Pauline Holdstock is an internationally published writer whose fiction and non fiction have also appeared in many literary journals, national newspapers, and been broadcast on the CBC.
Her novel Beyond Measure was a finalist both for the 2004 Giller Prize and the Commonwealth Prize, and won the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize.
Holdstock is also a winner of the Malahat Review’s Novella Prize and the Prairie Fire Personal Journalism Prize.
Her most recent novel Into the Heart of the Country, is a poignant tale about the white men and aboriginal women who founded northern Canada.
About her contribution below, Holdstock says:
This paragraph, cut from my novel Beyond Measure, describes the painter Sofonisba doing her homework for her painting Judith Slaying Holofernes. She wanted to depict the moment Judith proceeds to saw off Holofernes’ head with a rather large sword. Understandably, live models were reluctant to participate and so, for the purposes of her sketches, Sofonisba was compelled to engage the local butcher and an unfortunate calf.
Marc, my wonderful publisher and editor at Cormorant Books, persuaded me to cut it. The passage was to come late in the novel and I think that he felt we had all had quite enough of bodily fluids by that time without having them spring out and hit the reader in the eye….
The cook, the steward had said, told him it was no easy matter. They had to carry the block out to the yard from the kitchens for the painter said it couldn’t be done on the ground, and then it had taken two to help swing the animal over onto its back and hold it still for she didn’t want the legs tied, and the whole time they were struggling she just sat there calmly on a little stool working her stick of chalk to a point on a flat stone.
She was there with her skirts trailing in the dirt and a notebook open on her lap. He must have arrived just as the animal was gathering itself for another shriek of outrage. The butcher did the job as best he could, the steward said, and was quick. But then there was uproar. Blood springing like a fountain from one end and a spray of urine and faeces from the other and the butcher bellowing curses.
(My Sofonisba is of course modeled on the gorgeous Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi, and if you want to see the version of her painting I had in mind, you can view it at the link at the below.)