Vengeance Is Mine: A novel (Hardcover)

Vengeance Is Mine: A novel By Marie NDiaye, Jordan Stump (Translated by) Cover Image

Vengeance Is Mine: A novel (Hardcover)

By Marie NDiaye, Jordan Stump (Translated by)


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A NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FINALIST The New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice From the best-selling author of Three Strong Women comes a thrilling novel about a triple homicide that dredges up unsettling memories from a lawyer’s childhood.

A Best Book of the Year: The New Yorker, TIME, The Washington Post, The Guardian, CrimeReads, and Words Without Borders

"[NDiaye] is a master at agitating, probing and upending expectations." —Lovia Gyarkye, The New York Times Book Review

"You won’t be able to put it down." —Vogue

The heroine of Marie NDiaye’s new novel is Maître Susane, a quiet middle-aged lawyer living a modest existence in Bordeaux, known to all as a consummate and unflappable professional. But when Gilles Principaux shows up at her office asking her to defend his wife, who is accused of a horrific crime, Maître Susane begins to crack.

She seems to remember having been alone with him in her youth for a significant event, one her mind obsesses over but can’t quite reconstruct. Who is this Gilles Principaux? And why would he come to her, a run-of-the-mill lawyer, for such an important trial? 

While this mystery preoccupies Maître Susane, at home she is increasingly concerned about Sharon, her faithful but peculiar housekeeper. Sharon arrived from Mauritius with her husband and children, and she lacks legal residency in France. But while Maître Susane has generously offered Sharon her professional services, the housekeeper always finds ways to evade her, claiming the marriage certificate Maître Susane requires is being held hostage. Is Sharon being honest with Maître Susane, or is something more sinister going on?

Told in a slow seethe recalling the short novels of Elena Ferrante and the psychological richness of Patricia Highsmith’s work, Vengeance Is Mine is a dreamlike portrait of a woman afflicted by failing memories and a tortured uncertainty about her own past that threatens to become her undoing.
MARIE NDIAYE was born in Pithiviers, France. She is the author of Rosie Carpe, winner of the Prix Femina, and of Three Strong Women, winner of the Prix Goncourt. She is also the recipient of the Gold Medal in the Arts from the Kennedy Center International Committee on the Arts. She lives in Paris.

Translated by Jordan Stump.
Product Details ISBN: 9780593534243
ISBN-10: 0593534247
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: October 17th, 2023
Pages: 240
Language: English
*LONGLISTED FOR THE NBCC BARRIOS BOOK IN TRANSLATION PRIZE *A best book of 2023 at TIME, The New Yorker, and The Washington Post, The Guardian, CrimeReads, and Words Without Borders*

“Sinister and spellbinding . . . Half suspense novel, half dark fairy tale, Vengeance is Mine is a literary tour-de-force.”Literary Hub, “Most Anticipated Books of 2023”

"The unsettling Vengeance Is Mine (Knopf) from Marie NDiaye, winner of France’s prestigious Prix Goncourt, has the magnetism of a thriller and the mysteriousness of an existential riddle....This is a novel of unraveling certainties and of a middle-class life encroached upon by nightmares. You may not fully unlock its mysteries—it’s slim, a good length for a reread—but you won’t be able to put it down." Vogue
"The novels of the French Senegalese [Marie] NDiaye are at once dense and capacious; the work of her longtime English-language translator Jordan Stump powerfully conveys the mesmeric quality of her prose...Few can write abstraction with such precision, so that what is hidden from the self is more telling and more powerful than what is revealed."—Katie Kitamura, The Atlantic

“Marie NDiaye’s skill at taking internal convulsions and rendering them into breathless activity on the page is at its height in what might be her best novel to appear in English...The result is a complex knot of guilt, fear and obsession, which compresses a great deal into 240 pages without ever seeming clotted.”—"Best Translated Books of 2023," The Guardian

"[A] strange, magnificent 12th novel...mischievously realised on the page...NDiaye published her first novel at 17. She was considered a prodigy then, and continues to be a virtuoso four decades and 11 novels later. Here her prose is Proustian, if endlessly performing the feats of intelligence [the narrator herself] thinks are required to keep her position in society."—Jonathan McAloon, The Financial Times

"NDiaye’s award-winning writing is dreamy, elusive, and brilliant...[and] Vengeance is Mine is, to my mind, one of NDiaye’s very best novels, with a devastating plot and a continual sense of surprise. It rewards repeat reading and careful attention." —Adam Dalva, Writers Without Borders

"[Marie] NDiaye’s latest tale, a story of class conflict embedded within a psychological thriller, is scattered with interpretive hints, clues to the crimes of contemporary French society...Suspense supplies the forward motion...We are on edge when [the protagonist] Maître Susane turns the corners of streets and the corners of her own mind, scared of what she might remember... In this elegantly layered tale of social stratification, NDiaye takes us through a maze of alleyways, backstreets, and elegant foyers, until we are dizzy from trying to chart the course of upward mobility and eager for a place to rest...Reality is a slippery thing in NDiaye’s novels. In the tradition of French Surrealism, she aims to get at the truth by distancing herself from it...[and she] never lets her characters be flattened to make a point."—Jennifer Wilson, The New Yorker

