Falling in Love
Have you ever fallen in love with someone much older than you and from the same sex? Well, it happened to Rivi, a 14 year old girl falling in love with Michaela, her literature teacher at school. And, surprising or not, Michaela has fallen in love with Rivi, and their mutual erotic love has continued for years…
This, apparently, is the core of Judith Katzir’s “Dearest Anne” (the Feminist Press, 2008) who has devoted pages on pages to describe, in much detail, the erotic love between the two; their longings for each other; their “sexual games”; their adductive, forbidden love. Written in beautiful, aesthetic language, as you read the book you can’t put it aside; you are attracted to whatever happens between the two, at time wishing you could have been a fly on their wall…
The power of attraction
The reason for the readers’ “attraction” is simple. The sexual descriptions are written elegantly and beautifully, and as much as the two women never “gotten tired” of each other and never had enough, so does the reader never feels he has read enough. Part of it is due to the beautiful, artistic language of Judith Katzir, which makes the book not only a page-turner but an aesthetic experience in its depiction of places, characters, love and sexual attraction.
But the reader’s attraction to the book is due not only to the erotic descriptions, but also for another crucial point: As much as the love story between the 14 year old girl and her 27 year old teacher is “unique” for the two of them, it echoes universal love stories of people throughout history (not necessarily between two people of the same sex and of different age groups) and very possible echoes some of your own experiences with love and eroticism.
Existential, universal daily-life issues
Yet another reason for the attractive power of the book is the broadness of issues it brings before us: the novel circles around existential issues such as: where is the balance – or the border – between love and passion, between giving and abuse?
What motivates people to do what they do and behave in the way they behave? Is there “pure love” or is love actually often based on neediness, on the need to be loved and accepted?
In addition to these – and other – questions, the novel deals, among other, with issues of existential love, sickness and death, girlhood and womanhood, aspirations, disappointments, forgiving and missing opportunities (such as: If I had to live my life all over again, what would I have done differently?).
Our personal life vis-à-vis “Dearest Anne”
By raising such important, universal issues, Katzir’s book prompts us, the readers, in addition to experiencing pure pleasure in reading her book, to delve into our own life, our own fantasies and aspirations, our own love (or lack of), our own life-experiences, sorrows and/or joyful moments. It also drives us – consciously or unconsciously – to bring up questions regarding our self-awareness, as well as our understanding – or lack of – of the way we “do” life; the way we communicate with our loved ones; the way we hurt ourselves and others and last, but not least, the fears and needs which drive us to behave the way we do.
This issue of being aware to one self is dealt with elegantly yet hesitantly throughout the book. Is Rivi – as 14 year old girl – aware of what she does? Is she aware of the dangers which might be posed on her way? Is she aware of what motivates her to fall in love, lie to her mother, and become obsessed with her love for Michaela? Is she aware of the (bad) relationships she has with her mother and understands how these might have driven her to fall in love with Michaela?
Once again, these questions motivate us, the readers, to think and contemplate about our own parental qualities – or lack of – if we have children and about the relationships – of lack of – that we have developed with them.
Pleasure in reading as an inspirational board to developing our own awareness
Katzir’s “Dearest Anne” not only gives us pleasure in reading a well-crafted, aesthetically written courageous “love-story” (could we have had the courage to actualize our own love or other desires we might have had?), but in addition it raises in us a whole bunch of existential-philosophical questions regarding life in general. Then, if we wish (and have to courage to delve into) – the book encourages us to deal with questions regarding our own life, encouraging us to view and observe, in retrospect, our own accomplishments and missed opportunities (whether love-related or otherwise).
“Dearest Anne” can become an inspirational board for us to develop our self-awareness regarding our own life, vis-à-vis the universal issues the book presents in front of us.