Dead Girls – Selva Almada (tr. Annie McDermott)

I first heard of Selva Almada last year, when Charco Press released her excellent novel, The Wind That Lays Waste, which fuelled my appetite for more of her work. So I had high expectations from her second book published this year – Dead Girls – and I must say it turned to another impressive offering.   

Dead Girls is a searing, hard-hitting book which explores the blight of gender violence and femicide in Almada’s native Argentina.

It is a powerful, hybrid piece of work – a blend of journalistic fiction and memoir – as Almada digs deeper into the murder of three small-town teenage girls in the 1980s, unspeakable crimes that never got solved, where “being a woman” was the primary motive for these heinous acts being committed.

In 1983, Maria Luisa Quevedo, a fifteen-year old girl, working as a maid, was raped, strangled and dumped in a wasteland on the outskirts of the city of Sáenz Peña.

Sarita Mundín was twenty when she disappeared in March 1988. One year later her disfigured body is found washed up on a river bank in the Córdoba province.

The case of nineteen-year old Andrea Danne, who was training to be a psychology teacher, is even more disturbing because she was murdered while sleeping in her bed in the alleged safety of her own home in San José.

Almada’s investigation into these three murders reveals a shocking societal structure where casual violence is the norm rather than the exception, and while men are the clear culprits, this misogynistic attitude has been ingrained into the psyche of the women too.

I didn’t know a woman could be killed simply for being a woman, but I’d heard stories that gradually, over time, I pieced together. Stories that didn’t end in the woman’s death, but saw her subjected to misogyny, abuse and contempt.

In her introduction, Almada tells us that she completed writing the book in three months, but the research required for it took three years. As part of her extensive fieldwork, Almada pored over police reports, case files and newspaper articles. She communicated with the family members of the three victims either by meeting them personally or through mail. She also had extensive consultations with the Señora – a medium and a tarot card reader – to gain some perspective on the circumstances surrounding those three deaths.

Dead Girls is as tense and gripping as a crime novel but what sets it apart is that Almada is not interested in finding out who committed the murders. The investigation is more to seek out patterns, threads of similarities between the murders of which there are plenty – widespread gossip when these deaths were discovered, lack of serious intent by the police or the law to nab the culprits, and the general sense of apathy – of how little the society cared for what happened to these girls.

Hence, the focus of the book is entirely on the victims, to ensure that their stories do not sink into complete obscurity. Given the unforgivable nature of these crimes, any attempt to extensively explore the motives and reasons behind them would only mean devoting more space to the perpetrators. Why give them that importance?

We are given a glimpse of the potential suspects in each case and the arrests made, but we are also told that lack of concrete proof hampered efforts to build a watertight case with the consequence that the criminals went punished and the murdered girls never got justice.

What also comes to the fore is the malicious gossip and “trial by the public” aspects in each of the three cases. Absence of solid evidence, at the time, did nothing to prevent tongues from wagging, with the result that the victims’ families suffered too. For instance, in Andrea Danne’s case, her mother found herself at the receiving end and judged harshly for slipping into a state of shock and displaying a calm demeanor because this response did not fit in with society’s expectations of wailing and crying. 

Though Almada’s narrative centres on these three girls, while also giving a flavor of the community and neighbourhood they were a part of, she also weaves in elements of her own personal experiences, of the dangers she herself faced as a woman.

I don’t remember a specific conversation about violence against women, or any particular warnings from my mother on the subject. But the topic was always there.

In her powerful introduction as well as in the epilogue, Almada makes it clear that her fate could easily have mirrored that of Maria Luisa, Sarita and Andrea, and if she is alive today it’s only because of sheer luck.

At the beginning of the book, Almada writes:

Violence was normalized. The neighbour beaten by her husband, the teenager next door who put up with her jealous boyfriend’s tantrums, the father who wouldn’t let his daughters wear short skirts or make-up. All the responsibility for what happened to us was laid at our feet: if you stay out late you might be raped, if you talk to strangers you might be raped, if you come back from a dance by yourself you might be raped. If you were raped, it was always your fault.

