Marie NDiaye Writes New Book, Sounds a Lot Like Marie NDiaye

Courtesy of World Literature Today, we have a look at Marie NDiaye’s latest French novel, titled Ladivine. WLT bills it as having “perhaps the most complex plot of any of her works,” but regardless of how evolved of a work it is, bears a number of NDiaye’s signature moves, which will be familiar to anyone who has picked up All My Friends.

First we have the inordinately complicated system of relationships, all of course ripe for unraveling:

The novel begins from the perspective of Clarisse Rivière, whose life has been shaped by her refusal to admit to those she knows, especially Richard, her husband, and Ladivine, her daughter, that her mother, Ladivine Sylla, is a poor black seamstress. She has taken the name Clarisse to sound more bourgeois, but to her mother, whom she visits secretly, she will always be Malinka.

Then we have NDiaye’s constant willingness to even further complicate her narratives (which, you may have noticed, are not lacking for complexity to begin with):

The perspective changes to that of the daughter, who occasionally sees her mother. After Clarisse has been brutally murdered by a lover she has accepted into her house and even introduced to her own mother, her daughter tries to understand what has happened.

And then we have the part where a character spontaneously transforms into a dog:

Ladivine feels she is being watched by a brown dog, with whom she identifies, and into whom she presumably turns.

Admittedly, our own NDiaye title, All My Friends, doesn’t have any species-switching, although “Brulard’s Day” does include some decidedly creepy canines that bear some resemblance to the one in Ladivine.

Interestingly as well, the WLT review references a constant feature in NDiaye’s books: the feeling that she’s drawing on her Senegalese ancestry, even as she (and the text, to an extent) resolutely deny it:

NDiaye has often said that she has no relation to Africa, as her Senegalese father left France when she was a small child, but she is often considered an African author and is sometimes classified as African in libraries. As in her earlier works, a racial theme underlies the story, but it is almost hidden. Only once is Ladivine Sylla referred to as black. When her granddaughter visits an unnamed anglophone African country with her husband and children, she is mistaken for someone else, presumably the result of skin color, and she accepts this different identity easily.

Una Novelita Lumpen Adapted for Film . . . Can a 2666 Adaptation Be Long Off?

Not getting complacent after having cornered the market on international literature, posthumous phenomenon Roberto Bolano is now setting his sights on film. He’s already starred in a documentary (with more to come), and now there are reports of the first film adapted from one of his novels, the still-untranslated Una Novelita Lumpen (which may give some indication of its literary quality, given that virtually everything the man wrote has now been brought into English).

The novel may not be his best, but the film, so Kieran McGrath writes, is solid:

However, although the film becomes more sensuous, Bianca is still largely a mysterious figure and if we feel anything for her by the end of the film it is surely a testament to Scherson’s skillful adaptation of the conclusion of Bolaño’s novella. Bolaño always has his sly use of humor to soften the complexities of his oneiric and ominous plots, but Scherson stays away from associating herself too closely with the writer’s narrative style. As a result, “Il Futuro” is a compelling film from a director who is still to make her best work.

The film, it seems, has been getting around and having some modest success, which bring to mind the question: are more Bolano adaptations that far off? And if we do see more films from Bolano’s work, will that day come when the inevitable 2666 3-D trilogy hits theaters, in all its apocalyptic glory?

Read Jonathan Littell in the Little Star App . . . Little Star, What’s That?

This week, the new New York journal Little Star is featuring an excerpt from our fall book by Jonathan Littell—The Fata Morgana Books—on its app.

That’s a lot of info, so let me back up a bit. Little Star has been around since 2010, and in that time it’s put together 4 issues: you can see all the authors they’ve published here. Recently, they’ve begun releasing weekly blasts through their app. You can read our Jonathan Littell excerpt in #18, alongside Melissa Green and Jorge Luis Borges.

Here’s some context for the excerpt: it’s a self-contained section called “Between Planes” about 10 pages long, from a novella about 4 times as long titled “Etudes.” The novella chronicles a love affair across 4 separate years in 4 separate seasons (“Between Planes” covers “Spring 1997″). The whole thing takes place against a backdrop of an undefined conflict slightly reminiscent of the Second World War (although it can’t possibly be that since this is the ’90s).

The whole thing is a little Borgesian, a little like Tom McCarthy’s C., with people and places being replaced by cypher-like letters, everything taking place in an abstracted realm that feels once-removed from the world, yet also eerily real. I think if you read the excerpt you’ll also catch whiffs of Italo Calvino, and if you eventually read all of The Fata Morgana Books you’ll think a little of Clarice Lispector.

