Purity: The Body

In this portion of the reading, the body, its functions, and its ephemerality seem to be a leitmotif. There is Anabel’s project about her body, Tom and Anabel’s sex life, Anabel’s frustration with men peeing standing up, Anabel’s eating and exercise disorder, Clelia’s colon, the dead body and ashes of Clelia, the cessation of Anabel’s periods and her infertility, and the digging up of Anagret’s stepfather’s corpse. In Tom and Anabel’s relationship, concerns of the physical body take a central role. Tom reflects, “in hindisight,” that Anabel always made “the dick not part of me” (404). In some ways, I think Tom appreciates her for this, since he lives his life saddled with the collective guilt of men and the structural inequalities they impose on women. He seems to try to distance himself from his maleness out of devotion to Anable (405), but cannot square square his feelings about gender: “I don’t get…whether women are supposed to be exactly the same as men, or different and better than men” (242).

I also found it really disturbing that Tom never addresses Anabel’s disordered eating and exercise habits. He describes them, but never appears to intervene, or try to help her, even when she stops getting her period. It’s scary to think that he may just see it as the extension of her artistic project, and thereby allow her to rationalize her unhealthy behavior. Tom’s feelings about Anabel seem so tied to her physical body that when he helps Andreas dig up Horst’s corpse, he feels that “in making myself look at [Horst’s bones], I was ensuring that I could never go back to Anabel” (453). What is it about seeing a dead man’s bones that makes Tom’s separation from Anabel real and inevitable? Is it tied to Tom’s realization when scattering his mother’s ashes that there was “something childish and fundamentally irrelevant in the body filming project” (443)? He seems to recognize the transitory nature of bodies in the world, and how they are less significant than the intangible qualities of existence, while Anabel strives to make the body central, lasting, and completely essential (both in terms of gender essentialist theory and in her purifying the body of any impurities/excess through her eating and exercise habits).

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