After a long, long plane trip—including 3 hours sitting in the plane on the ground at JFK as we waited for de-icing, and 4 hours in Roissy airport because we had missed our connection to Genoa (at least we got an economy meal voucher—economy meant literally, alas)—we finally arrived at Bogliasco, the location of my working paradise for the next 30 days. That oxymoron is also a challenge: can I get any writing done in such a beautiful setting?
My fellowship project for this precious residency at Bogliasco was to continue work on the “feminist friendship archive” I’ve been developing , and I hope to do that.
I am mesmerized now, for instance, by the following, daunting passage in Simone de Beauvoir’s Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter. It’s the moment when 10-year-old Simone meets a new classmate Zaza, the childhood friend whose death will close this first installment of Beauvoir’s four-volume autobiography:
I needed her presence to realize how much I needed her. This was a blinding revelation. All at once, conventions, routines, and the careful categorizing of emotions were swept away and I was overwhelmed by a flood of feeling that had no place in any code. I allowed myself to be uplifted by that wave of joy which went mounting inside me, as violent and fresh as a waterfalling cataract, as naked, beautiful, and bare as a granite cliff.
I can’t say that I have ever experienced that violence in discovering a friend, but I am fascinated by its erotics and what it might mean in the evolving emotional shape of Beauvoir’s life.
A charming photograph of the two friends as young women appears on the cover of the fairly recent publication of Zaza’s letters and notebooks that I’m about to plunge into in order to read the other (equally passionate) side of their poignant story.
At the same time, just before I left New York for Italy, I received the copyedited manuscript of my new memoir, Breathless, due very soon.
And so I find myself happily torn between these two projects. Where to begin?
Solution, since the sun has miraculously appeared: go for a walk by the sea.