Marie Ndiaye (1967) is a French writer with Senegalese roots, but she was born in the vincinity of Paris, the capital city of France. Already at a young age she started writing and she published many books and plays and short stories. For this book (Trois femmes puissantes), on three Senegalese women, she received the famous Prix Goncourt in the year 2009. This is a book I enjoyed reading very much (I could have given her a prize for it 😉 ).
In this book we follow three Senegalese ladies in three different stories, one lady for one story. There is though some interconnection between the three stories.
In the first story we meet Norah (38 years) who has always lived in France, she travels to Senegal to meet her father, whom she has not met for 15 years. We read about her own history and the complicated relations of her family members, especially her father and her younger brother Sony who spents time behind bars. Her father expects that Norah will stand by Sony, as she is a lawyer.
In the second story we meet Fanta and her French husband Rudy and their child Djibril. Fanta and Rudy met in Dakar, where Rudy was teaching French and Fanta was one of his students. In France they live in sober circumstances and their marriage is a shaky one. In this story we read about the days that Fanta and Rudy met and the days that Rudy was expelled from school. He delves into his past and the attitude of his mother who loved the young boy nextdoor more than she loved her own son. Near the end I got the impression that Fanta and Rudy were on tentative speaking terms again. In this story the man is more in the foreground and the lady clearly present near him.
In the third and last story we meet Khady who is a childless widow (she is related to Fanta). When her husband died she moved in with her in-laws, but their relation was a dark one. In the end she is sent away. She is told that she has to go to France to meet up with Fanta. When she is on the move for her illegal journey she links up with Lamine, a young man who attempted before to reach France. We follow Khady in her inglorious attempt to travel to distant shores. She gets stranded in the desert for a long period, earns some money with prostitution, and she finally reaches the Moroccon / Spanish border. The end of the road.
Three stories, three stories that do not speed towards a happy end. Life is too complicated for that. This book and these women show the hardships of life. We see all of them in their journeys, physical and mental journeys. They move from one place to another and they move forward as a person.
Marie NDiaye – Trois femmes puissantes – 2009