Jeanette Winterson The Powerbook

ISBN 13 : 9780099598299

The Powerbook

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9780099598299: The Powerbook
Extrait :

language
costumier


To avoid discovery I stay on the run. To discover things for myself I stay on the run.

It's night. I'm sitting at my screen. There's an e-mail for me. I unwrap it. It says—Freedom, just for one night.

Years ago you would have come to my shop at the end of the afternoon, telling your mother you had an errand for the poor.

        At the tinkle of the bell you would have found yourself alone for a moment in the empty shop, looking at the suits of armour, the wimples, the field boots, and the wigs on spikes, like severed heads.

        The sign on the shop says verde, nothing more, but everyone knows that something strange goes on inside. People arrive as themselves and leave as someone else. They say that Jack the Ripper used to come here.

        You stand alone in the empty shop. I come out from the back. What is it you want?

        Freedom for a night, you say. Just for one night the freedom to be somebody else.

        Did anyone see you arrive?
        
No.

        Then I can pull the blinds and light the lamp. The clock ticks, but only in time. From outside, looking in, there will be only a movement of shadows—the looming of a bear's head, a knife.

        You say you want to be transformed.

This is where the story starts. Here, in these long lines of laptop DNA.
Here we take your chromosomes, twenty-three pairs, and alter your height, eyes, teeth, sex. This is an invented world. You can be free just for one night.

Undress.

        Take off your clothes. Take off your body. Hang them up behind the door. Tonight we can go deeper than disguise.

It's only a story, you say. So it is, and the rest of life with it—creation story, love story, horror, crime, the strange story of you and I.

        The alphabet of my DNA shapes certain words, but the story is not told. I have to tell it myself.

        What is it that I have to tell myself again and again?

        That there is always a new beginning, a different end.

        I can change the story. I am the story.

Begin.

OPEN
HARD
DRIVE


I want to start with a tulip.

In the sixteenth century the first tulip was imported to Holland from Turkey. I know—I carried it myself.

        By 1634 the Dutch were so crazy for this fish-mouthed flower that one collector exchanged a thousand pounds of cheese, four oxen, eight pigs, twelve sheep, a bed and a suit of clothes for a single bulb.

        What's so special about a tulip?

        Put it this way . . . When is a tulip not a tulip?

        When it's a Parrot or a Bizarre. When it's variegated or dwarf. When it comes called Beauty's Reward or Heart's Reviver. When it comes called Key of Pleasure or Lover's Dream . . .

        Tulips, every one—and hundreds more—each distinctively different, all the same. The attribute of variation that humans and tulips share.
        It was Key of Pleasure and Lover's Dream that I carried from Sulyman the Magnificent to Leiden in 1591. To be exact, I strapped them under my trousers . . .

. . .

'Put it this way.'

        'No. I'll crush them when I rest.'

        'Put it this way . . .'

        'No. I'll crush them when I pray.'

        'Put one here and one here . . .'

        'No! It will look as though I have an evil swelling.'

Well, where would you store a priceless pair of bulbs?

That gave me the idea.

In the same place as a priceless pair of balls.

Yes! Yes! Yes!

When I was born, my mother dressed me as a boy because she could not
afford to feed any more daughters. By the mystic laws of gender and economics, it ruins a peasant to place half a bowl of figs in front of his daughter, while his son may gorge on the whole tree, burn it for firewood and piss on the stump, and still be reckoned a blessing to his father.

        When I was born, my father wanted to drown me, but my mother persuaded him to let me live in disguise, to see if I could bring any wealth to the household.

        I did.

        So slender am I, and so slight, that I can slip under the door of a palace, or between the dirt and the floor of a hovel, and never be seen.

        A golden thread, a moment's talk, a spill of coffee, a pepper seed, is all the distance I am between one side and the other.

        I became a spy.

        Sulyman himself appointed me and his instruction now is that I should get into a boat and bear a gift to his friends, the Dutch. A gift that every scurvy captain and leprous merchant will try to steal.

        How to conceal it?

        Put it this way . . .

My mother got some stout thread and belted it through the natural die-back of the bulb tops. Then she sewed the lot on to a narrow leather strap and fastened it round my hips.

        'Should they hang dead centre like that?'

        (My mother went to inspect my father.)

        'Dress them on the left.'

        'That's good, but there's something missing.'

        'What?'

        'The bit in the middle.'

I went up into the hills, for tulips grow as thick as thieves here. I found
myself a well-formed fat stem supporting a good-sized red head with rounded tips. I nicked it at the base with my knife and the juice covered my fingers.

        At home my mother embalmed the tulip, and in a few days it was ready to wear.

        This was my centrepiece. About eight inches long, plump, with a nice weight to it. We secured it to my person and inspected the results. There are many legends of men being turned into beasts and women into trees, but none I think, till now, of a woman who becomes a man by means of a little horticultural grafting.

        My mother knelt down and put her nose close.

        'You smell like a garden,' she said.

. . .
The sun rose. The ship hoisted sail. I lifted my arms and waved and waved. Then, adjusting my tulip, I went below.

I seemed to dream of buffalo muddying the banks of clear streams that spilled down into the watercress beds. There were crystallised oranges on a table in the sun, and small cups of sweet coffee, and the little workshops and weaving sheds of our town.

        There were women at the roadside selling hard-boiled eggs and homemade dolma, while their children wove simple mats and their men unloaded charcoal or packed tobacco, or went in and out of Nikolaus the pawnbroker's.

        I dreamed I was ploughing a field and the stork was following behind me and inspecting the turned earth and waiting by the marshy edges for a frog.

        At the bazaar, the copper pots were coming in stacked on the ox-carts. Eager hands carried them to shaded rugs, to burnish up the spatterings with a cloth. All the pots were sealed—it keeps the genie in, and no Turk would want a pot without a genie.

        Humble or grand, what is made must keep with it the memory of what cannot be made. In the spun cloth, the thrown earthenware, the beaten pot and the silver box, is Allah—the spirit of God in the things of the world.

        Atom and dream.

I awoke to a rattle. The only light in my cabin was a wick in a cruse of oil. I took it from the shelf over my hammock and looked down. I had filled a wooden bucket with water for washing and drinking, and left my metal cup on its chain inside the bucket. Knocking the cup from side to side as it drank was a long-haired rat.

In the morning, as the only paying passenger on the spice ship, I was invited to breakfast with the Captain. He offered me roast chicken and his wife's hard-baked bread covered in pumpkin seeds.

        He was a man of the world and a worldly man, who profited from trade with the English, regularly cargoing the tin, coarse cloth and shot the Sultan needed for his armies, in return for the jewels and luxury stuffs the English loved.

        If tin for gold and shot for r...

Biographie de l'auteur :

Jeanette Winterson OBE was born in Manchester. Adopted by Pentecostal parents she was raised to be a missionary. This did and didn’t work out.

Discovering early the power of books she left home at 16 to live in a Mini and get on with her education. After graduating from Oxford University she worked for a while in the theatre and published her first novel at 25. Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit is based on her own upbringing but using herself as a fictional character. She scripted the novel into a BAFTA-winning BBC drama. 27 years later she re-visited that material in the bestselling memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? She has written 10 novels for adults, as well as children’s books, non-fiction and screenplays. She writes regularly for the Guardian. She lives in the Cotswolds in a wood and in Spitalfields, London.

She believes that art is for everyone and it is her mission to prove it.

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