17 September 2016

Marie NDiaye: Papa doit manger (2003)

Papa doit manger is a play by Marie NDiaye and, like much of her work, its chief concerns are the family and desertion. Here, a family consisting of Papa of African origin and Maman from France (like NDiaye's parents) live in Courbevoie and have two daughters – Mina and Ami. Papa, though, has abandoned his family and returns after ten years, hoping to be reinstated in the family. He's well-dressed and claims to be a businessman, to have become rich.

But the household has changed and Zelner, a schoolteacher, has moved in. Maman scraped by after Papa left, forcing her to give up her apprenticeship in hairdressing and merely continue working in the hairdressing business for someone else rather than for herself. She doesn't believe a word of Papa's story.

The fact is that Papa has been living in Courbevoie for the last ten years with Anna, is wearing clothes her brother has lent him, has a handicapped baby whom he hates, and is merely trading on his wife's favours, her supposedly eternal love for him, to lend him a lot of money. But although Maman gives him money things don't turn out exactly as he expects.

Although Maman does indeed still love Papa and spends a night in a hotel with him, she later intends to kill him but just disfigures his face with a knife and subsequently marries Zelner.

This is without mentioning the negative opinions of Maman's parents, or the slightly mixed opinions of the two maiden aunts, but through the years to come the jobless Papa sponges off Mina and her husband, regularly visits Maman and her Zelner, and even comes knocking on Maman's door pleading to return: on the day of Zelner's funeral.

Links to my other Marie NDiaye posts:

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Marie NDiaye: La Sorcière
Marie NDiaye: Rosie Carpe
Marie NDiaye: Autoportrait en vert
Marie NDiaye: Ladivine
Marie NDiaye: Trois femmes puissantes
Marie NDiaye: La Femme changée en bûche
Marie NDiaye: Mon cœur à l'étroit
Marie NDiaye: En famille
Marie NDiaye: Un temps de saison

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