Last night I dreamt that Daphne Du Maurier was here.
Well, actually, that’s the way I phrased it afterwards for Peter – who had slept all through – and for most people. But to you, I can tell the truth: I know that it was no dream. She really was here! There was this flowery fragrance clinging to her, that was still floating around in the morning – a sure enough olfactory proof.
I am a young and inexperienced writer. I am fascinated to think that once upon a time, there was a big bang and I think that is the most amazing fairy tale of all, although the traditional opening words do not quite fit that fairy tale. Indeed some elements must be taken into account, such as the fact that there was no time as yet. It does not make sense to say that the world was created then because there was no then – no now – no nothing. Great masses started to move… To cut a long story short, planets began to appear and air and oxygen and water and life: cells, cells, cells, cells everywhere – billions of them. That those could become animals and human beings one day is not surprising after all that… And yes, I do know that the big bang theory is considered obsolete by some. But the current theory is nothing more than the previous one – just a theory. Whatever started it, the whole damn thing, planets and stars and matter – dark and otherwise – a mind blowing universe, finite or infinite both impossible to imagine, to even conceive of, and yet it was conceived, somehow. Anyway… Creation is beyond and over. And here’s me with petty fears about the creation of one small book.
For years I have been reading and rereading Rebecca, trying for the umpteenth time to determine what makes it so fascinating – what is there that definitely is not in my own novel. And then last night, its author came… to help me – at least that’s what she said. She said she enjoyed helping struggling writers – now that she was dead. She told me about the regrets she had, the things she had not done: loving women, for instance… She had stayed with her husband through convention, through fear of the unknown – fear of life, really.
“I poured my anguish, my passion and my secrets into my writing. Do not do that! Love and write and take risks – in your writing and in your loving. It is highly dangerous not to take risks”.
I opened my mouth but she spoke before me:
“Do not ask any questions. I have not been sent here for very long and there are so many things I need to share. I was very interested in Jungian psychology. I read and read and read, but my heart was frozen. You can see it, my frozen heart – on my photographs – can’t you?”
“My frozen heart”… I heard the phrase again and again, and it became a litany, a sad song inside… Birds were singing outside, although the night was still very dark. I could see pale moonlight slicing through the shutters. And Daphne Du Maurier herself was in my chamber – a benevolent specter, chatting away, giving me advice on life & writing…
“Yes”, she said in response to my unexpressed thought, “I am here.” “Not I, if truth be told”, she added as an afterthought, “but the thread of the spider who spins on the wall, who is lost, who is dead, who is nothing at all”.
She started fading.
A strong shadow appeared in her stead – a tall, dark-haired, extremely beautiful woman…
“I protest”, she said at once. “I have been made known by my enemy, that silly, insignificant woman devoid of any true identity, who is never even given a name. She is a non-entity, a signifier with no substantial signified. Mostly lost in sterile day-dreaming, she keeps imagining what others might be saying or thinking and what might happen but this envisioning activity does not lead to creation: she is a failed artist, talking about drawing but never performing any. She is a very unreliable narrator: she disguises the truth while pretending to reveal it. And she is accomplice to murder, having married a man old enough to be her father, glad to learn that he had murdered his first wife: a victim of the syndrome “suddenly he loves me and everything is fine” and a bad case of the Electra complex, if you ask me. And I, Rebecca, I am the absent presence, whose posthumous voice has not been quite silenced by murder; my silent voice reaches the reader through other characters. I have been ruthlessly misrepresented, just like Lilith – Adam’s first wife – who rebelled against his attempted domination: “I will not lie below, for the two of us are equal, since we are both from the earth.”
I was flabbergasted. Couldn’t believe the way she spoke. I asked her about Max de Winter, of course. I had a suspicion that he was far from being the victim the narrator made of him.
“You bet, she exclaimed. “He definitely is a kind of Bluebeard. The “moral” at the end of Bluebeard’s tale explains how it always proves very costly for women to give in to curiosity, leaving no doubt as to the justification of this long chain of murdered wives. But what about the first woman in this bloody chain? What was the pretext to kill her? Literally, the text before the text? I am Bluebeard’s first wife – and he murdered me because I had slept with a woman. You remember Max de Winter saying: “She was not even normal”. I am the real author of Bluebeard, for I told the whole true story to Perrault and he wrote it down as a fairy tale”.
She was dissolving. For the first time, I saw she was made of paper – confetti… Her parting words were truly humbling:
“I don’t exist. I never existed. I am a mere character. But so are you! You are the 2nd wife. By the way, stop procrastinating and finish this novel of yours before the beginning of WWIII!”
I did exactly the opposite. Setting my novel aside, I wrote the whole episode, called it a novella and found a publisher for it, a dear old man with a sweet smile and grey hair and a long beard. I remember wondering on our first meeting about the touch of blue in his beard, but I was too eager to tell him everything – at least what did not seem too berserk – and the most important thing, that I was a character, really. He shrugged his shoulders (I think that he has some French origins).
“You wish!” he said.