Americans have a curiously limited vision of France. We may be wild about Chanel sunglasses, Vuitton handbags, Champagne or Paris in the spring, but when it comes to the kinds of contemporary French culture
that can’t be bought in a duty-free shop, most of us draw a blank. Luckily, this veil of benign ignorance is being lifted as publishers in the United States introduce American readers to a new generation of hugely gifted French writers who are reworking the boundaries of fiction, memoir and history (Emmanuel Carrère, Laurent Binet, the American-born Jonathan Littell) or of high art and snuff lit (Michel Houellebecq). Among the recent crop of writers just reaching the top of their game, Marie NDiaye, born in 1967 and now living in Berlin, is pre-eminent.
THREE STRONG WOMEN
By Marie NDiaye
Translated by John Fletcher
Review by Fernanda Eberstadt
NDiaye’s career has been stellar. When she was 18, the legendary editor Jérôme Lindon (best known as Samuel Beckett’s champion) published her first novel to high critical acclaim. Her subsequent fiction and plays have won numerous prizes and distinctions. (NDiaye’s “Papa Doit Manger,” or “Daddy’s Got to Eat,” produced in 2003, is the only play by a living woman to have entered the repertory of the Comédie-Française.) “Three Strong Women” — NDiaye’s most recent novel — won the Prix Goncourt when it appeared in 2009 and made her, according to a survey by L’Express-RTL, the most widely read French author of the year.
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