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Performance in En breve cárcel/Certificate of Absence

In “Acts of Transfer?, Diana Taylor says: “Performances function as vital acts of transfer, transmitting social knowledge, memory, and a sense of identity through reiterated, or what Richard Schechner has called ‘twice-behaved behavior’?. (2-3)

Thinking about Silvia Molloy’s En breve cárcel/Certificate of Absence, it feels as though "she", in her performance with her lovers (Vera and Renata), is transmitting the memories she has from her childhood, which also embody the sense of identity that "she" has of herself. The violence that comes afloat in her adult relationships is clearly a remnant of the violence she experienced as a child—with her mother’s detachment and her love-hate relationship with her father. Also, when her sister Clara was born, "she" describes jealousy as one of her first feelings (she was jealous of Clara’s light skin and blonde hair).

“Is performance always and only about embodiment? Or does it call into question the very contours of the body, challenging traditional notions of embodiment?? (4)

Molloy paints a different picture when it comes to "she"’s body. Her whole body (but mainly her skin) seems to work as an identifier of her performance in life. “On the other hand she cannot imagine herself without a voice, just as she cannot imagine herself without a skin… a skin of voices to give shape to these fragments.? (21) I think Molloy challenges the traditional notions of embodiment when "she" fragments her body/skin and, by doing so, shows the incredible fragility of her whole being—it seems that her body is just a fragment of her being; the other fragments are her mind, her heart, her memories, her passions, etc. Putting them all together would mean having one un-fragmented "she".

“Performance, as Roach points out, is as much about forgetting as about remembering.? (11)

I think this quote applies to Molloy’s character, as we can see "she" going through life and acting as if she were remembering her childhood in every step/decision that she makes. However, at the same time, "she" seems to want to forget who she is (her identity) and become someone else (someone stronger like Vera?) Clearly, at the end, our performance IS who we are and we represent who we were/are, as well as who marked us: “Thinking of the two of them, so far way, she immediately sinks (she cannot find a better word) into the memories she has of each. There is absolutely no passion, just a need to become one with her mother and sister, to lose herself in them.? (115)

PS: While doing some research I came accross these remarks about Molloy’s text in "Un mito nuevo: La mujer como sujeto/objeto literario" (Madrid: Editorial Pliegos, 1992) de Elena Gascón Vera. I thought I’d share them with you, but I’m sorry they are in Spanish!

“La protagonista de En breve cárcel tiene una relación mucho mas compleja con sus padres y con ella misma. Desde su infancia la sombra de una locura, probablemente inventada, le ronda como si en la locura, que ella inconscientemente desea, hubiera un posible escape del dolor que sufre por la no aceptación de su propia persona, que ella rechaza identificándola con su cuerpo y en el tropismo que, a lo largo del texto, ella hace de su piel. Esa piel a la que constantemente alude y que desearía dejar y cambiar como un traje viejo nunca apreciado ni querido.
El rechazo de su persona tiene también una explicación psicoanalítica en su deseo de agradar a los padres quienes, subconscientemente, supone que la rechazan, tal vez por nos ajustarse su propio físico a los cánones anglosajones que ella cree son los únicos aceptados por ellos. Esta creencia se ve ratificada con el nacimiento de su hermana, Clara, cuando ella tiene tres años. Clara es rubia y con ojos azules y para ella representa la belleza que cree no tener. Poco después, liberará la tortura de creerse más fea que su hermana golpeándola con un cinturón, tal vez como la secreta intención de marcarla y afearla para siempre. Esta primera violencia, originada por el dolor de no aceptarse, le acompañará a su vida adulta y le supondrá una razón más para justificar su propio rechazo y su consiguiente fracaso en el amor.? (96)