The Paris Review: Mariana Dimópulos Interview
In the wake of the US publication her debut novel, All My Goodbyes (tr. Alice Whitmore), Mariana Dimópulos spoke with Jennifer Croft, Man Booker International Prize-winning translator of Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights, for The Paris Review. Croft describes the book as “a tale of murder in Patagonia and of wanderlust, or rather, a lust for an arrival that never quite happens.” It’s a wonderful, wide-ranging conversation on narrative form, labor, travel, and the construction (and deconstruction) of identity:
In this book, you write: “My freedom always implies the slavery of another. So, my heart asks (and at heart I’m no good): if I enslave myself, does that mean someone else is set free?” Can you talk a little bit about what this means?
Since my early years, I’ve been interested in how people live and how the social differences between people come to be. The world is far from being a fair place. The sentence you are pointing at is an intended fallacy, and its answer is no. There is no perfect balance between two constants—free people and enslaved people—and there is no personal, isolated solution to the problem of inequality. But if you are young, like the protagonist, and you have a critical vision about how our world is built, with its contradictions and conformism, then you may think in this way. […]
Near the end of the book, the narrator lists all the people she has said goodbye to. All these crimes of abandonment she has committed make it seem as though she might even deserve the murder of her lover in the pages that follow. And yet, what immediately follows this list in the book is this:
It’s turned out to be a perfect evening—it’s snowing, I’m rugged up in sheepskin, and there is a white path stretching before me. I’ve just left my job, thrown my personal documents into the sea, and walked out of my room. I’ve left a suitcase in Hamburg Square, accumulating damp. I hope someone steals it, out of pity. With every step I bury a sentence, a name, until I’ve buried them all. I am twenty-six years old and I am brand new. Now that I have nothing, I think everything belongs to me.
Is she not right to believe that everything belongs to her in that moment?
She is right. The book is a personal as well as a social inquiry. We are accustomed to thinking of building an identity as a process of accumulation. The narrator discovers that the inverse is equally possible. Of course, it’s rather a speculative idea. We need food, shelter, and a hospital when we are sick. Poverty is an old and absolute disgrace in our society, and we are responsible for that. But if you are young, and you are not poor, and you don’t need to feed someone back at home then you realize that most of the rules of our world are there to be questioned. That’s what she does. It comes at a cost.
The interview appeared on February 11, 2019. You can read the conversation in full at The Paris Review.