The Books of My Numberless Dreams

Mulier tota in utero

Posted on: April 17, 2007

Love is masochistic. These cries and complaints, these sweet alarms, this anguished state of lovers, this suspense, this latent pain that is just below the surface, almost unexpressed, these thousand and one anxieties over the loved one’s absence, this feeling of time rushing by, this touchiness, these fits of temper, these long daydreams, this childish fickleness of behaviour, this moral torture where vanity and self-esteem, or perhaps honour, upbringing and modesty are at stake, these highs and lows in the nervous tone, these leaps of imagination, this fetishism, this cruel precision of the senses, whipping and probing, the collapse, the prostration, the abdication, the self-abasement, the perpetual loss and recovery of one’s personality, these stammered words and phrases, these pet-names, this intimacy, these successive and ever more frequent relapses, this more and more turbulent and stormy passion with its ravages progressing to the point of complete inhibition and annihilation of the soul, the debility of the sense, the exhaustion of the marrow, the erasure of the brain and even the dessication of the heart, this yearning for ruin, for destruction, for mutilation, this need of effusiveness, of adoration, of mysticism, this insatiability which expresses itself in hyper-irritability of the mucous membranes, in errant taste, in vasomotor or peripheral disorders, and which conjures up jealousy and vengeance, crimes, prevarications and treacheries, this idolatry, this incurable melancholy, this apathy, this profound moral misery, this definitive and harrowing doubt, this despair — are not all these stigmata the very symptoms of love in which we can first diagnose, then trace with a sure hand, the clinical curve of masochism?

Mulier tota in utero, said Paracelsus. Which is why all women are masochists. Love, for them, begins with the ripping of a membrane to the end with the fissure of the whole being at the moment of childbirth. Their whole life is nothing but suffering. Every month they are flooded with blood. Woman lives under the sign of the moon, that pale reflection, that dead star, and this is why, the more life she brings into being, the more she engenders death. The mother is far more a symbol of death than of generation, and which mother would not prefer to kill and devour her children if she could be sure in so doing of binding to her and keeping her male, of being permeated by him, absorbing him from below, digesting him, letting him be macerated within her in a state reduced to that of foetus, and carrying him thus her life long in her womb? For that is what it all amounts to, this tremendous machinery of live: the absorption, the re-absorption of the male.

From Moravagine by Blaise Cendrars, translated by Alan Brown 

1 Response to "Mulier tota in utero"

[…] certainly not blessed with much resembling intellect. But Cendrars takes this and amplifies it to a graphically literal degree. I find it so puzzling because, and I may very well be wrong, but I don’t get the […]

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