Almada is, of course, referring to the environment in Argentina. But really, the violence she points to, unfortunately, has global resonance and is the story of pretty much any country.

The Wind That Lays Waste – Selva Almada (tr. Chris Andrews)

I am beginning to rely on Charco Press for interesting literature from Latin America. Already this year, I have read and loved two wonderful books – The German Room by Carla Maliandi and Fish Soup by Margarita Garcia Robayo.

Thus, when The Wind That Lays Waste was recently released, I was very eager to delve right into it. And I also thought that the cover was the most gorgeous of their books so far.

Wind that lays waste

The Wind That Lays Waste is set over the course of a day in a remote town in Argentina, somewhere in the Chaco region.

The novella (it’s slim at 114 pages) is centred on four characters – Reverend Pearson, a forceful Evangelical preacher who strongly believes in Christ, his sixteen year old sceptical daughter Leni, Gringo Brauer, a garage mechanic and his young assistant Tapioca, who is the same age as Leni.

Reverend Pearson and Leni are on their way to Pastor Zack’s home when their car breaks down. They have no choice but to take it to Gringo Brauer’s garage and wait while the car is getting fixed.

Gradually, the personalities of the four characters are revealed to us.

Reverend Pearson is passionate about his calling as a priest and is renowned for the power of his sermons. His mother and even his church mentor for that matter view his gift for preaching as a means to secure funds for the church, but for Reverend Pearson it is all about winning souls for Christ to purify.

Once again, he felt that he was an arrow burning with the flame of Christ. And the bow that is drawn to shoot that arrow as far as possible, straight to the spot where the flame will ignite a raging fire. And the wind that spreads the fire that will lay waste to the world with the love of Jesus.

Leni’s relationship with the Reverend is complicated. She resents that her father’s affection for her is not total; there is always Christ between them. She is also disdainful of her father’s belief in divine intervention at a time when having a practical view makes more sense. And yet despite these feelings, she admires and respects his charismatic preaching.

But that’s not all. Leni cannot forget that Pearson one day abandoned her mother and took Leni with him. It is something they have never spoken about since then but it hangs like a Damocles sword.

Her childhood was very recent, but her memory of it was empty. Thanks to her father, the Reverend Pearson, and his holy mission, all she could remember was the inside of the same old car, crummy rooms in hundreds of indistinguishable hotels, the features of dozens of children she never spent long enough with to miss when the time came to move on, and a mother whose face she could hardly recall.

Gringo Brauer is the opposite of Reverend Pearson. He is getting old and cynical and believes in the power of nature, in the power of the present. He has not much use for religion.

He had no time for lofty thoughts. Religion was for the women and the weak. Good and evil were everyday things, things in the world you could reach out and touch. Religion, in his view, was just a way of ignoring responsibilities. Hiding behind God, waiting to be saved, or blaming the Devil for the bad things you do.

He had taught Tapioca to respect the natural world. He believed in the forces of nature. But he had never mentioned God. He could see no reason to talk about something he thought irrelevant.

And then there is Tapioca. When he was a child his mother visited Gringo one day and left the child with him, claiming that Tapioca is Gringo’s son.

Tapioca, meanwhile, is an eager assistant; vulnerable, innocent and ripe for being influenced and molded by whomever takes him under their wing. Tapioca feels uncomfortable around revered Pearson but at the same time is fascinated and mesmerized by the preacher’s talk on Christ.

Eventually, as the weather worsens, and a storm is approaching, tensions between these four (or more precisely the two men) reach boiling point.

The Wind That Lays Waste is an intense and beautiful novella that can be read over the course of an afternoon. Almada’s storytelling is straightforward and spare. And her writing is languid and lyrical.

Her descriptive powers, when it comes to either nature or man-made surroundings, stand out. She is particularly great at evoking the stark landscape of Argentina.

