26 December 2015

Marie NDiaye: La Femme changée en bûche (1989)

Marie NDiaye was influenced by David Garnett's novel Lady into Fox for her title of La Femme changée en bûche (lit. 'Woman Turned into a Log'), or more exactly influenced by the title of the French translation: Une femme changée en renaud. In a review of the novel on 30 March 1989 in Libération, Michèle Bernstein calls her article De la souffrance d’être Radiguette (lit. 'On the Suffering of Being Radiguette'), an obvious reference to Raymond Radiguet (1903–23), whose first novel Le Diable au corps (1923) was written when he was seventeen. Ndiaye's first novel Quant au riche avenir (lit. 'As for the Rich Future') was written when she was seventeen as well, and La Femme changée en bûche, her third novel, was published when she was twenty-two.

The novel is divided into three parts, the first occupying half of the book and the other two roughly a quarter each. The first and third parts have a number of similarities, whereas the second part partly contains a separate but related story. But that's not the only difference: the second part has a number of paragraphs, often made where there is dialogue, whereas parts one and three contain huge paragraphs with often very long sentences and any dialogue is within them – in fact the third part in itself is a huge thirty-seven-page paragraph. It doesn't make for easy reading, and I found the third part particularly irksome, although the first part – painful though it is in some respects – has its fascinating aspects.

I can't find the reference at present, although I believe NDiaye came at a later stage to 'disown' her first three publications, possibly in a similar way to Linda Lê taking issue with her own earlier works. Nevertheless the seeds are here for subjects taken up in NDiaye's more mature novels, such as: reality versus fiction or appearance versus reality, the supernatural, metaphorphosis (such as the cat-human Mécistée who seems to experience atavisms nostalgically), the protagonist's love of trivia, and on and on. I have a strong feeling that I'll be re-visiting this book, much as it now seems to be mainly juvenilia.

Links to my other Marie NDiaye posts:
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Marie NDiaye: La Sorcière
Marie NDiaye: Rosie Carpe
Marie NDiaye: Mon cœur à l'étroit
Marie NDiaye: Ladivine
Marie NDiaye: Trois femmes puissantes
Marie NDiaye: Autoportrait en vert | Self-Portrait in Green
Marie NDiaye: Papa doit manger
Marie NDiaye: En famille
Marie NDiaye: Un temps de saison
Marie NDiaye: Les Serpents
Marie NDiaye: Les Grandes Personnes

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