Translated by Patricia Felisa Barbeito
Dalkey Archive Press ($16.95)
by Maria Hadjipolycarpou
Amanda Michalopoulou’s God’s Wife, originally published in Greek in 2014 and translated by Patricia Felisa Barbeito in 2019, masterfully weaves together overlapping narratives about divinity and humanity. The main character is on a journey of individuation and self-actualization, sharing her story of transformation from housewife to writer through the power of storytelling: “We are not the same person at the beginning and the end of a story.” The character awakens to the fact that she is unsatisfied with her life, gaining her sense of self from living with God, who loves her but neglects her deepest desires and existential inquiries. Her curiosity and boredom lead her into fascinating explorations of her body, human consciousness and sexuality, and connection to nature.
The religious fervor the narrator was raised in transformed, in adulthood, into devotion to her husband and desire for salvation through him. “We believe that salvation lies in directives sent to us from above, because that’s the way we are constituted: we need directives for everything,” writes Michalopoulou. Looking for answers about the nature of this bequeathed religious devotion, she reads ferociously. Reading philosophy, theology, and literature helps her shape a sense of self, escape God’s oppressive didacticism, and develop her own independent voice. The more God tries to prevent her from evolving into a new level of consciousness, to the point of hiding all pencils to prevent her from writing, the more she feels a sense of urgency to tell her story. “My biggest fear is ... that perhaps, defeated by doubt, I’ll leave these pages half-written and my story—my terrible story—untold.”
Hiding from God, she starts fulfilling her desire for adventure. As she sets out to write, the reader witnesses the transformation of the love story into a story of Creation, but there is a sense of infidelity, of undoing the conventional interpretation of the Biblical story. A steward of her own destiny instead of a sinner for eating forbidden fruit, God’s wife smoothly guides the reader through the depths of her intimate relationship with herself and the process of artistic creation—a form of soulful self-expression and truth telling in fiction. “It is on the doorstep of fiction that I lay all that went wrong between us.”