She couldn’t remember a storm like this. Blue cracks flashed the sky, giving the landscape a ghostly look.

Five hundred yards away, in a field, lightning struck a tree, and the orange flames held out against the rain for a good long while.

It was a beautiful spectacle. Sometimes the curtain of water was so dense they couldn’t see the old petrol pump, although it was just a few yards away.

The one thing I was not sure about when beginning this novel was the extent of religious overtones. I am averse to books where religion is the focal point, but thankfully Almada manages to not make this novel preachy. All the characters’ viewpoints are presented and there is no indication that Almada prefers one view over the other. It is left for the reader to decide.

‘Are you a believer, Mr Brauer?’

The Gringo poured himself some more wine and lit another cigarette.

‘I don’t have time for that stuff.’

The Reverend smiled and held his gaze.

‘Well, I don’t have time for anything else.’

‘To each his own,’ said Brauer, getting up.

Overall, another strong offering from Charco Press!

The German Room – Carla Maliandi (tr. Frances Riddle)

Last year, I read the rather brilliant Die, My Love, written by Ariana Harwicz and published by Charco Press, which specializes in releasing translated literature from Latin America. Die, My Love easily made it to my Top Books of 2018 list, and also made Charco Press, a publishing house to watch out for.

As a subscriber to Charco Press, I can’t wait to get my hands on Harwicz’ new novel – Feebleminded.

However, I still had a lot of Charco Press’ backlist to explore and a recent trip to Nice seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so. Carla Maliandi’s The German Room is what I finally settled for and packed in my suitcase.

The German Room

If your current life – in a particular city with your friends and family – is giving you much heartache and cause for discontent, will moving to another city and starting afresh give you the peace of mind you so crave for?

This is the central theme at the heart of The German Room.

When the book opens our unnamed narrator is a woman who has suddenly run away from her life and personal troubles in Buenos Aires and taken the plane to Heidelberg, Germany.

Years earlier, looking for a safe haven, her parents had fled to Heidelberg to escape the crippling impact of dictatorship in Argentina, only to return home later.

To our narrator, therefore, Heidelberg – where she was born – seems like the natural choice to begin life anew.

On the plane I was dizzy with anxiety again. But this time I wasn’t afraid of it falling, I was afraid of landing safe and sound, not knowing what to do or why I was there. Going down with the plane would’ve have been easier than landing in Germany with my life in shambles, without having told anyone in Buenos Aires what I was doing.

However, it is not as easy as it seems.

Our narrator initially worries that language will be a hurdle. Subsequent events, however, will highlight that to be the least of her problems.

Despite not being a student, our narrator manages to secure a room in a hostel, although this is a temporary arrangement and she will eventually have to provide proof that she is studying for a course.

Feeling out of place in the hostel, our narrator manages to befriend a fellow Argentinian Miguel Javier who is from Tucuman, and later a Japanese woman called Shanice.

In the first few pages itself, it is revealed that our narrator is pregnant, a fact that Miguel Javier had already gauged from her symptoms of morning sickness.

Learning of her pregnancy, she seems ambivalent at best, her first choice being to terminate it. But not wanting to be judged by the doctor she visits, she decides not to abort. Although she has no clear plan of her prospects in the new city and how she intends to raise her child.

Meanwhile, our narrator has to grapple with a new acquaintance Mrs Takahashi, who visits the city with her husband, when her daughter Shanice commits suicide.

Mrs Takahashi is a strange, melancholic woman who is at odds with what is happening around her and insists on spending time with our narrator. In fact, the sections in the novel, which focus on Mrs Takahashi, are quite disconcerting and eerie. Did some part of Mrs Takahashi’s personality insinuate itself in her daughter Shanice pushing her to end her life?

Earlier, in a dream, Shanice warns our narrator:

‘Ask Feli.’

‘What? About my pregnancy?’

‘No, ask her about my mother…so she can warn you.’

‘Warn me about what?’

