Friday, 2 March 2007

Isabelle Eberhardt

"For those who know the value of and exquisite taste of solitary freedom (for one is only free when alone), the act of leaving is the bravest and most beautiful of all."

“Last year I left this place to the gusts of winter” The opening to Eberhardts first volume of autobiographical writings ‘In the Shadow of Islam’.
Isabelle Eberhardt, after narrowly escaping assasination and having been banished from French Algeria and imprisoned several times, lived only to the fragile age of 27. Defeated finally in 1904 by Malaria and swept away in a terrible flood she was found surrounded by the muddy pages of her manuscript. Pieced together by an anarchist editor friend, her remaining works were collected into 3 volumes of passionate poetical travel writing. Winding, desert, travellers tales of passion and nihilism. Rebel, adventurer, kif-smoking Isabelle travelled under the firm belief that everything that happened happened for a reason and that her life was dependent on chance. She was and is a true feminist hero, a radical of her time; “ women cannot understand me,” she opines “ they see me as a freak”. Dressing as a man, speaking many languages and riding horses from the encouragements of her father she was able to travel freely and wildly and where chance took her. She was known to hang out with local young vagabonds, wrestling with soldiers in the barracks or found sleeping in the local kif-joints.
Her writing is sensual and descriptive in her search for dirt, freedom, expression and moments of glorious sensation, of sunlight, food, love, religious musings and the people and places she visited are all wound together.
Ah Isabelle, a new heroine then? Time to seek her out…

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