Women of the Dangerous Age

By Anniqua Rana

In Danish, Den Farlige Alder, in German, Das Gefährliche Alter, and in English, The Dangerous Age. Karin Michaëli writes about it inThe Dangerous Age: Letters and Fragments from a Woman’s Diary. Dangerous because Elsie Lindtner divorces her husband, attempts other relationships, and spends the rest of her life traveling the world, risky choices in the 1920s.

Dangerous for the norms not for humans

At that time, the danger was not to other humans but to the conventions they valued. Within that same decade, my great-grandmother writes to my grandmother and stays within the expectation of the time. After blessing her six grandchildren by name–there will be ten in all–she pauses for a few lines and then adds her plea:

If you could visit me for just a few days, it would be such a relief.

My great grandmother’s letter to her daughter

Coming-of-middle-age story

I wonder why my grandmother includes this plea. Undoubtedly, many women still remain within those conventional boundaries, and not by choice. However, one hundred years on, it’s encouraging to witness the celebration of the coming-of-middle-age, neither of my grandmothers could enjoy.

The dangerous women in Elena Ferrante’s novels

This trend continued in the world of Elena Ferrante. Some of the women in this world are dangerous others “on the verge”. FromTroubling Love/L’amore molesto to The Lying Life of Adults, we meet women in all their complexity. And soon, we’ll get see Olivia Colman playing 47-year-old Leda in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s The Lost Daughter on netflix .

Four of my favorite dangerous women:

  1. Emerence of The Door
  2. Aaliya of Unnecessary Woman
  3. Janina of Drive your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead
  4. Marian of the Hearing Trumpet

Emerence of the Door by Magda Szabó

Emerence is a housekeeper to Magda, a writer. She is an illiterate woman who lives alone and does not allow anyone to enter her home. Magda depends heavily on her until unknowingly she reveals Emerence to the world with devastating consequences.

Aaliya of Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine

At seventy-two, Aaliya knows exactly what she wants: a glass of wine and time to translate into Arabic the works of literature, just for herself. With hair dyed blue, she walks through the streets of Beirut, showing us the city she loves.

An Unnecessary Woman Kindle Edition by Rabih Alameddine  about a woman of the dangerous age
An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine
Kirkus reviews calls it A gemlike and surprisingly lively study of an interior life.

Janina of Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

Janina lives near the Czech-Polish border in retirement after building bridges and teaching English. Oddball is her only neighbor, and she devotes her time translating the works of Byron. But more importantly, this astrologer in Olga tokarzuk‘s Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead/Prowadź swój pług przez kości umarłych must solve a murder. The movie version of the book, Spoor, is available on Prime Video.

Spoor based on Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead
“Extraordinary. Tokarczuk’s novel is funny, vivid, dangerous, and disturbing, and it raises some fierce questions about human behavior…” —Annie Proulx

Marian of The Hearing Trumpet

Leonora Carrington, The Hearing Trumpet (detail from The Giantess)" by 50 Watts is licensed under CC BY 2.0- Tillism- Dangerous age
Leonora Carrington, The Hearing Trumpet

At ninety two, Marian needs a hearing trumpet as she tries to settle in a care facility. And from there the world of The Hearing Trumpet becomes as surreal as the art of the author, Leonora Carrington.

Janine, Aaliya, Emerence, and Marian would be such interesting guests to invite for a drink, don’t you agree?. And who would you invite to join them?

Create Cultural Memories through Literature and Art

I’m looking forward to getting to know Deborah Levy in Real Estate: A Living Autobiography. Now she is someone I can meet, so I will look for her next reading event. I will also first check out Things I Don’t Want to Know and The Cost of Living, both precede Real Estate in the trilogy of her autobiography.

“A captivating journey to find a sense of place.” Kirkus reviews


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