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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 110 | volume  | October-November, 2016



                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 110October-November, 2016

Living to Tell Stories

p. 1
Marija Gjorgjieva Dimova


Living to Tell Stories

    (Sasho Dimoski. Alma Mahler, Skopje: Kultura, 2014)


    In the end, we’ll all become stories.
    Margaret Atwood


    This life is nothing unless you leave
    your story behind in the best way possible[1].

    Sasho Dimoski

Translated by: Marija Spirkovska

    Faced with the poetical challenge posed by the claim that all stories have already been told and what remains now is solely the quest for modes of narrative reconception of the familiar, of the aforesaid, contemporary literature makes a compromise to find its creative space among auto-referential considerations of literature, of its conventions and limits, and its reference to historical reality (historical events and figures). The novel Alma Mahler (2014) by Macedonian author Sasho Dimoski contributes significantly to this literary constellation by offering an authentic blend of thematic universality, modernist narrative techniques, and interdiscursive and intermedial relations.
    The novel recounts the story of Alma Maria Schindler Mahler (1879-1964), the wife of Gustav Mahler, the late romanticist Austrian composer of Jewish descent, who was nineteen years her senior. Like him, she was an active musician (she composed seventeen vocal and piano compositions), although she abandoned furthering her career. Through its interest in a historical/real figure, Dimoski’s novel assumes an interdiscursive position towards the other, numerous (literary, cinematic, musical, memoir, epistolary, journal) textualisations of Alma Mahler, using them as a background within which it situates the story of/about Alma, both novelistic and peculiar (to her). Codiscursive relations are also indicated through the separate references in the novel to recognisable (auto)biographical and historical contexts, such as references to family tragedies (the suicide of Gustav’s brother, Otto, the death of Gustav’s daughter, Maria); premieres of symphonies (like the spectacular premiere of the Eighth Symphony in Munich in 1910); wars (“Wars took their toll, too. Or they will in the times ahead. I ran away from all those wars.”) (Dimoski 2014, 57),[2] all counteracted by Alma’s intimate confession, as a confession of a single participant in and witness of these events. Indeed, such relations, manifested on various levels in the novel, are suggested through the division of its structure in eleven chapters, of which ten are entitled after Gustav Mahler’s ten symphonies, while chapter transitions are mediated by paraquotations, that is, intermedial musical quotations. Thus, titles and subtitles establish the framework that refers to Gustav’s professional chronology, which, in turn, frames the achronological story told by Alma. In a broader sense, this suggests the parallel that exists


1. Translator’s note: In the absence of an official English translation of Sasho Dimoski’s novel Alma Mahler, all quotes from it have been translated into English for the sole purposes of this essay.
2. All quotations have been extracted from the following edition: Sasho Dimoski, Alma Mahler, Skopje: Kultura, 2014.

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