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Supporting Act

by Agnes Lidbeck

The social contract is not negotiated on the individual basis. It is universal; a set of rules that must be followed for society to be preserved. The prerequisite is that the woman has three roles to play. She is to be a mother. She is to be desirable. She is to be the caregiver, tending.

Each of these specific roles must be acted out in accordance with a predetermined script. The lines are given. Improvisation is for the insane. The woman herself has the most to gain from upholding these limitations. As long as she is comprehensible to those around her, she is comprehensible
also to herself.

The opposite, to be incomprehensible, is something she fears, as a manifestation of a physiological or empathic failure.

As Anna gives birth to her first child, she gives in completely to the role of the mother; transforming her identity, body, values, and purpose in the process. Despite her efforts at perfection, the strains of family life (the son, Harry, is soon followed by a daughter, Hedda) take a toll on the relationship between Anna and husband Jens, but through silent conflict and wilting passion, the marriage lingers on. As time passes, Anna seeks validation in an affair with an aging author, Ivan. When he is diagnosed with a terminal illness, it falls upon Anna to care for him at the end.

Throughout the phases of her life, Anna’s actions are steered by strict adherence to the rules of society – a discipline which at times feel paradoxically liberating. Hidden by the traditional faces of womanhood, she is saved from the burden of acknowledging her own desires.

In Supporting Act, Agnes Lidbeck investigates voluntary submission without the context of sexual domination. It is a scrutinizing examination of modern womanhood as well as an in-depth portrait of Anna as mother, lover and carer. Lidbeck makes a convincing and powerful debut that will not leave any reader unaffected.

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