Publication Date: September 2012
My Name Is Mata Hari is Dewi Anggreani’s English rendition of Namaku Mata Hari by Remy Sylado
(PT. Gramedia Pustaka Utama, 2010 ISBN 978-979-22-6281-0).
What drove Margaretha Geertruida Zelle, a simple Dutch girl, to become Mata Hari? Acclaimed Indonesian author, Remy Sylado delves into her psyche with emphathy as he imagines her transformation.
Obsessed with the belief that her mother’s roots were in Java, Indonesia, and eager to leave her alcoholic father, Margaretha sets her scandalous love life in motion when at eighteen years old, she marries much older Rudolph Campbell MacLeod, an officer in the Dutch colonial army. A violent sexual deviant, MacLeod fathers their son, Norman John, before their departure to the Indies.
Once in Java, Margaretha escapes from her husband’s abusive behavior by immersing herself in local culture. Pregnant with her second child, she joins an artists’ community near the Borobudur temple in Central Java, where she learns Javanese dances and is particularly drawn to its erotic form. A visiting high ranking colonial government official and the first of her many lovers, Cremer, this covers Margaretha and paves her way to become a professional performer.
The gynecologist who delivers her daughter, Jeanne Louisa, tells Margaretha that Norman John, lame, mute, and almost blind, is a victim of syphilis transmitted by McLeod. Enraged, she files for a divorce and stages her rebellion against patriarchy by indulging in an extravagant lifestyle and adopting the name Mata Hari from the Malay mata hari, meaning “eye of the day.”
Europe welcomes Mata Hari’s erotic delivery of exotic Javanese dance with sold out performances. She quickly becomes the most famous courtesan of her time. Meanwhile, the Dutch court grants her a divorce but declares her an unfit mother.
The forces that sweep WWI across Europe also drive Vladimir Masloff, a Rusian captain, into Mata Hari’s arms and, for the first time, she falls hopelessly in love. When Masloff loses his eyesight on the battlefield, she is determined to make enough money to spend the remainder of her life doing nothing else but taking care of him.
With high ranking military officers on either side of the battlefield vying for her favors, the war offers Mata Hari an opportunity to earn money quickly. Over-confident in her ability to seduce the most powerful men, she becomes ensnared in the political web. When French authorities arrest her for spying for Germany, Mata Hari is unable to prove her innocence.
In My Name Is Mata Hari Margaretha Geertruida Zelle tells her story to the priest and the nun sent to provide her with spiritual support during her last days in the Saint Lazare prison before her execution by a military firing squad on October 15, 1917 in Bois de Vincennes, France. She was 41.