‘Warn you that my mother is full of a very dark sadness…and, ya know, that she can get inside you.’

And later the same point is conveyed to her by Feli through Miguel’s sister, Marta Paula…

‘The girl is dead but the mother is alive. The girl knew that the mother was dangerous.’

Post the tragedy surrounding her daughter, Mrs Takahashi refuses to go back to Japan and resume her life there, to move on. Instead, she prefers to stay put in Heidelberg seeking newer experiences.

We are also introduced to some more characters:

  • Mario, a professor at the university and also an acquaintance from her childhood in Heidelberg
  • Joseph, possibly Mario’s lover with whom our narrator has an affair, further complicating the situation, and
  • Miguel’s sister Marta Paula based in Buenos Aires, who our narrator has never met. However, through correspondence and telephone calls our narrator confides in Marta Paula, who in turn looks to give advice by consulting a clairvoyant Feli, much to Miguel’s chagrin.

All of these characters and strands come together to form a very compelling and gripping narrative.

Where the author Maliandi clearly excels is in creating an unsettling atmosphere, as well as in conveying the narrator’s sense of displacement and a deep urge to belong. We feel our narrator’s up-rootedness, making us uneasy as we watch her move forward with no direction. It is as if she is struggling to find her identity or herself, which also explains why she is not named throughout the novel.

Even if I course the whole world looking or a place to feel at home, I wouldn’t belong anywhere.

Even in her new relationships, she seems to take people for granted. Then, at one point in the novel, desperately looking to cut off ties with Mrs Takahashi, our narrator urges her to go back to her old life in Japan, which is ironic given that she, in a similar situation, is not willing to do the same.

And yet, it is difficult not to sympathize with our narrator, a testimony to Maliandi’s strong writing.

In a nutshell, The German Room touches upon the themes of escape, family, independence and belonging.

The blurb at the back of the novel reads:

This is a book for anyone who has ever dreamed of running away from it all, but wondered what they might do when they get there.

Does our narrator finally find her peace?

I thought this was a wonderful novel and another strong offering from Charco Press.

Translation credits go to Frances Riddle.

My Top 12 Books of 2018

Like the last couple of years, I was very lucky that 2018 turned out to be a great reading year too.

So much so that I struggled to whittle the list down to twelve. But after much dilly-dallying, I am happy and satisfied with the list that finally took shape.

In a year that was challenging, these books gave me pure joy and ideas to think about; it’s in them that I sought solace and found hope.

They cover a range of themes and topics – women wanting to live life on their own terms, survival, hope, loss, motherhood, friendship, and family.

A quick look at the statistics:

Half of them are translated works of fiction from countries as diverse as Argentina, Norway, Korea, Guadeloupe, and Lithuania. A majority of these books are by independent publishers.

And of the twelve books, nine are written by women.

So without much ado, here are my Top 12 Books of the Year, in no particular order, with a small description on each. For a detailed review on each one of these books, please click on the title of the book in question.

Top 12 of 2018

Die, My Love – Ariana Harwicz

A young woman struggles to adapt to motherhood. But rather than internalize her despair and retreat into a shell, she rebels – expressing her rage at conventional norms, and venting out on her husband and her family. Ariana Harwicz’s prose is so visceral, it bruises but in an exhilarating way.

The Ice Palace – Tarjei Vesaas

This is a haunting, unsettling tale of two Norwegian eleven-year old girls, Siss and Unn, both as different as chalk and cheese but drawn to each other to form an unlikely friendship. Tarjei Vesaas’ prose is as clear as ice and as brilliant as a diamond. There is a dreamlike quality to the narrative that explores the themes of loss, friendship and the power of nature.

Ice – Anna Kavan

We are in surreal territory here as a man obsessed with a fragile, silver-haired girl, chases her across the icy wastes of a dystopian landscape. Only to keep losing her again and again. This is a wonderful example of Anna Kavan’s ‘slipstream’ fiction – there is a slippery and elusive feel to it all and where the conventional contours of a narrative structure do not apply. Kavan is at the height of her descriptive powers, and the passages describing the frozen settings are particularly sublime.

