Below the Line in Beijing
By Richard Seldin
Use of the double in Western literature has given rise to such great works as Poe's William Wilson, Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Dostoyevsky's The Double. Whereas most fictional doubles embody the violent and confused thoughts and actions of their principals, the double in my novel, Below the Line in Beijing, enacts the main character's sexual wishes.
Although in a good enough marriage, the protagonist, a 61 year-old civil servant, has lost sexual desire for his wife and is plagued by fantasies of hooking-up with young women. As the novel begins, he is working on these issues with his psychoanalyst. The protagonist's desire, however, hasn't abated through their efforts and his unconscious soon takes over. A womanizing double, who first entered his life during puberty, fortuitously reappears in his life. Then some months later, for no physical reason, the protagonist loses his ability to speak English which results in the suspension of his analysis. The double soon dominates the protagonist which mirrors their earlier relationship in which the double did most of the talking and lived out the protagonist's idealized erotic life.
The first sex parts of this seven-part novel end with dreams which focus on the main character's conflicts with his wife. In the dreams, his wife and the double appear in disguised forms with the double playing the role of her seducer. This parallels the protagonist's relationship with his father and mother in which he, rather than his father, was her principal male interest. The protagonist must work through this unconscious oedipal issue before he can resolve his problems with his wife, take back his double and regain his voice.
Published in the Fall 2015 E-Newsletter of the Washington Center for Psychoanalysis.