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Supporting Act

by Agnes Lidbeck

“The social contract is not negotiated at an individual level. It is universal,
a set of rules that must be followed in order for society to function. The fundamental requirement is that a woman must play three roles. She must be a mother. She must be desirable. She must be the caregiver, she must nurture.

Each role must be played in accordance with agreed guidelines. Her responses are pre-ordained. Improvisation is reserved for those of unsound mind.
It is the woman who has the most to gain from maintaining these boundaries. As long as she remains comprehensible to those around her, she will also be comprehensible to herself.

The opposite, being incomprehensible, is something she fears: a symptom of a physiological or empathic shortcoming.”


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.

The social contract is not negotiated at an individual level. It is universal, a set of rules that must be followed in order for society to function.

                             The fundamental requirement is that a woman must play three roles. She must be a mother. She must be desirable. She must be the caregiver, she must nurture.

                             Each role must be played in accordance with agreed guidelines. Her responses are pre-ordained. Improvisation is reserved for those of unsound mind.

                             It is the woman who has the most to gain from maintaining these boundaries. As long as she remains comprehensible to those around her, she will also be comprehensible to herself.

                             The opposite, being incomprehensible, is something she fears: a symptom of a physiological or empathic shortcoming.

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