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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Alma Mahler

Sasho Dimoski

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To purchase Alma Mahler

Title: Alma Mahler
Author: Sasho Dimoski
Genre: Novel
Written: 2014 (Eng. 2018)
Length: 65 pages
Original in: Macedonian
Availability: Alma Mahler - US
Alma Mahler - UK
Alma Mahler - Canada
  • Macedonian title: Алма Малер
  • Translated by Paul Filev

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Our Assessment:

B : narrow, limited focus, but interesting presentation

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Alma Mahler is a very short work, a generously spaced sixty-some odd pages, and it focuses only on a brief period of Alma Mahler's life: she outlived composer-husband Gustav by more than fifty years, but author Dimoski is concerned practically solely with their ten-year union. Already in the opening section, looking towards death and the loss of her great love, Dimoski has her lament:

     Where to after that, Alma Mahler ?
     Nowhere, for the next fifty years. Or more. Or less. After that comes darkness. Perhaps something will happen in the darkness. Or nothing will happen, I can't possibly know. I can't imagine anything.
       Dimoski begins with a 'Death'-preamble chapter, and then presents the story over ten more chapters, one for each of Gustav Mahler's symphonies, each chapter with a musical quote (in musical notation) as an epigraph of sorts. They chronicle the marriage over the years, while Alma also reflects beyond the concurrent events.
       Alma reflects on her relationship with Gustav -- her complete devotion to him, and his to his music. Summing up, she suggests:
I was your barricade against the outside world. Against artificial sounds. I imbued your music with the sounds of nature. You were my barricade against the world -- because I was always simply satisfied with the events n your life.
       Alma also tried her hand at musical composition, but set it aside while with Gustav, who apparently did not take her talent seriously, telling her she should: "Leave music to the composers". [Given that she published her collection of 'Five Songs' shortly before Gustav's death, the treatment of this seems somewhat of an over-simplification by Dimoski.] She is presented as willingly trying to serve and support Gustav -- even as he can only lose himself in his art, and can't share his grief with her over, for example, the death of their daughter Maria in 1907. It boils down to:
You had your music, I just had you.
       Dimoski has her claim that this, her identity as the wife of Gustav Mahler, was her one, true role, that even as she was born with a different name and was romantically involved with creative greats Gustav Klimt and Alexander Zemlinsky before she even met Mahler: "Alma Mahler was born Alma Mahler". Looking both back and ahead (to husbands Gropius and Werfel), she mentions: "There was another Gustav, a Walter, and a Franz as well", but they're almost incidental:
The houses and their contents will change. I will change. I will be a different Alma. I will age, but I won' feel myself aging until some future event wipes me off the face of the earth. But Alma Mahler will continue to live on even beyond that.
       It's an interesting though ultra-reductive take on Alma Mahler, a woman who was, after all, arguably so much more than just Gustav Mahler's wife.
       Dimoski can't quite keep from acknowledging who else figured in her amazing life, but future husbands and lovers are dismissed as people she: "whiled away time with", as Dimoski has her admit about her life:
I didn't have the strength to spend it alone. I always needed someone by my side. That's my greatest weakness, which I attribute to my nature, and the most important battle that I failed to win. To be happy enough alone with myself. My whole life had I had a terrible need of others: to share my life with and mean something to someone.
       Dimoski does present the marital dynamics -- Alma's neediness and Gustav's inability to be there for her in the ways she longed for -- well, but the choice of this pairing poses some difficulties. Alma's life beyond is too well-known for Dimoski to be truly convincing, Gustav as be-all and end-all. The choice of voice -- the prose is poetic-elegiac, and Alma's perspective one that includes, without fully admitting, the future -- complicates matters as well, watering down her grief's immediacy.
       Alma Mahler reads as a prose-poem (and cri de cœur-cum-dirge), and a theatrical one as well -- with musical overtones --; it's no surprise that the author has also made a stage-version of the text.
       Interesting in form and presentation -- and perspective -- Alma Mahler still stumbles over its use and reading of its dominant central figure. In acknowledging -- even if only incidentally -- how much more to Alma('s life) there was, the thesis, of her identity being so very much 'Alma Mahler', isn't -- and can't be -- fully convincing.

- M.A.Orthofer, 4 April 2018

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Alma Mahler: Reviews: Alma Mahler: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Macedonian author and playwright Sasho Dimoski (Сашо Димоски) was born in 1985.

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© 2018 the complete review

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