Within Paravent Walls | Gabriela au Salon des Refusées

One thing I knew about Gabriela when I wrote her was that she should not be underestimated, that her language resides in her body, her pain in her brain and her misery in her heart.

She revealed her quintessential steps to me in order to weave the story of her early life, but she withheld the clarity of her future motifs, her truths, secrets and mental state. Gabriela was always intact, literally, careful, attentive, observant, and then again the complete opposite. A girl in a woman’s body, a body split three ways, across gender and character, bathed in death and grief, unable to recover and dive back in, separated and rejected, desired and muted, feared and challenged, then abandoned again. Gabriela still evades me, wanting to become the agent of her own life, she leaves everything that happens “Within Paravent Walls” behind and begins her own story after the last page where nobody can follow her for now or knows who she is.

Gabriela is alien to me and I am often asked how I could say that as the author. I think it is because she does not want “Within Paravent Walls” to be her story and it does not feel like it is hers, it is her mother’s, she is the protagonist and Gabriela is omnipresent, surviving, hanging by a thread, waiting. She wants to disassociate from all the horrors, lay them bare, but then move on, after having cured herself, and cut the ties with devastating energies from her past and her family. She appears in her mother’s biography as a catalyst.

When I talk to women about the moment when Gabriela loses her virginity, some see it as a rape and others are certain that she orchestrated her first sexual encounter with a full awareness. It is striking that she seeks out two ways to escape the cut- off domesticity and overwhelming artistry of the household, liberate herself and hunger for self-expression: her sexuality and education.

Gabriela’s sexuality is imaginative, creative, predetermined, unnatural, messed with, alienated, intense, graphic and vivid. In some ways, she tries to escape the consequences of her enacted sexuality by diving into her tailored education which consists of literature, feminism, theatre, history, music and psychology whilst excluding art, her father, her mother, the house full of paintings, her ancestry and portrayals of her and her family.


“A Ray of Hope” by Charles W. Gilhousen (1867-1929)

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