The White Book – Han Kang

Han Kang’s The Vegetarian made it to my Best of the Year list in 2015 (pre-blog days), and was unlike anything that I read that year. The White Book is a completely different book, but brilliant in its own way. Hang Kang focuses on white objects as a medium through which she explores themes of grief, loss, finding peace and solace. The novel is in the form of fragments, short paragraphs each fitting on a page, and told in a style that is haunting and lyrical.

The Cost of Living – Deborah Levy

Anything that comes from the pen of Deborah Levy is essential reading. Her earlier novel Swimming Home was brilliantly unsettling, and her last novel Hot Milk made it to my Best Books of 2016 list. The Cost of Living is Levy’s memoir or a ‘living’ autobiography as it has been called. Levy divorces when she is approaching fifty, and now has a challenging task ahead of her – supporting her sons, and continuing her writing amidst many upheavals. It’s this transition that she describes in her trademark sharp prose, brimming with wit, warmth and keen insights.

Shadows on the Tundra – Dalia Grinkeviciute

In those horrific days of the Second World War, Dalia and her family (mother and brother), along with a host of fellow Lithuanians were deported to Siberia to work in labour camps there. In a harsh and tough environment, where blizzards recurred often, the weather was bitingly cold, and where the living conditions were ghastly, Dalia survived that period on true grit, hope, and sheer willpower.

She wrote her memories on scraps of paper and buried them in the garden, fearing they might be discovered by the KGB. They were not found until 1991, four years after her death. Shadows on the Tundra is the story that Dalia buried, and is the second book in Peirene’s excellent ‘Home in Exile’ series.

Basic Black with Pearls – Helen Weinzweig

Here is the intriguing blurb from NYRB Classics – “Shirley and Coenraad’s affair has been going on for decades, but her longing for him is as desperate as ever. She is a Toronto housewife; he works for an international organization known only as the Agency. Their rendezvous take place in Tangier, in Hong Kong, in Rome and are arranged by an intricate code based on notes slipped into issues of National Geographic. But something has happened, the code has been discovered, and Coenraad sends Shirley to Toronto, the last place she wants to go.”

Told from Shirley’s point of view, it quickly becomes clear that things are not what they seem, and we are left with a narrative that is surreal and disorienting, but all in a good way. Is this then a straightforward espionage tale or something deeper and complex? Weinzweig’s idea for this multi-layered novel was inspired by the Canadian artist Michael Snow’s Walking Woman sculpture series – the concept of a one-dimensional woman moving nowhere.

Missing – Alison Moore

Jessie Noon is in her late forties, living alone with her dog and cat as companions, somewhere along the Scottish borders. Her second husband walks out on her one day, leaving an enigmatic message on steam on the bathroom mirror. As a translator Jessie fusses over choosing the right words in her work, and yet ironically, in her dealings with others, she comes across as lacking tact. Meanwhile, Jessie’s days are filled with routine, and through the minute details of everyday life, Alison Moore slowly teases out the tragedy that took place in Jessie’s life in her late teens, and the heartbreaking impact it has had on her adult years. This quiet novel really tugged at my heartstrings.

Bergeners – Tomas Espedal

Espedal’s Bergeners is a difficult book to describe. It is personal with autobiographical shades to it, and yet to call it a traditional autobiography would be doing the book great injustice. The narration is an amalgam of diary entries, poetry, short stories, ruminations on art and reflections on the people of Bergen. It’s a book where Tomas copes with loneliness, reflects on writing and meets fellow Norwegian authors such as Dag Solstad in exchanges that are laced with humour.

The Bridge of Beyond – Simone Schwarz-Bart

Set in the French Antillean island of Guadeloupe, this is an intoxicating tale of love and wonder, mothers and daughters, the grim legacy of slavery, and the story of the protagonist Telumee and the proud line of Lougandor women she continues to draw strength from.

