‘Hollow Heart’ by Viola di Grado

Hollow-heartAriel Starling at The Quarterly Conversation:

Though Hollow Heart is centered on the death of Dorotea Giglio, the narrative does not much rely on or emphasize the specificity of its contemporary Sicilian setting, or even in many ways the details of Dorotea’s life or character. This may be the point: “When they’re alive,” Di Grado writes, “people are so free that they need boundaries . . . the rip-off comes when you find out the truth. There’s no wall, no dividing line, no boundary, no end. . . . I’m equal to everything.” However, this reading is somewhat undercut by the complex relationships maintained by individual dead to their bodies, as well as the individuality maintained by Dorotea in her letters to fellow dead and her relationship with her mother. Whether or not this is intentional by Di Grado (and one could certainly argue that it is), it is probably best not to look to Hollow Heart for a final message or cleanly constructed metaphysical frameworks. Its aim is to provide an aesthetic experience of the contemplation of death, rather than an argued treatise on the afterlife.

Despite certain small issues it poses to the book’s structure, the mother-daughter component is perhaps the most compelling element of the story. Reminiscent of Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek’s The Piano Teacher, Dorotea and Greta Giglio’s relationship is characterized by troubled obsession and a tendency toward the psychoanalytic. A largely unsuccessful children’s fashion photographer, Greta spent much of Dorotea’s childhood trying to “make her disappear entirely” through stylized shots with long exposure times, causing the young Dorotea’s features to blend into her surroundings—notably similar to the blurring of identity which she describes after her death.

more here.