Marie NDiaye’s 'Three Strong Women'

Marie NDiaye

Marie NDiaye’s 'Three Strong Women' ((French: 'Trois Femmes puissantes') won the Prix Goncourt, France's most prestigious literary award, 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.

The title suggests a story about three strong women, but that is not the case. "This isn't really a novel about three strong women because, out of the three protagonists, one seems delusional, one a victim of circumstance, and the other a deranged man", writes British writer Bernadine Everisto.

In Three Strong Women NDiaye's personal story sets in. NDiaye scarcely knew her Senegalese father, who came to France as a student in the 1960s and returned to Africa when she was a baby. She was raised by her French mother — a secondary school science teacher — in a housing project in suburban Paris, with vacations in the countryside where her maternal grandparents were farmers. NDiaye describes herself as a purely French product, with no claim to biculturalism but her surname and the color of her skin. Nonetheless, the absent father — charismatic, casually cruel, voraciously selfish — haunts NDiaye’s fiction and drama, as does the shadow of a dreamlike Africa in which demons and evil portents abound, where the unscrupulous can make overnight fortunes and, with another turn of the wheel, find themselves rotting in a jail cell, wrote New York Times.

 While she rages at the discrimination still faced by French blacks, NDiaye says she has been sheltered by her writer career.

“I have always had a quite special, marginal life, the life of a writer lucky enough not to have to ask anyone for anything,” she said.(AP)

As for the three strong women,  NDiaye shows us, each woman retains a saving core of humanity — an indestructible reserve of love, common sense or even self-mockery — that’s incomprehensible to the fathers, husbands or in-laws who are putting them at risk.