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First published August 20, 2009
How does the fact that others are doing well diminish you?Out of all the Prix Goncourt-winning books I've read, this one has the lowest rating on Goodreads. It's doing worse than coprophilic Nazis, colonial pedophilia, ferociously internalized misogyny, and some of the longest sentences that ever longed. It bugged and bugged to the point that, feminist with a strong streak of engineering mentality that I am, I went and crunched the data of the books on my own to read shelf, specifically regarding the intersection of women authors with books with less than a 3.7 rating, the popular line that separates wheat from the chaff. While books by women make up 36.8% of my to be reads, they are 50.1% of the 3.6's and below, the chance of such a rating being 27.9% as compared to the 16.1% of books by men. I could just have shitty ass taste in choosing future female-authored reads, but it does make me wonder, especially when considering the 3.83 average this book enjoys among my GR friends.
If only, he thought, he could prove before his inner tribunal that he'd had good reason to get so terribly angry, he'd be in a better position to regret his behavior and his whole nature would be improved thereby.The poor rating's a shame, for this is some of the best anti-girlfriend in a refrigerator I've read in every sense of the word. I know the whole shifty-eyed reaction to affirmative action and all the "first _________ to ____________" in the third millenia but seriously, this book is so beautiful in its inherent clarity of thought and imagery that their application to the rarest of scenes encountered in literature is just an added bonus. Immigration is a popular byline in the book awards these days, but the triptych offered here of colonizer, colonized, and postcolonial is nothing short of masterful, a mind behind every face and a reckoning in every mind.
…an exaggerated, resolute, anxious friendship that bore no relationship to the boy’s particular qualities and that could suddenly turn to hatred without Rudy’s realizing it, or even understanding that hatred…There's the demon of so called "political correctness" you're looking for. Not respect, not recognition, not even a simple attempt at communication, but an assumption of pompous charity that believes itself altruistic while refusing to become as selfless as the descriptor implies. Sentiment breeds failure, failure breeds guilt, and guilt doesn't do shit so long as your personal preoccupation with your privilege prevents you from seeing others as human beings with their own lives, goals, and concerns that for the most part lie far outside the ring of -isms. So long as you obsess without acknowledging the need for time and patience, you'll never discover that those descended from the crimes of your ancestors don't need your overeager overtures of friendship. Commitment to empathetic effort forevermore, yes. Defensive charity, no.
Because their only son had married her against her wishes, because she had not produced a child, and because she enjoyed no one's protection, they had tacitly, naturally, without animus or ulterior motive, separated her from the human community, and so their hard, narrow, old people's eyes made no distinction between the shape called Khady and the innumerable forms of animals and things that also inhabit the world.There's one of those long sentences people liked to complain about for you. I hardly register them these days, but I have to say, it doesn't read half bad to me.
What right had he to include her in his feelings of abjection just because he lacked her strength of spirit?Objectification is the practice of depriving both the objectifier and the objectified of the capacity to forgive. As much as we like to think otherwise, there's a world of thought and form beyond the clumsy interrelations of humanity, where every one does far more to restore one's status as subject than anyone else is capable of. No quick fixes here, but there's nothing to condemn when it comes to the constant effort of peaceful living.
Something, something in the natural placidity shown by a woman who was above all an intellectual, something in the seeming unawareness of her own composure on the part of a woman who usually got to the bottom of everything: something in her appeared to defy all understanding, he thought almost admiringly, but also a trifle unnerved.
When he smiled, it was the same distant, radiant smile that she'd always known him to wear and that had perpetually tugged at her heartstrings, because she'd always sensed, as she now knew, that it served merely to conceal and contain an inexpressible sadness.
So that, when she found herself living with in-laws who couldn't forgive her for having no means of support and no dowry, who despised her openly and angrily for having failed to conceive, she willingly became a poor, self-effacing wretch who entertained only vague impersonal thoughts and inconsistent, pallid dreams, in the shadow of which she wandered about vacantly, mechanically dragging her indifferent feet and, she believed, hardly suffering at all.
She had even happened on occasion to feel proud of being Khady because - she had often thought with some amazement - children whose lives seemed happy, who ever day got generous helpings of chicken and fish and wore clothes to school that were not stained or torn, such children were no more human than Khady Demba who only managed to get a minuscule helping of the good things in lifeJust as Lispector from under the weight of her worldly narrator lovingly reveals her meagre Macabea human and angel, I hear Ndiaye speak to all Khadys, Norahs and Fantas: 'No matter what humiliation, deprivation and violence is piled on you, you are essence as well as existence, you are yourself, you are crucial and irreplacable to the whole universe.' And to the rest I hear her spit 'Do better'.
He'd worked so hard at persuading himself of the contrary that he was no longer sure what was true and what wasn't.The first woman of color to win the prestigious Prix Goncourt, Marie NDiaye is certainly a gifted, uncompromising writer. Her collection All My Friends was my first foray into her work, and, in some ways, the stories there are stronger than the "novel" Three Strong Women; however, similar themes of how isolating intimacy can be, how identity is subsumed beneath others: at the personal and cultural level, and how marginal experiences are as critical to listen to as those we encounter in more mainstream fiction are present throughout NDiaye's work.
Et elle n’était plus surprise de l’écho âpre, combatif de sa propre voix dure et asexuée qui questionnait avec les quelques mots d’anglais qu’elle avait appris dans la gargote, non plus que ne la surprit le reflet, dans le rétroviseur d’un camion, du visage hâve, gris, surmonté d’une étoupe de chevaux roussâtres, du visage aux lèvres étrécies et à la peau desséchée qui se trouvait donc être le sien maintenant et qu’on n’aurait pu dire avec certitude, songea-t-elle, être celui d’une femme, et de son corps squelettique on n’aurait pu l’affirmer non plus et néanmoins elle restait Khady Demba, unique et nécessaire au bon ordonnancement des choses dans le monde bien qu’elle ressemblât maintenant de plus en plus à ces êtres égarés, faméliques, aux gestes lent qui vaguaient dans la ville, qu’elle leur ressemblât au point de songer : Entre eux et moi, quelle différence essentielle ? après quoi elle riait intérieurement, ravie de s’être fait à elle-même une bonne plaisanterie, et se disait : C’est que je suis, moi, Khady Demba !