and been arrested in front of her friends house walking the streets nude.  Ronnie and Christine are mortified when the police knock on her door as a presumed friend of hers.  

This story is Rhys way of telling the world to "screw off"!

I read this story in The Penquin Book of Modern British Short Stories  edited by Malcolm Bradbury, a very worth buying book.    

Dominica obtained its indepence from England in 1978.  Most of the residents are descended from slaves.  Rhys ancestors would have been bound servants or also slaves.  

"Jean, I love you"-Carmilla

1 comment:

Nancy said...

Oh, Project 196! It's not really a crazy idea, if you ask me. It's a great one, actually. With your diligence, I'm sure you could pull it off. You've been through 12 countries already, which means I sure have a lot of catching up to do. This is definitely a creative way of learning new-to-me short story writers.