Friday, August 5, 2016

Penny Busetto’s The Story of Anna P as Told by Herself


The winning Book

For a long time I have not laid my hands on a haunting psychological story. However this has since changed as a result of my rendezvous with Busetto’s The Story of Anna P as Told by Herself. It is a dark story characterised by dark secrets and haunting memories that the protagonist is both willing to remember and forget at the same time. A daunting task of course since I returned a verdict of madness for this beautiful story!
Although the story can pass for a “normal” autobiography through which the protagonists recollects events and bits of information about her past, it is much more than just that. It is a traumatising story tracing the dreadful childhood of Anna P. She has become mute in her adulthood. Enveloped in her silence the persona is unable to speak out, to resist, to show emotion or any connectedness to humanity. Anna P has to repair this fragmented life if she wants to remain sane.
Anna P’s narrative helps her to relive the abusive sexual life she had whilst growing up part of which was at the hands of her biological father and her cousin Luke. It appears that these events at a tender age, especially the fact that she plays a hand in the death of her father, pushes her into the deep abyss of self-loathing thereby withdrawing from any meaningful human interactions. Her mother assumes that she needs psychiatric help and subjects her to a series of treatments. Sadly, the doctors return a verdict of unimproved and discharge her since they are unable to get to the bottom of her psychological issues.
In this story, the reader discovers the depths of trauma and how devastating traumatic events can be to the individual and the society at large. Anna comes across as a ticking time bomb. Indeed, the reader does not gather this at the beginning of the autobiography. It is only much later when the pieces of different events begin to fall in place does the reader patch the puzzles together. Anna P has a split personality, she does things that she is not in control of. Although she comes across as devoid of any emotional connection, it is possible to argue that there is a part of her psychic that retains a sense of the conscious. She, albeit remotely, begins to resist the sexual exploitations she is subjected to by killing the men who victimise her.
Her deep wounds cannot best be understood by anyone else other than herself. Not even Ispettore Lupo who appears to take advantage of her vulnerability because of immigration-related issues. In fact, the policeman only makes Anna P more mentally unstable as a character. She begins to read sinister motives in his unbearable summons when he keeps demanding that she should go back to the station to clear her name from certain allegations that he does not reveal. Lupo’s sexual advances, however subtle, do not go unnoticed by Anna. It is no surprise that when he eventually makes his move she murders him in a similar way to what she has done to other men who have inflicted emotional suffering to her delicate self.
Anna connects emotionally with one of her students, Ugo, who seems to be going through a painful emotional childhood stage occasioned by the physical abuse of her Uncle. Indeed, Anna eventually runs away with Ugo after killing Ispettore Lupo. They rediscover refuge and the beauty of humanity with a couple who live in some farmland outside the perimeter of urbanisation. This could easily be interpreted as reaching out on the part of Anna – an effort to relive the healthy life of a mother-to-child relationship which she never had with her mother. In a way, she feels compelled to mother Ugo even when part of her psychic appears to resist the relationship.
Although she never opens up verbally to the Psychiatrist, Anna’s sessions with him allow her to delve into the recesses of her mind and to begin to relive her problems and hopefully to heal. Indeed, the text’s narrative stance is quite intriguing: it opens somehow in the omniscient narration, moves to the second person point of view and then ends in the I-narrative, that is, Anna’s ability to speak and be in touch with her subjectivity through the first person point of view.
Her sense of identity, human dignity and self-worth can only be fully grasped by the self if the memories of her life can be recollected, analysed, sorted and safeguarded against any other possible loss. Unless and until this is done, Anna P remains a hollow character doomed to die a lonely life abandoned in the abyss of her emotional suffering and turmoil. It is a story one needs to connect with in order to come to terms with the skeletons of the past and their immense significance to the present and the future.

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