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The Unbearable Lightness of Being (part 2 chapter 25)

2006-08-22 20:21

  25

  The woman photographer invited Tereza to the magazine's cafeteria for a cup of coffee. Those pictures of yours, they're very interesting. I couldn't help noticing what a terrific sense of the female body you have. You know what I mean. The girls with the provocative poses!

  The ones kissing passersby in front of the Russian tanks?

  Yes. You'd be a top-notch fashion photographer, you know? You'd have to get yourself a model first, someone like you who's looking for a break. Then you could make a portfolio of photographs and show them to the agencies. It would take some time before you made a name for yourself, naturally, but I can do one thing for you here and now: introduce you to the editor in charge of our garden section. He might need some shots of cactuses and roses and things.

  Thank you very much, Tereza said sincerely, because it was clear that the woman sitting opposite her was full of good will.

  But then she said to herself, Why take pictures of cactuses? She had no desire to go through in Zurich what she'd been through in Prague: battles over job and career, over every picture published. She had never been ambitious out of vanity. All she had ever wanted was to escape from her mother's world. Yes, she saw it with absolute clarity: no matter how enthusiastic she was about taking pictures, she could just as easily have turned her enthusiasm to any other endeavor. Photography was nothing but a way of getting at something higher and living beside Tomas.

  She said, My husband is a doctor. He can support me. I don't need to take pictures.

  The woman photographer replied, I don't see how you can give it up after the beautiful work you've done.

  Yes, the pictures of the invasion were something else again. She had not done them for Tomas. She had done them out of passion. But not passion for photography. She had done them out of passionate hatred. The situation would never recur. And these photographs, which she had made out of passion, were the ones nobody wanted because they were out of date. Only cactuses had perennial appeal. And cactuses were of no interest to her.

  She said, You're too kind, really, but I'd rather stay at home. I don't need a job.

  The woman said, But will you be fulfilled sitting at home?

  Tereza said, More fulfilled than by taking pictures of cactuses.

  The woman said, Even if you take pictures of cactuses, you're leading your life. If you live only for your husband, you have no life of your own.

  All of a sudden Tereza felt annoyed: My husband is my life, not cactuses.

  The woman photographer responded in kind: You mean you think of yourself as happy?

  Tereza, still annoyed, said, Of course I'm happy!

  The woman said, The only kind of woman who can say that is very …… She stopped short.

  Tereza finished it for her: …… limited. That's what you mean, isn't it?

  The woman regained control of herself and said, Not limited. Anachronistic.

  You're right, said Tereza wistfully. That's just what my husband says about me.

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