Tuesday, May 27, 2014

In the Body of the World by Eve Ensler: Impressions

Some authors make you laugh, some authors make you cry, and some authors mean business. Ensler means business, grabbing you by your gullet, making you laugh and cry all at once. But Ensler's business isn't about selling copies (although she happens to be an international bestseller); it is about flipping radical switches. Anyone who has watched the play, 'Vagina Monologues', written by her will know how she does what she does. She glides easily underneath the thick crust of what is considered socially acceptable, and speaks loudly and clearly of things most of us don't even like to admit to ourselves. 'In the Body of the World' is not just Eve Ensler's memoir; it could be the story of every woman, every soul that wears a body, every body that inhabits this world.

'In the Body of the World' is primarily an account of Ensler's battle with cancer, but also of her deeply troubled childhood and her work in the Congo. Everything in this memoir is simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming. Ensler has been around the world as an environmental and women's rights activist, but only when she starts working in war­-stricken Congo does she understand the extent of cruelty humans are capable of. Amidst the cancer of human greed, she is also diagnosed with cancer and from there begins her journey of suffering and healing. Each time she speaks of the physical pain of the treatment, emotional traumas from her past surface.

Her incestuous and abusive father, her detached mother, her drug and alcohol­-fueled wild teenage years all form a flux of pain and are released onto the pages. These fuse with the pain of war crimes and chemotherapy, and threaten to swallow her in an impossible blackhole. But she rises, and rises and picks you up along the way.

Ensler's words are as indomitable as her spirit. There is so much self ­realisation, such brilliant self ­aware writing that it dazzles. But what is most remarkable, most inspiring is the complete lack of inhibition, of shame. The humanness she allows herself, is very liberating. She lets you in on her most visceral truths simply and is unapologetic about it. You could be reading about her exploding poop bags, enemas, incontinence and vomit and be smiling or crying through it; but never cringing. You could be reading about her father raping her, her sex life, or her unconventional views on relationships, but not judging. In baring her vulnerabilities and failures, she allows herself and the reader fallibility and imperfection. And in this, lies her grandness.

Few words that come to mind when I try to describe Ensler's style of writing: clarity, brutal honesty and poetry. It's a lethal combination, really. She is beautiful to the extent of painfulness. Like brilliant light that blinds you. When she speaks, you listen; when she orders, you obey.  I have been shaken and slapped and kicked out of my stupor of ordinariness, by Ensler's extraordinary story.

I've fallen asleep with her words in my blood, and woken up with the taste of cancer, incest and horrific war crimes in my mouth. It is unputdownable, undeniable. Like the cancer and Congo changed Ensler, this book will change you. READ IT.

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