Here’s the first paragraph from “Between Planes.” To read more, get the app.

My misfortune is that there had been this contact, that a part of me had remained caught by her and had gotten me tangled up in the workings of this machine. Without that, nothing would have happened, I could have admired her, desired her calmly, and her indifference would never have touched me. It had begun during a brief visit to K…. I had met an old friend there, A., who had put me up at her place, on her sofa. C., who shared the apartment with A., had come back at four in the morning (the train, apparently, had gotten stuck), making a huge racket because she thought the door was locked, and had left again at six. During the day, I had come across her at A.’s office, overexcited, always in motion, a manic whirlwind that left no room for getting acquainted. She seemed unable to stop even for an instant. Her features were hard, but mobile, and not without beauty; and especially she had a furious energy, concentrated on work to the exclusion of all else, but capable too at times of generating bursts of lively cheerfulness that lit up those who otherwise just kept bouncing off of her or bumping against her. A. had already left, leaving me in the apartment. I would probably not have seen much of C., since I myself was supposed to leave the next day; that morning, there were riots in the city, all flights were suspended, and we stayed stuck in the apartment. In the afternoon, unable to bear it any more, C. decided to go out, and I offered to go with her; the authorities, because of the situation, had forbidden the use of vehicles; adhering to the letter if not the spirit of their instructions, we went out on foot. At the time I had a slight injury on my big toe, an injury that due to the climate and the irregularity of my way of life had degenerated into a nasty infection. So I was limping, and our journey across the city was a comic spectacle — she straight, proud, hurried, and I hobbling along, more than a little amused by the situation. Our shopping done with, as all work was out of the question for that day, we sat on the terrace of a bar on the main street for a beer. This was the first time since she had arrived in K…, she told me, that she had taken such a break. We chatted, she told me about her many trips, her stays in countries where I myself had long dreamt of going. An old comrade, whom I hadn’t seen in a year, joined us, just as surprised as us by this unexpected day off, and we traded a few memories of the country where we had met, an atrocious region, but one that had seduced us both. The beer was cold, the terrace sunny, the rioters passed by in commandeered trucks, waving green branches and chanting slogans against the new authorities. It was pleasant, I think I can say that even C. had relaxed a little, and we were both in a cheerful mood when we returned to the apartment. The state of my foot had grown worse, and it had become very painful to walk. C. offered to cut open the abscess a little in order to relieve it. I had had a few drinks, and I agreed. I settled into an armchair and lit a cigar as she set to work, my foot wedged between her thighs. Her colleague D., exhausted, had fallen asleep sitting on the sofa, and the wild laughter that the pain of the operation strangely caused me didn’t awaken her. Between fits of laughter I dragged furiously on my cigar, C. kept making me drink and scraping away at the infection; I took such a keen pleasure in this charming operation that I hardly noticed the discomfort. I put an end to it when I reached the end of my cigar. C. held my foot very tenderly, she cleaned it and bandaged it properly; D., awake, went to bed. C. and I, I think, stayed talking for a long time. Our hands sought each other, touched, played with each other, intertwined. We were still drinking, nothing else happened, the damage had already been done.

More Praise for Marie NDiaye’s All My Friends

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Two Lines Press author Marie NDiaye. First she was in London to read from her book Three Strong Women at the awards ceremony of the International Booker Prize (see the video below). While Stateside her latest book, our very own All My Friends, has been garnering some rave reviews.

Here’s Michelle Bailat-Jones at The Rumpus:

Marie NDiaye has a significant publishing history. Her work has also stimulated a good-sized body of critical writing in France. Hers is a unique voice among other contemporary French writers, and her fictional vision both intricate and distinctive. She is an example of exactly the kind of non-Anglophone writer who should have already been translated in full. Hopefully, this new translation will renew interest in her work, prompt further translations and give English readers the chance to experience her entire contribution to world letters.

And here’s an excellent discussion of the book at Mookse and Gripes:

All My Friends is a collection of five stories, each featuring characters and situations grotesque and unconventional, yet fully realized. Each is narrated by or closely follows characters fighting — foolishly fighting – their situation in a world that, in more cases than not, despises them.

Indeed, NDiaye is the real deal, and this book is as good as they say it is. Through June 15, you can enter to win a free copy through Goodreads, or just go ahead and buy your own.