The reader of “Die, my Love” only needs the kick-start prose of the opening chapter or two to know that this short novel is not going to be a lazy read.
The first sentence is shocking and characteristic of the tale’s language: “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.”
The narrator is a feisty female and she’s not going to let you forget it but what could be mere highly charged cattiness on her part begins to fracture into something far more disturbing.
The woman is married with a young child to care for but she harbours dark, murderous thoughts. Her husband (‘I’ve got used of calling him that’) has an astronomy hobby which he tries to share but it only makes her feel how much she’d like to be a passenger in a space mission, watching the earth grow smaller.
Another man, living a few miles away and passing her house to and from work apparently obsesses over her but his desire is only given a voice by the narrator – “Now I’m speaking him” – and we suspect that his interest in her may be an invention of her own fervid imagination.
Her disgruntlement with life escalates and she scornfully dismisses many of the norms of married life to the point where her psyche becomes damaged and almost psychopathic tendencies develop. The sexual side of her marriage becomes unhinged and erotic bliss is reserved for adulterous fantasies – if they are fantasies and not partly real.
There are demons she cannot control and her mental stability is subjected to strains that leave her feeling little maternal love for her child.
She speaks, using an image typical of her incisive tongue, of how the guillotine blade has been raised but that no one can see it’s about to fall. But she can see it falling and so too can the reader.
Relations with her husband deteriorate and he remarks how hearing how her speak is like listening to a car alarm that won’t cease.
Their sex life is miserable: “Every time my husband screws me, I blink and it’s like they’ve felled a tree”.
It is always difficult to differentiate between her private voice – which is the only one we hear – and the objective status of other people’s opinions when she speaks about or for them.
“Die, my love” is an unrelentingly grim tale of a marriage approaching breakdown point — ‘I threw up our ten years as a couple all over the table, the chair and the sofa’ – and spiralling out of control. It was first published as “Matate, amor” in Argentina and has now been published in a highly praised English translation.
“Die, my love”, by Ariana Harwicz, translated by Sarah Moses and Caroline Orloff, is published by Charo Press.