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Three Strong Women by Marie NDiaye

Three Strong Women (edition 2012)

by Marie NDiaye, John Fletcher (Translator)

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3782328,549 (3.21)59
Title:Three Strong Women
Authors:Marie NDiaye
Other authors:John Fletcher (Translator)
Info:Knopf (2012), Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Your library, 2013 Read
Tags:French literature, France, Senegal, immigration, women

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Three Strong Women by Marie N'Diaye



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English (15)  French (4)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (1)  Catalan (1)  All (23)
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
though i have trouble connecting with ndiaye's stories, i respect the heck out of her writing skills! previously, i read and appreciated All My Friends. i was able to find a bit more of a lyrical or poetic style in AMF. the writing in TSW is so strong and i found TSW conveying a lot of anger and frustration. what i find consistent between the two books is the dark and odd nature of ndiaye's stories. she's a writer who creates visceral reactions in me when i read. it's not always pleasant, but it tells me how effective she is as a storyteller. ndiaye conveys pain and struggle incredibly well, but also offers glimmer of hope. she is not a writer i would recommend for everyone -- but if you go in for challenging reads, seek out diverse perspectives and stories, and don't mind untidy endings, you should definitely give Marie NDiaye a try. ( )
  Booktrovert | Feb 12, 2017 |
This is a very intense, very disturbing book. It is made up of three stories - the first about an emotionally damaged woman who goes to Senegal to visit her estranged father, the second about a disturbed, and possibly psychotic, young Frenchman and his African wife, and the third about a childless widow whose inlaws make arrangments for her to go to France, once they decide they no longer want to care for her. The stories overlap in small ways and there is incredible bird imagery used in each story which also unites them.

I am so puzzled by the title though. None of these women seem particularly strong, unless it's the strength of sheer endurance. Each story seems like a mini-existential crisis - if I were to compare this work to any other suthors, I guess it would be Camus.

I recommend this but it's no picnic. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
An emotionally stirring and memorable book. This is the story of three women although one of the stories follows the unraveling of a woman's husband leaving the wife behind.
The first story starts with Norah who is returning to Senegal to help out in a murky family affair. The second concerns Rudy and his African wife Fanta, and the last and most grim is the story of Khady.
Norah and then Rudy try to discover the source of their blocked memories amid lives endured with indifferent , if not altogether hostile, families. Rudy , raised in Africa and now in France, is adrift in his unending failures and downward spiral of violence and disillusionment. Norah and then Rudy try to remember the circumstances of their exile. Norah returns to a father who tries to exploit her as he has betrayed his son. They all find themselves in a fog unable to see clearly the family crimes that haunt them.
None of the characters is able to overcome the greed and malice of those around them. I try to describe the book in generalities as I hate revealing too much of the plot(s).
I loved the book for its stunning writing, the bits of the surreal, and its sense of mystery overall. ( )
  augustau | Aug 7, 2016 |

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. ( )
1 vote Korrick | Oct 23, 2014 |
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.

Similarly, her use of narrative skill is impressive: using both free indirect style and figural narratives, NDiaye is able to begin—perhaps paradoxically, but this is her talent—both at the highly specific and at the very general levels. Slowly, in the course of the narrative, NDiaye’s omniscience and increasingly nuanced use of the figural allow the reader to be both welcomed into each characters’ mindsets while at the same time ejected from them.

This can make for frustrating reading, and, indeed, as some reviews have pointed out, the second part (which is the longest part and gives portraits of several woman from the perspective of a male character, Ruby, especially his wife, Fanta) can be downright infuriating to read. This is not necessarily because of subject matter, but more due to NDiaye’s use of style to mimic the repetitive and flickering states of our consciousness: so when Ruby muses for ten pages—all of which take place in the time span of placing a telephone call and letting it ring without answer—about the words he said (or didn’t say) to Fanta, about his meagre, unimpressive job, about how inconsequential he feels as a man, as a husband, as a father, as a son, this is NDiaye doing what she does best. In essence, she is rendering our thought processes as they take place but stretching them out in a linear fashion, unlike someone like Woolf for whom imagery and rhythm are more important. Indeed, when NDiaye makes use of symbolism it is often heavy-handed, with symbols such as buzzards, poinciana trees, crows, and so on to make appearances on nearly each page as if to stress and overemphasize their import much to the narrative’s discredit.

