cover image That Time of Year

That Time of Year

Marie Ndiaye, trans. from the French by Jordan Stump. Two Lines, , $19.95 ISBN 978-1-931883-91-7

French writer Ndiaye (The Cheffe) serves up a blistering critique of bourgeois French society in this eerie tale. Herman, a Parisian teacher, is on vacation with his family in a remote village, and one stormy evening his wife and child disappear. As he searches for them, his fear for their safety dissipates into numbing frustration as he navigates the complex village gendarmerie and other bureaucracies, where everyone is polite but never truly helpful. He meets Alfred, a low-level bureaucrat who claims Herman will never see his family again unless he becomes a villager, leading Herman to take a room next to Alfred’s at an expensive inn, where Herman gradually learns that the villagers’ elaborate displays of gentility, such as an extended bow from the innkeeper, mask cruel intentions. Everything Herman once found important—his job, family, ambition, even his personal appearance—slides away as he loses touch with himself, “no longer troubling to determine the date.” Ndiaye pulls off a fascinating group portrait of the town, capturing the shifts in behavior of each character in relation to the power they hold or are beholden to. Her chilling tale offers a powerful chronicle of the failure of one man’s will. (Sept.)