cover image On a Woman’s Madness

On a Woman’s Madness

Astrid Roemer, trans. from the Dutch by Lucy Scott. Two Lines, $24.95 (284p) ISBN 978-1-949641-43-1

Roemer makes her English-language debut with this classic of queer Black literature, originally published in the Netherlands in 1982, about a Surinamese woman who flees from her marriage after nine days. A newlywed Noenka arrives alone from her village to the capital of Paramarimbo, bent on living her life on her own terms having separated from her possessive and frightening husband, a wastrel named Louis Niewenhuis. In this new cosmopolitan world, she becomes a wanderer. Never far from the persecutions of whites and the example of her strict Catholic mother, denied a divorce from Louis, and well aware of the experiences of her plantation-born father, Noenka slips into an abusive relationship with a man named Ramses, who is equal parts savior and captor. She then falls in love with a woman named Gabrielle and searches for a new definition of love that encapsulates the couple’s mysterious passion, which persists in the face of prejudice and colonial attitudes. “I know it,” Roemer writes, “there are limits, but do they exist for love?” The author vividly conveys the narrator’s inner life, as Noenka teeters at the precipice of madness. As Roemer pushes at the boundaries of the senses, she melds biting postcolonial social commentary with a lush dreamscape. Scott’s translation is a gift to English-language readers. (Feb.)

Correction: The character Noenka's name was misspelled in an earlier version of this review.