A gripping extract from the Man Booker International Prize longlisted novel.
Extract from Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz
Translated by Sarah Moses & Carolina Orloff
Published by Charco Press
I use my sleeping husband’s hand to touch myself. He’s not looking at me, he’s dreaming. He uses my dead hand to touch himself. I’m not looking at him, I’m asleep. We’re in separate bedrooms, on separate mattresses. There’s been a mistake. We’re not meant to be one. No one wants to be a Siamese twin, to have their organs stuck to someone else’s. He smiles while he dreams. I don’t make him smile. I swear at him. I punch him, on the shoulder, in the face. He’s had it up to here with me and vice versa. We’re too much for each other but we carry on. I give him the finger, f*** you, as soon as I get up. Morning, what do you want for breakfast? My outstretched finger in his face. I’d love to break his teeth. The restless child is singing softly between his mum and dad. Who do you love more? asks his Dad, about to explode any second. Is it so difficult for him to say how was your day yesterday? Apparently it is. How was your day yesterday? I ask myself, and answer, fine thanks. I proceed to tell myself about my day, chatting away. I leave the table and he eats my croissant and finishes my coffee. He lets me go, obviously, but then he regrets it and bursts out. You’re evil, leading me into the pastures where the vegetation is taller than us. He doesn’t give in. He makes me walk blindly, the grasses hitting me in the face like thistles, like the bones of a skeleton. Then he decides to take advantage of the situation and presses himself up against me, but it doesn’t go anywhere, and he pushes me further in. I start to speak, I don’t know what words come out of my mouth but I keep them coming and he tells me, When you speak it’s like the car alarm, it goes on and on, it’s unbearable. So I carry on speaking, and now I’m shouting, though I don’t know when I raised my voice. Can’t you speak without shouting? Can’t you give the verbal diarrhoea a rest? He doesn’t understand that I can’t. Control yourself, he says, I don’t understand a thing when you speak non-stop. Why don’t you take a pronunciation course? Why don’t you do a language exchange with a local? We stop somewhere. Now what? But when I go to say something he snaps at me and walks a few feet away to where I can’t see him. I press my fists into my eye sockets. It hurts. What’s the point of crying? I’m a startled deer, a sad, sensitive deer. A cool breeze picks up. He doesn’t come back to me, but he hasn’t left either. I’m just another patch of grass. Nothing happens until suddenly we hear grunts and mooing. I run around in circles and end up on the streaked tarmac. He’s there too, watching the show. The cows have been separated from their calves, when just a second ago they were all grazing together quietly, stuffing their faces. These bovine mothers are causing a massive scene, mooing so loudly they grow hoarse, doing everything they can to resist. But their babies get taken away just the same. See you later, calves, I say, waving goodbye. Bon voyage. The cows are still there by the side of the road, stunned. The vultures arrive in time for lunch with their collars of feathers, holding their cutlery and napkins. We go home together, arms around each other. We love each other so much. We sing a catchy little ditty, why oh why, tell me why could it be, that when a cow’s tied up, her calf won’t leave. Someone else’s misfortune is a swift kick from a horse.
Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz, translated by Sarah Moses & Carolina Orloff, is out now published by Charco Press priced £9.99.
The novel is shortlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize, 2017, and longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize, 2018.
You can read another extract from the book here.
‘I still often ask myself why I was chosen to survive. Twenty-three souls of my family perished.’