Wednesday, December 01, 2021

The vastness of confinement

I remember what's not here. An island of men who are searching for beauty and find it only in the vastness of confinement. I admit I'm sadistic. I'm always saying that nothing is possible without the soul, just as no image is possible without its other. But I have no other. I have no soul. A young lover once promised to write the fatal sign on my womb and take me away with him to fertile lands. What became of him? That night is a hundred thousand nights ago and that lover is lost. I'm still waiting for him to appear among the smoky spirals that emerge from my mouth. I've had a series of smells burnt into me: a pair of hands in the twilight, the soft skin of somebody's back, a bewitched throat. Then it was over, and they were all gone. I'm still a witch who's waiting to cast spells. Our neighbour died of a heroin overdose with his baby in his arms. The woman in the house with the boarded-up windows suffocated on the smoke of her own fire. The animals die out before reproducing. That's what death looks like in these parts. Whereas my sun-soaked nights on the island were filled with stimulating chats, daydreams, furious kisses. Whereas in those golden years of my life, everything was an ecstasy of sexual reawakening. A wave of antipathy to the world wells up from deep within me. I don't know what these animals are up to. They're forming a circle around me and watching me, dumbfounded, their jaws practically unhinged from their bodies. I fall to my knees before them. If a local were to pass by now, basket in hand, gathering mushrooms and berries, they'd think this was some kind of pagan ritual.

I ordered this book for myself in the early pandemic days, I'd read a review, maybe this one, and I thought, perfect, a book about a woman who's dying inside, a victim(?) of all-consuming lust, that's relatable, I wonder how she takes it out on her world, does she interact with her world?, but by the time the book arrived it seemed like too heavy a read, maybe I'd found a way to cope with objectless lust by then, and later I was too happy, then too fragile, but lately was just right for it.

Reading Die, My Love, by Ariana Harwicz, is a descent into the maelstrom.

Not even digging a hole, a pit, would be enough. It needs to be thrown into the desert and devoured by wild beasts. Desire, that is.

The jacket copy goes like this:

In a forgotten patch of French countryside, a woman is battling her demons – embracing exclusion yet wanting to belong, craving freedom whilst feeling trapped, yearning for family life but at the same time wanting to burn the entire house down. 

That seemed to encapsulate lockdown and all the contradictory impulses it elicited, I would battle demons, I didn't need to be trapped in a marriage or by responsibility to small child (again!). Trapped at home, home was the entire world, and I would tear it down around me. 

These people are going to make me lose it. I wish I had Egon Schiele, Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon for neighbours; then my son could grow up and develop intellectually by learning that there's more to the world I brought him into than opening old skylights you can't see out of anyway. As soon as all the others had escaped to their rooms to digest their meals, I heard my father-in-law cutting the grass beneath the snow with his new green tractor and thought that if I could lynch my whole family to be alone for one minute with Glenn Gould, I'd do it.

(All figurative artists, I note. Why? Because the body, I guess. And the physicality of Glenn's art too.)

I have to say, though, that there's nothing to ground this story in the countryside of France. I believe there may have been a vineyard, possibly a road to Switzerland (my memory is hazy). Someone smokes a Gauloise. A reference to the punishment for adultery in medieval France. By this evidence, the novel could be set in my hometown. So it irks me that this "forgotten patch of French countryside" is mentioned in every review, adding colour where none is needed. We know she is a foreigner (I forget how we know, but we know, and we sense it firmly).

I woke up when she crashed through the glass, a scene worth the price of admission, I picture ribbons of blood. I need to start paying attention. "Everything is one big distortion." The fights and the jealousy, the pretense and resentments.

This is a madwoman's story (that's what it was like to be a new mother). A few times it shifts perspective to that of her lover, only now I wonder if it might be his perspective as imagined by her. By the end, I felt like things were told in the wrong order. No one dies, not really. Well, a little. Crazy, desperate, sad.

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