Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Ghost of Mata Hari Loves Me!

Look at what I found on a bookstall in Florence! 

Once, people would sell old books, now they give them for free. And if nobody wants them, they throw them away. In this particular case, a book titled "The Dance In front of the Guillotine", with the subtitle "Mata Hari," was left on a table at the entrance of a public garden, together with several other books, all covered with just a flimsy sheet of nylon to protect them from the rain. In practice, they were becoming papier-mache and probably most of them did, except for a few that I saved and I took home with me (maybe for the same reason why you might take home with you a wet kitten found on the street).

This book had the name of "Mata Hari" on the front cover, but I don't know if that was the reason I noted it. In any case, I forgot that it had anything to do with Mata Hari and then, a few days ago, I started reading it without looking at the front cover. I went on for a number of pages, wondering how anyone could write something so devoided of any sense, but yet with some flair. This is typical of these old novels; they are written by professionals who didn't pay much attention to content but knew the tricks to keep the attention of the reader. This one had plenty of sex, blood, duels, intrigue, and plot twists. Guido da Verona was a famous novel hack in Italy during the 1920s and 1930s. Someone described him as "The D'Annunzio of typist and manicure girls." Deservedly, I'd say.

And then, suddenly, at page 146, Mata Hari appears, described as "Comtesse McLeod" (!!). A plot twist that makes no sense, again, and where Mata Hari is described as a bayadere, incongruously accusing the protagonist of having stolen some jewels of her. Then, after a few skirmishes in which she manages to cause the protagonist to strip naked in front of her, she disappears again for the rest of the book. I suppose she will return later on: the novel is in six volumes and this one is just the first of the series. But finding and reading the other five is truly beyond my capabilities.

But never mind the inconsistencies of the plot, the insensate twists, the gratuitous violence; the curious thing is that I was totally unprepared to see the name of Mata Hari appearing as I was reading. And when that happened, it was as if I had seen her ghost suddenly materializing in front of me. It was a little shock that left me almost breathless.

So, maybe the ghost of Mata Hari really loves me since she decided to appear to me in a form, admittedly, a little unusual but still she appeared. After all, the centennial of Mata Hari execution in Paris is approaching, on Oct 15th, Maybe, somewhere in the Elysian fields, her ghost is preparing to travel to the earthly plane to materialize and hover for a while near the Butte de Tir, in the Bois de Vincennes, where she was killed a hundred years ago.

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