Author(s): Mariana Dimopulos
This highly acclaimed contemporary Argentinian novel is the first in Giramondo's 'Literature of the South' series, featuring innovative fiction and non-fiction by writers of the southern hemisphere. It is translated from the Spanish by Australian translator Alice Whitmore All My Goodbyes is a novel told in overlapping vignettes, which follow the travels of a young Argentinian woman across Europe (Malaga, Madrid, Heidelberg, Berlin) and back to Argentina (Buenos Aires, Patagonia) as she flees from situation to situation, job to job, and relationship to relationship. Within the complexity of the narrator's situation, a backstory emerges about a brutal murder in Patagonia which she may or may not be implicated in, but whether this is the cause of her flight is never entirely clear - she is driven as much by psychological concerns, her relationship with her father, uncertainty about her identity and purpose in life. The novella is, as the title suggests, a catalogue of goodbyes, the result of a decade-long cycle of self-inflicted alienation which the narrator, despite herself, seems fated to perpetuate. In its structure it recalls the rich Argentinian tradition of Cortazar and Borges; its language is by turns stark and elaborate, brutal in its economy and yet poetic in its imagery. 'She is a writer of montage, of narrative leaps, of what she calls 'a fragmentary way of seeing'. In her writing we sense at once a farewell and a recognition, a greeting and a rupturing.' Esther Cross 'All My Goodbyes is one of those books that spins intensity out of brevity. A novel in which careful prose, coupled with an ample and precise vocabulary, coexists with a gracefully non-linear novelistic form.' Eduardo Berti
“It’s the same thing time and time again, shamelessly, tirelessly. It doesn’t matter whether it’s morning or afternoon, winter or summer. Whether the house feels like home, whether somebody comes to the door to let me in. I arrive, and I want to stay, and then I leave.” All My Goodbyes is a novel for the restlessness in us all. Mariana Dimopulos’s protagonist is a young woman on the move. Leaving Argentina at 23 in an attempt to thwart her father’s ambitions and to escape the confines of what she sees as her predictable life, she heads to Madrid with the idea of being an ‘artist’, smoking hashish and hanging out, discussing ‘ideas’ with other travellers. After only a month, she is bored and on the move again, reinventing herself — being Lola or Luisa — whichever identity fits, being a tourist or a traveller, making new backstories, but never quite the truth. She is ambiguous to those she meets and, at times, to the reader also. We follow, or aptly, interact with her life over a decade as she swings between several European places — Madrid, Malaga, Berlin and Heidelberg to mention a few — and South America, washing up in rural Patagonia. The narrative is fractured as she relays her memories, skidding across one experience to the next and back again in a looping circuit, tossing us backwards and forwards in time. We are taken into conversations and thrown out again; we interact with those she has formed relationships with and ultimately said goodbye to. We see her as a traveller, tourist, voyeur, baker, shelf stacker, factory worker, farmhand. Upon this fractured narrative, a web is woven as we piece together the relationships that make her and break her — and always there is an impending sense of something or someone that will change her, a sense of threat with the axe taking centre stage. Dimopulos’s writing is subtle and agile. We do not mind being tossed on our protagonist's sea. In fact, we are curious. We love her late-night conversations with Julia in her kitchen, leaning up against the bench with the sleepy Kolya bunched up in his mother’s arms; we wonder when she will give in to the gentle charms of the scholar Alexander; and question why she is fascinated by the uber entrepreneur Stefan. We know, before it happens, that she will abandon them all, that her desire to leave is greater than her desire to stay. She travels full circle: we encounter her back in her homeland — still restless, still moving — living in the southernmost part of Patagonia. Working for Marco and his mother she finally finds a place to stop. Yet deceit and disaster settle here and take her onward and away, against her will and desire. Is she the architect of her own disaster, creating impossible situations? Her abandonment of people in her life is at times mutually beneficial, at other times cruel. Why does she not speak up, or face up to herself, when she could make a difference? Her riposte is always to leave — to turn her back. While the themes in this novel are restlessness, abandonment and departure, the writing, in contrast, is assured, subtly ironic, agile and so compelling that you will want to reread this — you will want to keep arriving.