Review: Imminence by Mariana Dimopulos.
In the novel Imminence the Argentinian narrator repeats that she is ‘not a woman’ to her female friends who conspire and complain about men, meaning she doesn’t want the roles and responsibilities expected of her, that it is expected she will desire. She cultivates an icy detachment, repressing emotions by focusing on the cold logic of maths games. She and her two friends decide to avoid marriage and children, and disdain the match-making and trawling for men of other women they know.
Yet one friend succumbs and advises that ‘you’ll have a baby because you don’t want to die’. Women prolong and renew their own lives by creating life, her friend thinks. The main character does have a child but, rather than renew her life, she nearly dies from an infection and blood loss. When she eventually returns home she has a numbness towards her child and a weariness about the simplest tasks. In this state she replays scenes from her past, and the novel’s structure is like a fever – fragmentary, looping, memories pressing.
The novel explores women’s relationships with women and men, the pressure to conform to ideals about what women should be. Ideals imposed by both men and women, and what happens when these experiences dovetail down to the particular experience of postnatal depression.
Author Mariana Dimopulos depicts her character’s iciness with sensitivity and enhances her dark, oblique outlook with taut, striking phrases (which may or may not sound more common in the original Spanish) – TV is ‘tyranny’, a boyfriend has theories like other people have lice, her character’s heart is ‘dark soil’ that grows thistles. Dimopulos evokes the hot nights of Buenos Aires. This seems to compound the oppressiveness of expectations, and the splinteriness and fogginess of postnatal depression, as well as contrasting with the coldness of her character’s emotions.
Absence is one of the novel’s oppressive elements. There is a theme of men appearing and disappearing, and the character seems to lose track of where her newborn son is at times, reflecting an absence of bond. There is a feeling of attachment being continually stretched, broken and repaired. A trip into the desert is remembered as a story of breakdown, loss and rescue.
Abandonment ‘lurks’ behind absences, says the character, and I suppose this is where the title of the novel fits in. ‘Imminence’ suggests something waiting in the wings just offstage, something which could be good or bad – Christ’s return or a volcanic eruption, say. In the novel there is the sense of constantly keeping the bad things at bay. But it is not giving too much away to say that while the novel portrays fragile, fragmentary relationships, it also points to the possibility of persistent love negotiating the darkness.