It’s been a week since I finished reading The Spy, and I am still undecided if Mata Hari’s life story invites us to dare to be different, or keep to ourselves and stay at home for a peaceful life just like how a woman should be, according to what the society dictates. Paulo Coelho has a knack of writing books that seemed to be celebrating womanhood, but in the end they make me think if that was really what he’s trying to say. The Spy is no different. Albeit being a historical fiction, the book was written from Mata Hari’s point of view, which made me emphatize with her more and made me feel where she was coming from.
The book began on the day of Mata Hari’s execution. Everything about that day was vividly described, and though we all know most of the descriptions were probably done in pursuit of literary excellence, they left me with an idea that she must have done something so terrible to deserve such a terrible fate.
It turns out, she just wanted to be free.
Maybe she was tired of it all. I have no idea if Coelho wrote everything as they were, like the sexual abuse she went through with the school principal and with her husband that pulled away every shred of dignity that was in her. She went to Paris and pretended to be a trained exotic dancer when all she did was strip naked in public. As I read the book, Mata Hari did what she did to survive, and regarded sex as something to be done in order to acquire attention and grand material things. Also, it made it appear as if Mata Hari was “offered” to spy for Germany, as opposed to what the articles I’ve read were saying, for according to them, she was the one who offered to spy for Germany and for France.
Were these things all part of what led her to her execution? Maybe. Or maybe it was the idiocy of most men during her time. France was losing the war, and they used her execution to uplift the morale of the French soldiers who felt defeated and were ready to surrender. She was regarded as an opportunity they could use to once again fight for reasons only heaven knows. Yet, she stood tall amidst all these damnation. She was killed with her head held up high, and accepted her fate with no regrets. And that’s important.
We live in a world where people are cruel, where most of them would misinterpret and take offense in anything we do. Regardless, we should do what we must, not only to survive, but to live and be happy.