Author(s): Ariana Harwicz
In a patch of dilapidated French countryside, a woman struggles with the demons of her multitudinous internal conflicts. Embracing exclusion, yet desiring to belong, craving freedom whilst feeling trapped, yearning for family life and simultaneously wanting to burn the entire facade down.
If a thought is thought it must be thought through to its end. This formula is productive both of great misery and of great literature, but, for most people, either consequence is fairly easily avoided through a simple lack of tenacity or focus, or through fear. Unfortunately, we are not all so easily saved from ourselves by such shortcomings. The narrator of Ariana Harwicz’s razor-fine novel Die, My Love finds herself living in the French countryside with a husband and young child, incapable of feeling anything other than displaced in every aspect of her life, both trapped by and excluded from the circumstances that have come to define her. She both longs for and is revolted by family life with her husband and child, the violence of her ambivalences make her incapable of either accepting or changing a situation about which there is nothing ostensibly wrong, she withdraws into herself, and, as the gap separating herself from the rest of existence widens, her attempts to bridge it become both more desperate and more doomed, further widening the gap. Every detail of everything around her causes her pain and harms her ability to feel anything other than the opposite of the way she feels she should feel. This negative electrostatic charge, so to call it, builds and builds but she is unable to discharge it, to return her situation to ‘normal’, to relieve the torment. In some ways, the support and love of her husband make it harder to regain a grip on ‘reality’ - if her husband had been a monster, her battles could have been played out in their home rather than inside her (it is for this reason, perhaps, that people subconsciously choose partners who will justify the negative feelings towards which they are inclined). The narrator feels more affinity with animals than with humans, she behaves erratically or not at all, she becomes obsessed with a neighbour but the encounters with him that she describes, and the moments of self-obliterative release they provide, are, I would say, entirely fantasised. Between these fantasies and ‘objective reality’, however, falls a wide area about which we and she must remain uncertain whether her perceptions, understandings and reactions are accurate or appropriate. At times the narrator’s love for her child creates small oases of anxiety in her depression, but these become rarer. Harwicz’s writing is exquisite, both sensitive and brutal, both lucid and claustrophobic, her observations both subtle and overwhelming. As the narrator loses her footing, the writer ensures that we are borne with her on through the novel, an experience not dissimilar to gathering speed downhill in a runaway pram*.
* Not a spoiler.