Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz with Oliver Belanger Mon Tout Rogue
For a while now I’ve been thinking about how the house functions in novels because, though I do not live in a house, the idea is one on a long list of obsessions that keeps surfacing and resurfacing in the books I’m reading. In his theoretical text, The Poetics of Space Bachelard tells us that the attic is a space for daydreams: a space for dreamers. It is also, famously, a place for the “mad” and infirm (i.e. Brontë’s Jane Eyre, and Charlotte Perkins’ The Yellow Wallpaper). Recently, I found this note transcribed in my notebook: I feel as if I am playing house. You know the game: as if all my life is a game of house, from Maeve Brennan’s The Visitor. (I don’t know if this is a real quote or something I’ve simply written down in reaction to reading Brennan’s novella and can’t, at this moment, find my copy.) But it reminds me that the house is also, even more famously, a synecdoche for the domestic (as found in too many books to list). The house can also be a threatening presence—a backdrop, or central character in building horror (as in Daisy Johnson’s Sisters and Helen Oyeyemi’s White Is For Witching). Occasionally, it is both. As in—the kitchen is both a stand-in for the domestic house and the horror. Or, as in this actual quote I transcribed recently: “She lived in her body as though it were an infested house, as if she had to tiptoe through it trying not to touch the floor,” from Ariana Harwicz’s Die, My Love—a novel in which the body becomes the house, and living in it is frightening, to say the least.
Perhaps what I find most exciting about Harwciz’s novel is also what is most challenging about it. Die, My Love is not a novel driven by plot, but rather by following a feeling. Perhaps, many feelings. And it is through the narrator’s (and occasionally others) perception of these feelings, which are often violent, lustful, and consuming, that we as readers can recognize any sort of action. It’s the emotions that tell the story; the emotions that speak from within the body, and when these feelings become external, crashing into the outside landscape of the story, the result is painful for both sides. Which is to say that reading Harwicz can be painful: her prose is dangerous and sharp, intentionally so, and like “a screeching I feel in my teeth” it’s not an experience you’re likely to feel neutral about.
In fact, there is nothing at all neutral about this month’s pairing. The Mon Tout Rouge is 100% Pineau D’Aunis from Oliver Bellanger is just the sort of obsessive winemaking style we live for. As in—mon tout means my all, which sounds a bit like one of the many diminutives Harwicz’s narrator would not respond kindly to). As a wine, it’s a mouthful of brambly, wild berry juice “dripping from the corners of my mouth,” with notes of cherry pit and iron lingering under your fingernails. It’s a light-bodied red that, like this novel, holds tension like a trussed up bird: drink it over several evenings or the length of this taut novel—the two together are the feeling of “an instant that’s still going on”— or, at the very least, a “wild, exhilarating” ride.
Ariana Harwicz is an Argentine writer, screenwriter, playwright, and filmmaker. Born in 1977, Die, My Love is her first novel (translated by Sarah Moses & Carolina Orloff and published in English in 2017) and was longlisted for the International Booker Prize in 2018. Her follow up novels, Feebleminded and Tender, have recently been published in English (2019 and 2022) and are part of her three novel triptych. It is rumored that Die, My Love will be adapted for film soon.
Domaine De La Piffaudiere is a Loire Valley natural, biodynamic wine project by Oliver Bellanger. The Mon Tout Rouge is a wine dedicated to the Pineau D’aunis varietal: meant to be delicate but crushable. Serve chilled in the summer, but also a perfect cooler weather red served room temperature.