With wonderfully named characters such as Toussine and Telumee and a village deliciously called Fond-Zombi, Schwarz-Bart’s storytelling is slow, sensual, hypnotic and rhythmic. Every page pulses with the energy and vitality of these three generations of women. There are dollops of beauty and warmth, wisdom and sadness.

The Cemetery in Barnes – Gabriel Josipovici

Josipovici’s novel begins on a quiet note in Paris and then moves on to become darker and unsettling. In just 100 pages (the shortest book on the list), we are introduced to three stories across three time spans in three places (London, Paris, Wales), all involving the protagonist who is a translator and good at his work. Our narrator ruminates on the art of translation, makes frequent references to Orfeo, the French poet du Bellay’s poems, and Monteverdi’s opera – and because of Josipovici’s masterful storytelling skills, it all feels seamless and lucid without ever coming across as either complex or knotty.  But the best thing about this book is how wonderfully ambiguous it is making it open to multiple interpretations.

Welcome Home – Lucia Berlin

As the daughter of a mining engineer, Lucia’s family moved often to places such as Idaho, Montana, Kentucky, Arizona and to Santiago in Chile. This trend of perpetually being on the move continues in her adult life as well and she travels/lives in New York City, Mexico, New Mexico and California. In this period, she goes on to marry and divorce thrice. Subsequently, by doing various jobs (hospital ward clerk, switchboard operator, cleaning woman and so on), she hopes to support her writing career and raise her four sons all on her own.

Welcome Home is Berlin’s unfinished memoir recounting her childhood years up to the point she was married to and living with her third husband Buddy Berlin. Through this, and a selection of letters also included in the book (and corresponding with this period), we get a glimpse of her real life that was as endlessly rich, adventurous, and fascinating as the stories she wrote.

Other Notable Mentions…

So, there you go. The twelve books above were fabulous, and I hope that next year shapes up to be a rewarding year for reading too.

As I mentioned in the beginning, I struggled to narrow the list down to twelve as a result of which there were a few books that did not make the cut. But they were excellent nevertheless, and so deserve a shout out (with links to the detailed reviews):

Meena Kandasamy’s When I Hit You (A hard-hitting novel of an abusive marriage)

Mariana Enriquez’ Things We Lost in the Fire  (A collection of eerie and gothic stories set in Argentina)

Lesley Blanch’s Journey into the Mind’s Eye  (A travel memoir and an ode to Russia and Siberia)

Nora Ikstena’s Soviet Milk  (The first book in Peirene’s ‘Home in Exile’ series set in Latvia under Soviet Occupation)

Yuko Tsushima’s Territory of Light  (A bracing novel on a young, single mother’s struggles to raise her daughter), and

Rachel Cusk’s Kudos (The concluding novel in Cusk’s brilliant ‘Outline Trilogy’, which I have not reviewed here). One of the striking features of this trilogy was the concept of self-annihilation of the narrator, in the sense of her being more in the background. It’s the other voices that dominate and the narrator is like a sponge for the most part absorbing various viewpoints.

Happy reading!

Die, My Love – Ariana Harwicz (tr. Sarah Moses & Carolina Orloff)

When it comes to translated literature, independent publisher Charco Press is the new kid on the block. But if the quality output it has churned out so far is anything to go by, one can safely say it is a publishing house worth watching out for.

Charco Press’ mission? To find outstanding contemporary Latin American literature and bring it to new readers in the English-speaking world.

And with this, I decided to try out one of their earlier releases – Die, My Love. This novel has already garnered rave reviews and shortlisted for book prizes and I am only happy to add to the praise.

So here goes…

Die, My Love
Charco Press Edition

Just like the eye-catching title Die, My Love is a raw, visceral tale of a woman struggling to adapt to motherhood and instead yearning for freedom.

