Nominated by:

Katona József Library of Bács-Kiskun County, Kecskemét, Hungary

Publisher of nominated edition:

MacLehose Press, UK


Marie Ndiaye      

Translated from the French by Jordan Stump

2018 Shortlist!

Judges’ comments

Marie Ndiaye’s Ladivine, which is exquisitely translated by Jordan Stump, is a masterclass in the use of suspense, as important details about characters are doled out in small, but appetising morsels to the reader, gently willing him or her to read on. This multi-racial novel, is a profound examination of the complexity of the human psyche, exploring the multiple layers of the human mind, always open to the surprising turn of thought and action. There are also hints of the Freudian tension between the conscious and unconscious.  Significantly, it measures the extent to which race categories adequately capture the selves enveloped in them and ponders their psychosocial effects.  It is a memorably imaginative use of the interior dialogue technique, that is reminiscent of such classics as Flaubert’s Madame Bovary.  It also excels in its use of the stream of consciousness, especially toward the end.  All in all, Ladivine, illuminates the complexity of personal and cultural identity, showing how they operate to form, and continually transform, one’s sense of self, of others as well as of the world.

About the book

Clarisse Rivière’s life is shaped by a refusal to admit to her husband Richard and to her daughter Ladivine that her mother is a poor black housekeeper. Instead, weighed down by guilt, she pretends to be an orphan, visiting her mother in secret and telling no-one of her real identity as Malinka, daughter of Ladivine Sylla.

In time, her lies turn against her. Richard leaves Clarisse, frustrated by the unbridgeable, indecipherable gulf between them. Clarisse is devastated, but finds solace in a new man, Freddy Moliger, who is let into the secret about her mother, and is even introduced to her.

But Ladivine, her daughter, who is now married herself, cannot shake a bad feeling about her mother’s new lover, convinced that he can bring only chaos and pain into her life. When she is proved right, in the most tragic circumstances, the only comfort the family can turn to requires a leap of faith beyond any they could have imagined.

Centred around three generations of women, whose seemingly cursed lineage is defined by the weight of origins, the pain of alienation and the legacy of shame, Ladivine is a beguiling story of secrets, lies, guilt and forgiveness by one of Europe’s most unique literary voices.

About the author

Marie NDiaye was born in France in 1967. She published her first novel at seventeen, and has won the Prix Femina (Rosie Carpe in 2001) and the Prix Goncourt (Three Strong Women, 2009). Her play Papa Doit Manger has been taken into the repertoire of the Comédie Française. In 2007, after the election of Nicolas Sarkozy, NDiaye left France with her family to live in Berlin.

(from publisher)

Librarian’s comments

This is a psychological story about the trauma that captures three generations of women from one family, living and suffering under the burden of social, racial and familial origins. The mysterious, sometimes fantastic, and tragic circumstances are presented ingeniously, boldly in a very interesting style.

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