This study concerns the complete oeuvre by the British author Helen Zahavi: Dirty Weekend (1991), True Romance (1994), and Donna and the Fatman (1998). Her novels are here read as a trilogy dealing with the dialectics of gender and violence in 20th century discourse, drawing on theories of how the construction of subjects is produced by power, of the relation between power and sexuality.
The heroines of Zahavi’s novels try their best to move about in a world where their freedom of movement is limited to their female identity. In Dirty Weekend the protagonist tries to shoot her way out, claiming revenge on every man that is forcing himself upon her. She gains some freedom of movement by refusing subordination, but does not really change the order of power. The protagonist in True Romance instead finds salvation in love of the master. She learns to love the man who keeps her as a sex slave in his apartment, and when confronted with the choice between the freedom by violent action and submission by passive acceptance, she chooses the latter. The protagonist in Donna and the Fatman manage to refuse both superiority and submission. She has a debt to settle with the gangster boss Henry, but in the end blows both herself and her opponent to pieces. I argue that by doing this, Donna breaks out of the order of language.
The order of power presented in Zahavi’s novels is a tyranneous dichotomy which cathegorize individuals as either victims or perpertrators. This construction is seemingly a natural order which we have to accept, but the actions of Zahavi’s last protagonist eventually proves it to be nothing but a mask, a lie. This lie is, in the words of one of Zahavi’s characters, a tenacious lie, and the only way to break out of the construction of power is to break out of the construction of the order of power. Thus the blowing up of both victim and perpertrator may enable a new world to be born.