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Affect and History in Ninotchka Rosca’s

State of War



“a morning shrouded by antiquity” (Rosca, 1988:

154). The Malayan girl emerging from a river is portrayed as “an

image of a brown Venus rising from the waves.” Yet in the

subsequent action, during which the monk forces himself upon the

girl, the latter, though surprised and appalled by the attack, reveals

that she knows such violence is commonly practiced by the friars:

She “knew enough not to resist the priest, having grown up

surrounded by the gossip of elders and taken to heart the

admonition that the tenderest of thighs, whether of chicken or of

women, belonged to the friars” (155). The native women have

grown so accustomed to sexual violation as mode of encounter

with the monks that rape is already a coded action

an all too

common enforced intimacy that calls for a set of “proper”

reactions. But while the girl is disciplined enough to surrender

herself to the “unholy entrance,” she is already thinking about the

payback of her “sacrifice”: “She . . . bit her lower lip, and thought

of how much all this silliness should cost the stupid priest” (155).

In this particular case of “emotional education”, the brown

goddess of innocence is transformed into a subject of cold, calm,

rational calculation.

This early form of counter-conduct in which one moves in

the field of power yet repositions one’s relation to it is to be

echoed fifteen years later by another woman, whom the friar takes

as his mistress. Like her predecessor, the cook’s wife Maya

accepted her fate without a fight when she encountered the friar in

the monastery’s kitchen one morning. From the endearing tone of

her memory for the friar in her recollections, one can surmise that

their first intimate encounter might have been predicated upon

mutual consent. Maya was thus both inside and outside the

disciplinary admonition of the local community; not only did she

conform to the custom of submitting herself, she actually enjoyed

the submission. She became the friar’s mistress, protected by the

priest’s power “and yet outcast by her status as a priest’s whore”

(Rosca, 1988: 156). Maya’s response to this in-between position