Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

"My mother is a river" by Donatella di Pietrantonio (Calisi Press, 2015)

Translated by Franca Scurti Simpson. About 150 pages. An extract is online.

A daughter of a senile mother tells the mother the story of the mother's life with lots of period detail of rural life. The mother's referred to as "you" after being called "she" on the first page. Sometimes the present intercedes - "No, I won't take the melon back with me, we still haven't eaten the one I brought back yesterday" (p.56). It's also about the mother-daughter relationship. The daughter feels she wasn't shown love by the mother. The narrator sometimes introspects -

  • "My guilt is an empty space, the vacuum left by my neglect" (p.63)
  • "I let her invade me, still. Infest me. I react to her and waste my time" (p.149)
  • "I feel guilty for every gratuitous happiness" (p.151)

Towards the end, she wonders if she should be honest with her mother at last - "Now I can tell her everything about us, without mercy. She'd forget later. It would be but a fleeting wound. I fantasise about it, but I can't find the courage to be so cowardly" (p.156)

The senility is sometimes expressed in imagery - "A big Christmas tree with the lights going out, one after the other. They fade silently until they vanish, or else they burst. Their splendour no longer outlines its shape, many branches are already in darkness. Every Christmas the lights are more distant from one another, more lonely" (p.94)

The narrator didn't like the village dances - "I hated them when they made me take part in the tribal rites, as I called them. I was the female on display for males biologically old enough to reproduce. I hated being chosen in that way, and that it was her in particular, a woman herself, who made me submit to the customs of that wretched world" (p.49). She's a professional woman, with a child, but we never discover much about her. One sentence confused me a little - "The body is listless, it leaks the emptiness that drains it" (p.13)

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