As interconnected stories, these three pieces work rather well, but as a novel it simply doesn’t have the cohesion to be read in that light. The first piece deals with a thirty-something woman named Norah who has come from Paris to visit her father in Dakar at his insistence; while there, she is forced to come to terms with not only the memories of his brutality and neglect in her youth—and how this figures in his current life, and thus hers, at present—but also her dissatisfaction with motherhood and the more independent life she desires for herself and which her job as a lawyer serves to underscore. The second piece centers on Rudy and is linked to the first by way of a Proustian nom de pays; here, NDiaye captures very brilliantly a man in the midst of a midlife crisis: Rudy’s crisis is as much one of masculinity as it is of nationalism and imperialism, a meditation on how the oedipal relations of one’s youth are prefigurations of how one’s adult relationships will form in terms of dynamics and roles. The last piece, which is perhaps the most affecting, concerns Khady’s plight after her in-laws, with whom she has been living since her husband’s death, force her to leave as she is childless and without a dowry. Khady’s narrative is linked by way of a nom de famille to the second piece in Three Strong Women and is as much about the confines of cultural expectations of femininity as it is about the internalization of gender roles which cause women to view themselves solely in relation to men, as future mothers, and in economic rather than loving structures of kinship.

To me, the translation of puissantes from the French title should be rendered as “powerful” rather than “strong” women; in addition, the blurb from the French edition of the novel is misleading in its statement: trois femmes qui disent non. NDiaye is not concerned with saying no or with resistance, or, rather, if she is, it is about the futility of these desires in a world and in relations that prevent flight and instead see the individual trapped in existential circumstances which they must accept in some way in order to quell their uneasiness, their loneliness, and their alienation. And this is indeed her strong suit. Although the book is more likely a three-star book, the project itself and the sheer originality of NDiaye’s vision here are worthy of four stars, in my view, without question. She is definitely a writer to watch. ( )
2 vote proustitute | Jul 17, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Trois Femmes puissantes is a fine book, full of NDiaye’s narrative gusto, stylistic virtuosity and command of tone. If it is less wild and strange than some of her earlier work, it is no less bold.
C’est un roman qui parle de la déchéance morale, de la bassesse des hommes envers les femmes, de l’humanité souffrante, mais qui laisse entrevoir, du fond du malheur, une possibilité de rédemption. Un livre puissant.
added by christiguc | editLe Monde, Nicole Volle (Sep 4, 2009)
added by sokotof | editLes Inrockuptibles (Aug 30, 2009)

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Marie N'Diayeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Casassas, AnnaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fletcher, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kalscheuer, ClaudiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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À Laurène, Silvère et Romaric
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Et celui qui l'accueillit ou qui parut comme fortuitement sur le seuil de sa grande maison de béton, dans une intensité de lumière soudain si forte que son corps vêtu de clair paraissait la produire et la répandre lui-même, cet homme qui se tenait là, petit, alourdi, diffusant un éclat blanc comme une ampoule au néon, cet homme surgi au seuil de sa maison démeusurée n'avait plus rien, se dit aussitôt Norah, de sa superbe, de sa stature, de sa jeunesse auparavant si mystérieusement constante qu'elle semblait impérissable.
And the man who was waiting for her at the entrance to the big concrete house - or who happened by chance to be standing in the doorway - was bathed in a light so suddenly intense that his whole body and pale clothing seemed to produce and project it: this short, thick-set man standing there, glowing as brightly as a neon tube, this man who had just emerged from his enormous house displayed no longer, Norah straight away realised, any of the stature, arrogance and youth that was once so mysteriously characteristic of him as to seem everlasting.
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Follows the stories of three women who discover the power of saying no, including a lawyer who must save a victim of her tyrannical father, a Dakar teacher whose happiness is thwarted by a depressed boyfriend, and a penniless widow desperate to escape homelessness.… (more)

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