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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 37 | volume VII | July-August, 2004



                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 37July-August, 2004

Oblomov as a woman

p. 1
Mariet Meester

    It may sound like an observation from half a century ago, but in my country, the Netherlands, sexism is still deeply ingrained, also where literature is concerned. I can give so many examples that to begin with I will choose them from very close to home, from my own life. Again and again I see that when a new book of mine appears or I publish something else, men can scarcely hide their discomfort. Or what to call that odd convoluted state of mind?
    When I made my debut, with a novel about a wild, very enterprising young Dutch woman, a close acquaintance and contemporary couldn’t refrain from saying to me: “What an ugly picture of you on the back of the book, it’s just awful. Of course I’m not going to read it.” Ten years later this man published his own first book, a collection of philosophical essays. He sent it to me with a dedication in the front, in which he thanked me for the stimulating and encouraging words I had once said to him, and without which his book might never have been written. The impulse was to write him back that “of course I wasn’t going to read” his book, but that wasn’t true, I did read it and it turned out that I even liked it. I let him know it, too, because this much should be clear: one shouldn’t answer discomfort with discomfort. I am convinced that a laconic, preferably humorous, attitude is wisest in these cases.
    Should I also tell the story of that other friend, who was enjoying a dinner I had prepared for him? Meanwhile he informed me that my writing would never amount to anything unless I cut my hair and started wearing other clothes. Afterward I was even crazy enough to walk around in business suits for a while, jackets and pants. After all, clothes are a language too, even if a person’s appearance tells you zero about the quality of his or her work.
    And then friend number three, who was also having a meal at my house, and who, chewing and sipping, began to deliver a litany of the supposed defects in my last novel. He didn’t understand that my publisher had been willing to publish this book. After a quarter of an hour in which he was skinning my book alive, his voice rising all the while, and I

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