Silky

petite, bohemian, feminine goth lady, femme fatale, and sexy trollop of wild abandon...
prostitute of the streets, kept woman, whore...I am all of these...with total abandon

'in truth…she is a salamander, she is a nymph…she is a bacchante of the menelean mount.'

My Desires:

all of France, especially Paris
Italian men
sultry dark eyes
the seductive feel of black velvet and black silk
black garters and black silk stockings
esoterica
the occult
blood vampirism
erotica
the night

Venus

Venus

Friday, March 5, 2010

"The Life: Memoirs Of A French Hooker", by Jeanne Cordelier



"And, like Medea in the midst of so many dangers, I would remember that I still have one thing: myself." (Stendhal)

Many books have been written about prostitution, but none has moved me like this book. First published in France in 1978, "The Life: Memoirs Of A French Hooker" by Jeanne Cordelier is a powerful, harrowing, and realistic account of a young woman named Marie and her descent into the world of prostitution. It is believed this book is at least partly autobiographical; if Ms. Cordelier did survive even some of the life experiences told here, then she is to be commended for her strength - as well as for her brilliant literary talent.

The original title for this book was "La Dérobade", which translates to "The Escape", and this is the focus of the entire book: first Marie's escape from an intolerable family life, which includes living in poverty with an incestuous father and verbally abusive mother; through her chance meeting with a rakishly attractive and mysterious stranger named Gerard, she discovers a way out of this predicament. Gerard reveals to Marie that he is a pimp, and should she work for him as his prostitute, he will provide for her and give her the love she craves so desperately. Pimps have almost uncanny insight into troubled girls and young women who come from unhappy families, and Gerard is no exception. Since she is young and naive, Marie falls for his act, but she is in for quite a rude awakening. Gerard soon reveals himself to be just like many, many other pimps: physically violent to the point of being dangerous as well as psychologically manipulative. From this point on, all she can think about is escaping from Gerard as well as finding a way out of prostitution.

These days, unfortunately, it has become all too common for women cashing in on the current "sex workers' rights" craze to paint a rosy picture that somehow all girls and women who are prostitutes are liberated, happy-go-lucky types who just love what they do, singing merry songs and leaping about as if life were one, big, happy Dr. Pepper commercial. This is extremely misleading. While it is true there are some women who do enjoy working as prostitutes - and I am one of them - many do not enjoy it at all and find it to be degrading and even dangerous (I can personally attest to the "danger" aspect of the life). These "sex worker" proponents on the lecture circuit do a great disservice by not mentioning the fact that most women and girls who become prostitutes - particularly at the street level - started out as runaways and "walk-aways" from abusive parents.

Through Gerard, Marie works as his prostitute in many different settings: in brothels, whose madams take financial advantage of the women who work in these establishments and treat them like cattle; in one brothel, the madam exclaims to Marie and the other working girls, "Ladies, you're cattle - nothing but cattle. And don't you forget it." Marie also works for Gerard in bars and on the street, enduring humiliating arrests by the police as well as beatings from violent customers and even more savage beatings from Gerard.

Marie manages to hang on to herself through her friendship with another prostitute, a girl nicknamed Malou. Together, they give one another the strength they need to survive in the life. But Malou does not work for a pimp; she works for herself in order to support her child, and she is frustrated by the fact that Marie has not yet worked up the courage to leave Gerard. At one point, Malou says, "...Take a look at yourself - a girl like you ought to have her pockets bulging with loot. Either you haven't got the nerve, or you actually enjoy the life you're leading..."

As a streetwalker, Marie feels she has hit rock bottom: "...I'm dying on my feet in the murky light of dark alleys, and there's no one to hold out a hand to me..." Sooner or later, we all come to the realisation that we can descend no further, and sometimes, this gives us the impetus to escape. And this is what happens to Marie. Through connections of her older sister Lulu - who at one time had also been a prostitute - she escapes Gerard for good, fleeing to a seedy brothel in the south of France, near Marseilles. Overworked by the cruel madam who runs this brothel, she returns to Paris. Marie then walks into the local police station and requests that her name be removed from the files of the vice squad, signing her name on a form stipulating she will not return to the life.

What a deeply moving book - filled with a wild mixture of despair, dangerous situations, suspense, and even a bit of humour. Ms. Cordelier also writes beguiling descriptive passages; of the street life: "...For those who know how to smell, it's a true perfume, and it's free to boot, and it makes you love the nighttime...And one girl and then another go on fluttering around the extinguished street lamp. It doesn't matter if their lyrics have altered slightly - it's still the old, reliable tune, and it says: Come away with me!"

The film version of this book was originally released in 1979; it was released here in the U.S. in 1982, which is when I saw it. I was impressed. Starring Miou Miou as Marie and Maria Schneider as Malou, the film caught the true flavour of the book and was equally haunting.

For anyone who wants an accurate account of the world of prostitution, "The Life: Memoirs Of A French Hooker" is the one book to read.

2 comments:

  1. I will have to read this book...and good comments from you on it. While there are women who do enjoy what they do, some are deeply troubled and hate it. Myself, I am in the middle. I don't mind working from home, but I hate it when the phone is dead and I have to go on the streets. Hope I get that ad in the paper next week so things pick up so I shouldn't have to rely on streetwalking.....Like I said it has got rough out there, no longer safe without back up.

    Meanwhile spot on about the insight pimps have into troubled and abused women - I guess they are good psychologists as it is all part of their profession, they learn as they go along. As one guy put it, only inexperienced or stupid pimps resort to physical violence - there are more sophisticated and subtle forms of control.

    I feel I myself have sunk low in walking the streets and want to stop soon as the phone picks up - and it does cause tensions with my man cos he does not really like me having to do that anyway, but what can be done when there is no money?

    I've come accross a few of those sex workers rights types who do their own cause a disservice by pretending all women do prostitution as a lifestyle choice, they all like it etc. They should be more honest. I would say they are the opposite extreme of those rad fems who see all prostitution as coerced or abusive.

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  2. Agreed to all of your response!

    ReplyDelete

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"So sweet and delicious do I become,
when I am in bed with a man
who, I sense, loves and enjoys me,
that the pleasure I bring excels all delight,
so the knot of love, however tight
it seemed before, is tied tighter still."
— Veronica Franco (Poems and Selected Letters)

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