After making a red food parenthesis in my last week blog post and sharing a recipe of my all-time favorite Beetroot Cured Salmon, I continue sharing the news about my new book The Choice of a Countess devoted to a story of R.B., an awesome woman, born intersex, whom I have met some time ago on the beach in Martinique (to know how we have met and how the idea of the book was born see one of my previous posts by clicking here). Writing a book about R. B. required a substantial research about the intersex in the XXth century France and proved to be complicated due to the scanty information on the subject. Such as due to lack of space, hospital archives in Paris and in Lyon, where R.B. was treated, are kept only for a limited number of years. The files which contained the valuable information for my research about the doctors who treated R.B. and about her treatment were no longer available in 2019. As a result most of the audio and printed materials that I consulted came from the LGBT library in Paris. Interviews were as always an invaluable source of information. Not only I scheduled regular frequent calls with R.B., but I met with friends of R.B., doctors who specialized in this subject, people who had intersex among their friends and were ready share their views on the issue. During the course of my research I also met other people who were ‘born both’ […]
I have nearly finished writing my new book, The Choice of a Countess. It still needs some editing. I would like to share with you an extract from the book, Chapter 1. Feedback is always welcome! “At the age of six, Guy was often prone to anginas. One evening, after two days of a particularly severe cough and elevated temperature, Angele and Louis called a family doctor. He came to see Guy, examined him, asked him to open his mouth and say “Aah”, and wrote out a prescription to take to a pharmacy. Then he told Guy: “Turn you head to the side and cough as strongly as you can.” All of a sudden, Guy felt a cold touch on his lower abdomen. As he continued to cough, he lowered his eyes to see what was going on. To his surprise, the doctor was pulling down his underclothes. It was the doctor’s wedding ring that was touching Guy’s skin. The boy was surprised and expected the doctor to explain what he was doing. Instead, the doctor turned to his parents who were standing beside him and said: “Your son does not have testicles.” Guy remembered that Angele and Louis turned pale. “How is that possible?” “I would not worry. They will descend later.” “Can there be some mistake?” “I would not think so.” Sensing that there were other questions to come, he added: “Come to my office tomorrow at 5PM. We will have time to talk.” Louis accompanied the doctor […]
The Thirst to Become – food for thought during confinement. Few people know the ‘Russian Socrates’, the Georgian philosopher Merab Mamardashvili (1930-1990). Merab was born in Gori, Georgia. He called his teaching ‘Socratic’ in the sense that it was composed of dialogues. In his life only a few books were published, his lectures (for his style of lecturing he and others called them “conversations” or “dialogues”) were taped and published after his death. One of his teachings focused on the thought that life was in the self-realization and “in fulfillment of oneself as a human being”, that is the fulfillment of the possibilities of one’s character or personality. Some of the most known phrases coined by Mamardashvili are: “consciousness is an experience of inexperiensible experiences”, “phenomenology is the accompanying feature of all the philosophy”, “loneliness is my profession” and so on. I recently came across a short video in which Mamardashvili tells about the Thirst to Become, and about the self-realization “What have I undertaken in order to be born in thought, to become a human being?” which I found particularly interesting during this long period of confinement To watch the video the Thirst to become with English sub-titles
To see the previous post My Mother Paola Volkova – Unpublished Mother Loss Memoir Part 3 On the day of your funeral a few men came to see my husband. They told him that they were the last love of your life. There were 3 or 4 of them. All were persuaded that it was true. When I went back to Moscow for the last time to empty your apartment, the first thing I saw upon entering was a stack of letters addressed to you. There were holiday greetings and announcements of events in the cinema and literary clubs to which you belonged. I left them on your dining table as if you might read them anytime soon. A few days later the phone rang. A woman called from the RTR, the 1st TV Channel. She wanted to ask you to participate in a talk show about Ludmila Gurchenko, a famous Soviet TV star. I told them you had died. They kept apologizing, saying that they did not know, how they had missed the news that you were gone. I thought it was your way of communicating with me while I was in the apartment. One of the gzhel boxes you had at home, the one which has a lid in the shape of an officer lying on a sofa, had keys in it. There were about a dozen of them. There were of all sorts of shapes and colors. Some were marked with a pink or blue ribbon. My […]
I’m almost done writing my last novel The Choice of a Countess based on a true story of R.B. about an awesome woman born intersex. There is still a lot of revising and polishing left to do. And I still have to find a publisher for the book. To know more about the plot of the book go to the page The Choice of a Countess I would like to tell today how R.B. and I have met and why did I start writing about her? I met R. B. during Christmas vacation on Martinique, on Salinas beach, reputedly the most beautiful beach on the island. We started to talk. Suddenly R. B. asked: “You do not notice anything unusual about me?” “No,” I said, giving her an attentive look, to see if I had missed anything in her appearance. She looked like any other woman. Tall, strongly built, she must have been beautiful when she was young with her wide-set turquoise eyes. For some reason, she decided to share with me the secret of her birth. We met a couple of days later for breakfast, in a coffee shop in Le Diamant, a small community in Martinique, where many French expats have their homes. Over a coffee and croissant, Romy told me the incredible story of her life, how all she had ever wanted was to be like everyone else, and what she had done to accomplish that. The idea of the book was born.
