Gayl jones was born in 1949 in kentucky. Her debut novel Corregidora, published in the United States in 1975 and now finally in German, begins in 1948 and begins with a fall. Twenty-five-year-old first-person narrator Ursa, the same age as her author when the novel was written, can’t remember how she fell, but it happened when her newly wed husband Mutt had a fit of jealousy. A few pages later, Ursa is talking to Cat, her best friend, about the event. When Cat calls it an accident, Ursa responds, “You sound like he’s sitting here, that’s what he’d say. Oh, honey, I was drunk. Oh, honey, that was an accident. I didn’t want that at all. I never would have, you know.” Ursa suffered internal injuries in the fall that required her uterus to be removed. And she also allegedly lost a child she was pregnant with. The novel only hints at that. But the fact that the story-triggering fall and the author’s birth are in close temporal proximity is significant.
The novel is called “Corregidora”. This is Ursa’s family name, whose family background is marked by violence. The great-grandfather, whose name she bears, went to Brazil from Portugal and became wealthy there as a plantation owner. Among his slaves was Ursa’s great-grandmother, whom Corregidora had first pressed into a prostitute and then into his own favorite. Their daughter was also raped by her father and fled to the United States, now pregnant herself. There Ursa’s mother was born, again a child of Corregidora, who, even from afar, did not loosen his grip on the women he desired; Ursa is still confronted with it, if only in the stories of her ancestors, who, in italics, assert their account of their own fate like evil nightmares. Because every woman has told her daughter and her daughter what has been done to her, so that the memory of all the atrocities suffered is not lost. Therefore reproduction is a duty for the Corregidora women. “Making generations” is the expectation that she has always passed on – but Ursa can no longer live up to it after the fall.
However, this trauma of breaking with tradition is at the same time a liberation from the spell of the demon Corregidora and the hatred against him. The novel “Corregidora” has a double meaning in many respects: in the title, of course, because the name does not only stand for Ursa, but also for the rapist and abuser as well as for his forced lover. And all love in the novel is permeated with hate. Ursa’s mother once told her that she didn’t want to sleep with her American lover at first, until he asked her something she never dared to ask: “What was hatred of Corregidora and what was love?”
A symbol through and through
However, there is no doubt about the accusation that Gayl Jones makes with her novel: Her Ursa is a symbolic figure through and through, not only because of the phonetic affinity of her first name with the USA, but also because of the enforced childlessness that to find another form of coping with violence. Who herself cannot completely renounce violence. The fact that in the finale, after years of separation, it is Mutt again, of all people, from whom she divorced after the “accident” with which Ursa meets, is an uncanny plot moment, but one that is consistently thought through to the end: hate is from love inseparable when one has had experiences like the four Corregidora women. In a love act staged by Jones like an antiphon, Ursa repeats to Mutt’s repeated remarks that he doesn’t want a woman who hurts you: “Then you don’t want me.” But of course he does. And she wants him too.