But first, if you look at the author profile on the flap of the book, this is what it says:

Compared to Nathalie Sarraute and Virginia Woolf, Ariana Harwicz is one of the most radical figures in contemporary Argentinian literature. Her prose is characterized by its violence, eroticism, irony and criticism of the clichés surrounding the notions of the family and conventional relationships.

It is apparent in this novel too; from the opening lines which hit you right in the gut…

I lay back in the grass among fallen trees and the sun on my palm felt like a knife I could use to bleed myself dry with one swift cut to the jugular. Behind me, against the backdrop of a house somewhere between dilapidated and homely, I could hear the voices of my son and my husband. Both of them naked. Both of them splashing around in the blue paddling pool…I was a few steps away, hidden in the underbrush. Spying on them. How could a weak, perverse woman like me, someone who dreams of a knife in her hand, be the mother and wife of those two individuals?

Society assumes that every woman wants to be a mother or that motherhood naturally comes to every woman. But that does not necessarily have to be the case.

In the novel, the narrator is unnamed and we learn that becoming a mother was not something that she chose; rather motherhood was thrust upon her. And it is a role she struggles to conform to.

The tale is set in the bucolic French countryside although the exact location is not named. She feels like a foreigner in her surroundings and her erratic behavior only heightens her sense of not exactly fitting in.

Her role as a housewife bores her, and motherhood to her is a chore. Not only does she not want to embrace the responsibilities of being a mother, she also feels she is incapable of it.

She feels trapped and stifled, detesting conventional norms she feels forced to adhere to, dying to break out. But where will she run?

And if I want to leave my baby in the car when it’s forty degrees out with the heat index, I will. And don’t tell me it’s illegal. If I want to opt for illegality, if I want to become one of those women who go around freezing their fetuses, then I will. If I want to spend twenty years in jail or go on the run, then I won’t rule those possibilities out either.

But Harwicz’s protagonist does not withdraw into a shell. Rather, she is filled with rage and directs her violence outside.

They’ve been treating my cuts for several days now. I can’t see my whole body, but I’ve gotten them all over: on my shoulder blades, my chest, my belly, my neck.

Not content in the house, with a feeling of the walls closing in around her, most of the time she is outdoors, the vast expanse brimming with possibilities.

Then there is her husband. She does not have a high opinion of him either and finds faults in his actions. Though interestingly, the husband does not really abandon her despite their fights and puts up with her moods.

We’re one of those couples who mechanise the word ‘love’, who use it even when they despise each other.

And sometimes she wonders why…

So many healthy and beautiful women in the area, and he ended up falling for me. A nutcase. A foreigner. Someone beyond repair.

In all of this chaos, a mysterious motorcyclist emerges on the scene and embarks on an affair with the woman. Is this her way of craving for excitement?

Spellbound by a woman who wears flared skirts and spends her afternoons sprawled out like an amphibian on her lawn. I see her for as long as the slowest speed of my motorcycle allows. Those few fatal seconds. I think about her and heave with desire.

How is all of this going to turn out?

At 122 pages in the Charco Press edition Die, My Love is a short book that packs quite a punch. There is no plot per se and the drama is all internal. And even then, there is no real action in the traditional sense in the woman’s domestic surroundings – the action is all in her head; it’s her mind that’s all over the place.

Therefore, what makes this novel so unique is the narrative voice. It’s angry, violent, intense and scathing. The language is akin to a knife piercing your skin – provocative, and confrontational. And yet there is a poetic and lyrical feel to it too.

On one level, you could interpret this novel as an examination of postpartum depression, although that is just an inference and never explicitly stated.

Overall, Die, My Love is an immersive and rewarding experience, and not a novel one will forget anytime soon.

Indeed, as far as Harwicz’ writing is concerned, the blurb at the back of the book could not have put it better:

In a text that explores the destabilizing effect of passion and its absence, immersed in the psyche of a female protagonist always on the verge of madness, Harwicz moulds language, submitting it to her will in irreverent prose.

And that is why credit must also go Sarah Moses and Carolina Orloff for superbly translating it.