I have just finished reading Njabulo Ndebele’s The Cry of Winnie Mandela. An outstanding book! It portrays the life of four women, who like Odysseus’ Penelope, endured long periods of waiting for their husbands to return home. I’m waiting a while before I attempt a review of the book. But here is a paragraph from the book:
Departures! They give birth to waiting. In that indeterminate space of waiting, women live through unending spells of anxiety, loneliness, longing, wishing, desiring, hoping, doubting. Day-to-day life becomes an effort of continuance: endurance without consolation. Waiting. Sitting at the edge of a bed after a bath in the evening. Alone in the bedroom. Waiting… In these moments, a woman feels so vitally in the presence of her body. Feeling clean without the promise of joy. This is it. One of the many definitive moments of waiting. Moments of intimacy defined by cravings without definition. Where is he? When will it end? This waiting. This unending sensation of uncertainty. This love increasingly without object….
Is there a point at which the hope-for-return begins to be dreaded? When endurance becomes its own end, with nothing beyond it, when a woman caught in waiting no longer requires the return of a companion who departed so long ago he has become a memory that no longer evokes passion? Or when passion, experienced as something a woman ought to feel for an absent husband, is evoked by guilt, only to die out immediately? When the drift of a life-in-waiting has created numerous diversions of its own?… Why should a man gone for so long ever return? Why shouldn’t a woman-in-waiting begin to make permanent plans, without her man?
Should she make permanent plans? Or should she continue to wait?