At an early age Marie wrote a book, consisting of one sentence and covering over a hundred pages. This shows her ability in shaping the language she uses in her books. She is not afraid of long sentences. She is not afraid of complexities. She is not afraid of searching the mind of people, the idiosyncrasies of family members in the book.
The protagonist of this book is Fanny who is in search of her family, well, that is to say, she knows her family members, but she wants to belong to them. She wants to be one of them and she goes a long way to achieve this. I could say that the protagonist of the book is ‘belonging’. This is what Fanny is looking for. Fanny is not the real name of the young woman (around her twenties), but her real name is never mentioned. We get a glimpse of this name when it is mentioned that her real name has three syllables. Fanny is the odd girl out, but why? Why do her own relatives shun her? Why do they leave her out of family meetings? Why isn’t she invited for the birthday of her grandmother? She is different, but in what way?
Maybe Marie has been the odd girl out herself. Her mother is French and her father Senegalese. She was raised by her mother, and looking at the colour of her skin Marie could have been the girl that was different, looking for her roots and for her future. Now Marie has uprooted her own family and moved with her husband and children to France when president Nicolas Sarkozy came to power in France.
The book is set in an unknown area and at an unknown time. Marie travels from village to village to search for relatives, to avoid other relatives. She comes to places that should have been familiar, but are unknown to her. She looks for a place to be at home but she is on the road looking for help, but help by her relatives is fading away.
At times this book was hard read for Ndiaye takes her time and fills page after page. At other times this book was chilling for Ndiaye sketches a world without belonging, even in rural areas. A world of being left on your own.
Marie Ndiaye – En famille – 1990