Creating the novelistic story of/about Alma Mahler through the suggested interaction between the personal and the universal, Dimoski skillfully draws and interweaves two triads, which derive from the character’s reminiscent-associative narrations, and through which every existential evolution eventually occurs. The first triad is rendered through the establishment of the interpersonal relations: I – you (Alma Mahler – Gustav Mahler), I – I (Alma Schindler/Mahler – Alma Mahler), I – the Other/others (lovers, voices, stories, glances, truths). These relations are also overtly manifested through Alma’s appeals to herself (i.e. to the Alma of her youth and the current, “old Alma”, as she dubs herself), and through her invocations of Gustav, which often have an undertone of rhetorical questions. The novel also projects this relation at a higher level, as an archetypal representation of the male-female relation, summarised in Alma’s conclusion: “Women are condemned to presentiments in the same way that men are condemned to simplicity” (Dimoski 2014, 11). In fact, the I – you/the Other interplay is suggested as indispensable opposition and complement, which will verify the quest for one’s own identity, as well as for the meaning(lessness) of one’s existence. Not coincidentally, then, does the novel begin with Alma’s interrogative line “Who am I?”, mediating later Alma’s depiction of herself through the functions she performs in relation to the Other/others: “For a long time you were the only one who mattered. I was your shadow. Alma Mahler, the failed composer. Alma Mahler. Your deep shade. Your wife, lover, mother of your dead child, your governess, cook, nursemaid. Your fear and insecurity … I always needed someone else to stand by me … My whole life I had a dire need of sharing: to share myself with someone else and thus find my meaning … my need was like an illness, and I found my cure around others, when I took part in their existence, in their meaning. Hence all those men. Hence all those loves. Hence you” (Dimoski 2014, 7, 44). Indeed, the last chapter, entitled Finale, represents a sort of an epitaphic summary of Alma and Gustav’s life balances, yet, again, this is offered as a correlative sum of her life as opposed to his, which, in its turn, subtly tackles the relation between art and life, indicating that life obtains meaning through art. In a broader sense, this refers to the recognisable dialectic and relational character of identity – its dependence on relations established between I and the Other, which implies the paradoxical act of reference to the Other and differentiation of oneself from the Other, underscoring it as a mode of identity shaping. In Alma’s view, “things depend on each other. So do people. If it hadn’t been for you, I’d never be what I am … I was your barricade against things. Against artificial sounds. I infused nature in your notes … You were my barricade against the world – solely because the world of your events only ever sufficed for me” (Dimoski 2014, 9, 12).
The interpersonal triad interpenetrates the second, temporal triad, which, similarly derives from the reminiscent-associative testimonies of the character, and in which the present, past, and future correlate. The present, located in the moment of aggravation of the health condition of Gustav, who is transferred by train to Vienna, as a moment of confrontation with the real loss of the husband, indicates the return to the past (“This train will take us back to the beginning”, concludes the wife), to the certainty of what has already been endured, which, from a present vantage point, is enveloped by dilemmas of its meaning(lessness). Yet, simultaneously, the current moment also intensifies Alma’s rumination of the future, the uncertainty of the day and life afterwards, without Gustav. “Where will this day go and where will it take me? What will happen to me after this day?… Where then, Alma Mahler? … I’m sorry for thinking about such matters now. I’m sorry for you. The loss hasn’t happened yet, and here I am thinking about how life will thence proceed” (Dimoski 2014, 7, 59). Finally, the presence of these two triads and their inevitable and continuous interweaving in the novel, which is also suggested as a trajectory that everyone’s lives follow, is summed up in Alma’s conclusion: “I will live your memory through time” (Dimoski 2014, 16) (Underlined by M. Gj.)
The interpersonal (identity) and temporal triads, through which Alma’s evocations meander, flow into what she recognises as their lowest common denominator – love and music (“Love can’t die, Gustav. Neither can music. It will stay. It will thrive”) (Dimoski 2014, 16), which, in their turn, act as metonymic and synecdochical mediators in the intersection of life and art. Additionally, the equivalence between love and art is also supported by the fact that both are regarded as two forms of memory that will transcend the existence here and now, though leaving behind a trace, a rem(a)inder of what used to be, like two mnemonics occluding oblivion. “A simple truth, my dear. When people pass on, love remains to be lived. There is no dying love, there is only forgotten love, which, if forgotten, was never love to begin with … Music remembers more than any other form, for its form is always the same. It can’t be translated. It can’t be purified” (Dimoski 2014, 109-110).