• Laurie Sucher


The last two stories in Jhabvala’s 1976 collection, How I Became a Holy Mother, foreshadow the next novel, Heat and Dust, in which the demon-lover theme is treated again. Heat and Dust consists of two chronological settings of the same story, two treatments which stress, respectively, the tragic and the comic aspects of eros. As my discussion will make clearer, the ‘old’ story emphasises the tragic, the ‘new’ the comic. And as if to prepare for this double vision, the last two stories in the collection immediately preceding the novel deal, respectively, with the same issues. Thus ‘How I Became a Holy Mother’, foreshadows Heat and Dust’s ‘new story’ — the absurd comedy of erotic connections. The heroine emerges triumphant, as the title indicates. ‘Desecration’ foreshadows the ‘old’ story in the later novel, the tragic illicit affair of a married woman.


Sexual Knowledge Popular Song Dinner Party Comic Aspect Chronological Setting 
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  1. 1.
    Gita Mehta, Karma Cola: Marketing the Mystic East (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1979) pp. 68–9.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Susan Sontag, ‘The Pornographic Imagination’, in Styles of Radical Will (New York: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1969) p. 50.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ann Bar Snitow, ‘Mass Market Romance: Pornography for Women is Different’, in Powers of Desire: The Politics of Sexuality, ed. Ann Snitow, Christine Stansell and Sharon Thompson (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1983) p. 250.Google Scholar
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    Rene Girard, Violence and the Sacred (Baltimore, Md and London: Johns Hopkins Press, 1977) p. 55.Google Scholar
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    Girard discusses this idea in Deceit, Desire and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure, trans. Yvonne Freccero (Baltimore, Md: Johns Hopkins Press, 1965) p. 112.Google Scholar
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    Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, ‘Better than Dead’, New Yorker, 24 May 1958.Google Scholar
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    Jean de la Fontaine, ‘Le Loup et l’Agneau’, Fables Choisis (Paris, 1668–9).Google Scholar
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    See, for example, William Ryan, Blaming the Victim (New York: Pantheon Books, 1971),Google Scholar
  9. or Andrea Dworkin, Right-Wing Women (New York: Perigree Books, 1983).Google Scholar
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    For an interesting discussion of the genre, see Bobbie Ann Mason, The Girl Sleuth: A Feminist Guide (Old Westbury, N.Y.: Feminist Press, 1975).Google Scholar

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© Laurie Sucher 1989

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  • Laurie Sucher

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