Dated May 21, 2019
I have my semester end exams approaching, and I decided it would be best if I were to read something — of course not related to the exam. So I picked The Spy, written by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, translated from Português by Zoë Perry.
The novel is about a Dutch exotic dancer, executed for espionage. It is fictionalised story of Margaretha Zelle, who is better known by her stage name Mata Hari.
Now, the novel is quite short, narrated through two letters, one each by Mata Hari, and her lawyer. For what it is worth, it is very likely she was executed before exchanging the letters.
I really liked the style of storytelling. The letter Mata Hari wrote is about her life, set in the late nineteenth century to the second decade of the twentieth.
The prologue is quite interesting, which attracts the attention — it is the description of the morning Mata Hari was executed by the firing squad — who chose not to be blindfolded, who "did not move a muscle", who "remained impassive, showing no fear".
By far, the prologue was the best thing this novel could offer. I had a hardcover book. And when you open it, the first thing you would read:
Her only crime was to be an independent woman
In her letter, Mata Hari speaks about her childhood, raped by her school principal when she was sixteen-years-old and went to marry someone roughly double of her age. Her husband would ask her to describe the rape incident and have sexual intercourse with her in a similar fashion.
She did not like her life, left all of it, and went to the French capital Paris. Mata Hari wanted freedom. She became an exotic dancer who stripped naked on-stage, faked an orgasm in front of a statue of Hindu god Shiv, and even admitted the exotic dance she did — of the East Indies, or ancient Egypt weren't accurate, but nobody knew or could figure out.
Mata Hari also gained favours, be it a place to stay, clothes, jewellery or money in exchange of sexual pleasure of her multiple sugar daddies. At times, she hesitated, at times she embraced the label "prostitute".
Now, I don't have any issue if only chooses to be a prostitute. After all, people do all the things for three reasons:
- To get proper food;
- To get proper sleep;
- To attain mental peace.
Attaining mental peace is hard, so many tend to satisfy the cravings of their mind if they can't control their mind.
Mata Hari had expressed on numerous occasions she wanted to be free and independent and complains how that was not the case.
Hypocrisy at its finest. How are you expecting to be a free and independent person when you are earning favours by being a prostitute, or seducing people at the very least — being completely dependent on them. And you are so blinded by the favours you receive, that you walked right into the trap while claiming how you have avoided traps in your life. Moreover, when your livelihood is based on stripping on-stage while conning people to think they are an audience to some eastern dance. Despite that, you talk about how others were wrong, doing the exact same deceitful method you had been using.
Never had Mata Hari made any attempt cultivating friendship, just luring powerful men by seducing them — and then hoping them to help you. She equates "love" and "power" at least twice.
Do you know what I am going to do now, before I hear the footsteps in the corridor and the arrival of my breakfast? I am going to dance. I am going to remember every musical note and move my body to the rhythm, because it shows me who I am — a free woman!
Because that's what I always sought: freedom. I did not seek love, though it has come and gone. Because of love, I have done things, I shouldn't have, and traveled to places where people were lying in wait for me.
But I do not want to rush my own story; life is moving very quickly and I have struggled to keep up with it
Almost as if it feels Mata Hari was a new soul, who came to this strange world, hoping that she could learn a bit about give and take.
Were you dropped on the Earth when you were twenty? Or did you not listen to your mom when she was giving you valuable advice?
"Intimacy" with a man should take place only when there is love, and when that love is for life.
Instead of recalling her mother's advice about love, life and intimacy; Mata Hari chooses to marry just to fulfil some childish desires of marrying an officer, traveling to Indonesia for the "strange seas and exotic worlds". Not only you can do this without marrying; that is not the reason why one should marry.
Money and [craving for] more favours led the dancer to become a spy during the World War, and a double agent but being awfully bad and ignorant.
Her lawyer confesses his love for her [in the letter], and how she walked into the trap which led to her conviction, despite having no good evidence for her to be found guilty.
It was a terrible piece of fiction.
I liked the words, but not the story those words created. Mata Hari was a deluded character in the story which was just not worth my time.