Self-Portrait in Green Excerpted at A Public Space

marie_ndiaye-greenWe are publishing Marie NDiaye’s amazing “memoir” Self-Portrait in Green this November. It’s a really strange book, one that, I would say, tackles the memoir genre in a way that few have attempted before. At the least, NDiaye is drawing on her considerable skills as a novelist in creating something that feels a lot more like a surrealist novel than a memoir.

But anyway, A Public Space has excerpted part of this book in its Summer issue. You can read it by picking up a copy of that issue, or yo can have a look at their website, as they’ve also made it available online.

I.

I never met this woman, whose presence in my personal legends eclipses, by its incandescence, some of her more irrefutably real neighbors. I’m not even sure she’s actual. In the end, it makes little difference. She remains a pure emblem. Everything I know of her comes to me from Jenny.

A time came when Jenny found herself at a dead end. She was a little less than fifty years old, and everything that had once been hers, everything at which she’d worked so hard to succeed, everything she’d devotedly loved had all flitted away in the space of a year. Her adopted son was wandering the world and refused to see her, her husband had left her, she’d just been laid off. Everything had vanished. She’s a passive and trusting person, and nothing she’d done was really to blame for this ruination. It had simply happened, beside her, without her realizing it, and when she woke up it was too late to hope she might recover what was lost.

When I met her she was tall and thin. She wore her hair in a loose bun, and that hair was artificially of the palest blonde. Is hair color a reflection of some moral quality, of goodness and innocence, of those virtues’ opposite? Obviously not. The pallor of Jenny’s hair in no way expressed what she was . . .

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