To see the previous post My Mother Paola Volkova -Unpublished Mother Loss Memoir Part 2 The first few months after your death I spent in a fog. I did not notice the people around me. I stopped wearing a watch. Time had no meaning. All I knew was when the alarm went off in the morning, I had to get up to go to work. The clock on the PC in my office informed me that it was time to go back home. At work I forced myself to note down urgent tasks to do for the day and made myself do them. Otherwise I could easily spend the entire day surrounded by a fog, a thick white smoke. I saw nothing beyond it. Back home in the evening, I bought cold chicken and readymade salads for dinner until my husband politely pointed out to me that we had been eating the same food every day for the last few weeks. I’m jealous when I see mothers with their daughters on the streets. It makes me think that I will never be able to go with you for a coffee or a movie. Help you to sit down or put your coat on. I also think how happy they must be together. When I have first realized that I could not remember your face, I was so embarrassed that I could not admit it even to myself. I could remember your voice and gestures, how you placed your bag onto […]
I’m almost done writing my last novel The Choice of a Countess based on a true story of R.B. about an awesome woman born intersex. There is still a lot of revising and polishing left to do. And I still have to find a publisher for the book. But here is the pitch and synopsis. Countess. Duchess. Butcher. Businesswoman. Singer. Intersex. The pathways of human experience are multifaceted but there is one rule to follow to profit from them. You have to be a woman or a man. Hailing from a noble Italian family, R. B. was born in rural France in the 1950s. Identified at birth as a boy, her parents registered her as Guy. When Guy turned five, the family doctor noticed that the child lacked testicles. At the time the doctor thought that there was no danger to Guy’s health and suggested they wait until the adolescence, hoping that the testicles would descend with time. Things got particularly bad for Guy at school. His private parts were unusually small, the classmates laughed at him. He isolated himself and was stigmatized even by the teachers. His parents, fearing that their son was a homosexual, insisted on Guy becoming a butcher—to ensure his masculine identity. At the age of 17, he left the countryside and moved to Lyon, where he went to see an endocrinologist, who put a word to what was happening to him: Hermaphroditism – a term used at the time for Intersex. Lost in his duality, […]
To see the previous post My Mother : Paola Volkova – Unpublished Mother Loss Memoir Part 1 On Monday evening, the day you were taken to the Izmailovo Hospital, my brother called me on Skype. He said I should come to Moscow. My husband and I were on vacation in Ostend, a Northern Coast Sea resort in Belgium. “Are you sure?” I asked. You had just returned from Rome. In a few days you planned to come to see me in Paris. “Yes,” he answered laconically and nodded his head as if to make sure that I would understand him. The next morning I headed to the Ostend train station. It was mid-March. Europe had registered a record snowfall. Trains had practically ceased to work in Belgium. The departure information board announced cancelations through the end of the day. I could not leave on Tuesday The usual 2 3/4 hour trip to Paris became an impossible journey. Hoping to get to Paris by Wednesday evening, I tried to book a Thursday flight to go to Moscow. But the travel-booking web-site Opodo demanded the number and date of issue of my Russian passport. That was at home in Paris. So the ticket reservation had to be postponed until my arrival in Paris. First thing on Wednesday morning I went back to the Ostend train station and bought tickets to Paris. The clerk at the station advised that we leave as quickly as possible. “There is too much snow. Trains are delayed. God […]
My Mother : Paola Volkova – Unpublished Mother Loss Memoir Part 1 15 March 2014 Dearest Mom, today is the first anniversary of your death. In the Orthodox religion this date has something to do with the soul finally reaching its final destination. A pivotal moment for your future. Family and friends get together to mark this moment together with the deceased. They will meet in Moscow. I decided that I would not attend. I would stay at home in Paris. I woke up early this morning to spend the whole day with you. From my window I saw the first rays of the rising sun over Sacré Coeur basilica. How to explain my decision not to come? I used the pretext of having too much work to do. The family has probably found my excuse disrespectful. But I could not face going there, to smile and talk. I could not even look at your pictures. ***** Most of all I miss that tenderly-sarcastic look in your blue eyes. It is far away. Somewhere in the skies. Sociable as you were, by now you must have met most of your friends – the poet and screenwriter Tonino Guerra, film directors Andrey Tarkovski and Theodore Angelopoulos, and those you would have liked to have met while you were here – painters Giotto di Bondone, Sandro Botticelli and Kasimir Malevich – to discuss with them the indefinable mystery of great works of art. ****** Your death was unexpected. You were 82. I […]
Excellent Review of my book about Angelica Balabanoff. I would like to share with you excellent news! Barbara C. Allen, Ph D, Professor at La Salle University, wrote an excellent review of my book “The Strange Comrade Balabanoff. The Life of a Communist Rebel“, McFarland Publishers. The review was published at the beginning of March in The International Newsletter of Communist Studies, p. 179-183, XXIV/XXV (2018/19), nos. 31-32 and is available on https://incs.ub.rub.de/ Dear Barbara, thank you so much for the awesome review! I really appreciate you taking the time to share your opinion and your experience.