Die, My Love by Ana Harwicz, (translated from the Spanish by Sarah Moses and Carolina Orloff, Man Booker International Prize 2018)

Die, My Love is written with such hatred and despair it was hard for me to be compassionate. At first.

It opens with a women spying on her husband and son who are playing outside, while she holds a knife in her hand. She puts it down when her husband calls to her, asking if she would like a beer.

I leave the knife in the scorched pasture, hoping that when I find it next it’ll look like a scalpel, a feather, a pin. I get up, hot and bothered by the tingling between my legs. Blonde or dark? Whatever you’re having, my love. We’re one of those couples who mechanise the word ‘love’, who use it even when they despise each other. I never want to see you again, my love. I’m coming, I say, and I’m a fraud of a country woman with a red polka-dot skirt and split ends. I’ll have a blonde beer, I say in my foreign accent. I’m a woman who’s let herself go, has a mouth full of cavities and no longer reads.

You can see right away that the word “love” is a mockery. There is no love in this woman’s heart; only cruelty, despair and hate. Hers is a visceral outcry of utter hopelessness, and one is compelled to keep reading similarly to the way one cannot tear oneself away from a train wreck. You don’t really want to see it, but you can’t quite turn away from the disaster and ruin.

I thought at first she may be suffering from something like post-partum depression. Then, I thought she may be simply tired of marriage and living in the country with her husband, baby and mother-in-law. But, the further I read, the more I came to feel that this unnamed female narrator is mentally unbalanced. There’s no way, please God, that she could be speaking for wives and mothers everywhere.

Some of the Shadow Jury has likened Die, My Love to Samanta Schweblin’s Fever Dream, and in terms of torment, and fevered pitch, I can see the similarities. But, Fever Dream has a cause: the polluted river poisoning the environment with no one doing anything about it. This is a woman living a life about which she seems unable to do anything. Even if it is only internally, she threatens and screams, absorbed with herself on every page.

She imagines herself run over by the neighbors who have tired of her standing in the middle of the country road. At the funeral in her head she notices that, “No one grieves for the wretched woman with scarred arms who was consumed by the misery of life. Everyone fusses over the little boy who’s crawling around on all fours near the coffin.”

Such an internal focus, rawly articulated on every page, alarms me, even though the power of her emotion is undeniably well conveyed.

Addendum, several days later: If the purpose of translated literature is to take you beyond experiences you know, or open your eyes to see a fresh perspective, Die, My Love is the best of the lot.

9 thoughts on “Die, My Love by Ana Harwicz, (translated from the Spanish by Sarah Moses and Carolina Orloff, Man Booker International Prize 2018)”

    1. That is a fascinating article which frightens me even more, for it affirms that what I suspected is true: she is self-absorbed to the point of lunacy. Who gives birth and expects her life to remain the same? Who marries, and thinks she can have a strong relationship by lying when she calls her husband “my love,” or running to the neighbor for sex?

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        1. Or, worse. I think it was deeper than that. I hope it doesn’t signify the anger I feel growing from women toward men. Women’s marches…only reading literature published by women…etc.

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  1. Frances helped me considerably as we briefly discussed how upsetting the book is, yet that is its power. That, and the authenticity as you pointed out, Paul.

    I know that I cannot stop thinking about it. Ever since I read it last night. And it’s causing me to evaluate what defines a “good book”: the power or the content? (Ultimately, for me, it would be both.)

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    1. I know! It won’t leave me alone, which attests to its incredible impact. I can’t remember a book that has produced so much emotion in me; not all.of it good, but all of it powerful. Two of my friends on the Shadow Panel said that the authenticity of her experience lends to the writing, which I’m sure is true. I’m glad I never felt even remotely that way after my son was born.

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