"The latest book by the French writer [Marie NDiaye], who's tipped for the Nobel Prize, is a searing mystery based on a famous child-murder case... NDiaye’s novels are elliptical, elusive things, the action of which dwells somewhere between the known, recognised world and what we might describe as psychological terrain...[In] her new novel, the haunting tour de force Vengeance is Mine...we find ourselves on shifting sands... as [NDiaye] puts it: 'Everyday life is confused by one’s dreams.'"—Lucy Scholes, The Telegraph

"In Vengeance is Mine, [Marie NDiaye's] frequent translator Jordan Stump does an admirable job transferring NDiaye’s sinuous and precise style into elegant English...[Here] NDiaye heaps uncertainty upon uncertainty...[and] reveals a keen awareness of power differentials and the way that class, race, gender, and culture underlie everyday human interactions. What is so striking about her work is that this awareness exists alongside a profound appreciation of individual psychology...[and] the use of the close third-person perspective...creates a sense of both claustrophobia and mystery; we remain locked inside of Maître Susane’s thoughts and perceptions, just as we remained locked within our own."—Kat Solomon, Chicago Review of Books

"The central ideas in Vengeance Is Mine are, thrillingly, as difficult to pin down as the identities of its characters. In one light, it’s a scathing look at the simmering desperation provoked by France’s rigid structures of authority and power. But it’s also an uber-feminist rewriting of a plot made familiar by texts from Medea to Leïla Slimani’s bestseller The Perfect Nanny (2018), in which oppression, writ large, drives a woman to horrifying violence against the children in her care. And, read in a less outraged mood, it’s just a quiet book about a quiet woman, quietly fragmenting — no more, no less...[NDiaye] is a poet of uncertainty. Her ability to simultaneously embody all the fractured parts of a character’s mind makes aspects of Susane’s spiral that might otherwise seem unbelievable — can she really not know whether she is the mother of Rudy’s child? — come across as engrossingly, utterly human" —Talya Zax, The Washington Post

"[A] gripping novel... Using a series of short, breathless paragraphs to drive the story on, NDiaye balances external and internal revelations to create a powerful story of mothers and daughters, and of what happens when a parent’s unconditional love breaks down."—John Self, The Guardian, "The best recent translated fiction"

"[Marie NDiaye's] refusal to overexplain makes her books even more unsettling.... In her novels, she plunges her characters, usually women, into a visceral experience of difference, often without naming what that difference is... leaving readers with an interpretive gap to fill. Although her later novels allude more directly to color and class anxiety, her texts still inspire a paranoia about how to read her protagonists, catching us in a game of complicity...In France, she is among the country’s most famous living authors... [declared at age 16] a literary prodigy of 'staggering brilliance.'" —Jasmine Vojdani, Vulture

"In Marie NDiaye’s sinister and spellbinding new novel, a lawyer is hired by the husband of a woman accused of murdering her three children, despite her lack of experience in high-profile trials... Half suspense novel, half dark fairy tale, Vengeance is Mine is a literary tour-de-force."—Molly Odintz, CrimeReads,"October's Best Psychological Thrillers"

"[NDiaye] is a master at agitating, probing and upending expectations...In Vengeance Is Mine, NDiaye circles a familiar configuration of ideas: trauma and memory, class anxiety, isolation and otherness, the warped savagery of domestic life, the rupture between parents and their children. But she also considers the texture of justice — what it means, how it’s determined and who enacts it...Appreciating this moody, sensual and sometimes feverish prose requires submission — to the grooves of language, the performance of storytelling." —Lovia Gyarkye, The New York Times Book Review

"The magnificence of [NDiaye's] writing, in all its shocks of perception, makes you feel that by rights her name should come with the same pantheonic glow that attends, say, Annie Ernaux or Elena Ferrante...What makes her a master? In part, it’s NDiaye’s deft interweaving of those narrative traits we associate with genre fiction, specifically crime thrillers—suspense, mystery, intrigue, a touch of the supernatural—with a high-modernist sensibility in thrall to the shifting, refractive nature of memory, unsettled selfhood, and intersubjectivity tout court...What a feat...that the author invariably marshals these strains into lucid sophistication, not least in her newest book, the superbly controlled Vengeance is Mine."—Hermione Hoby, 4Columns

"[Marie] NDiaye can't be accused of spoon-feeding readers....One of France’s best-known novelists, she has produced a steady stream of unsettling characters and formally inventive stories since her debut...[and from] the 1990s onward, bolstered by early critical acclaim, she became the most prominent Black woman in French literature, a world long dominated by white men...Vengeance Is Mine [too] is populated with characters whose motives are difficult to decipher — a style of writing 'that puts the reader to work'"Laura Cappelle, The New York Times

“Magnetic and intense . . . [NDiaye] is equally adept at both small-scale psychological character insight and virtuosic structural shifts. . . . NDiaye turns in another ferocious tale.”Publishers Weekly

“A novel of concentric haunting, summoning ghosts into the room with prose that shimmers, cuts, and sings. Unflinching and restrained, Vengeance Is Mine sails its readers into uncharted psychological waters. I was hypnotized from the first word to the last.”—Tess Gunty, author of The Rabbit Hutch

“In this disquieting, quietly beautiful novel, Marie NDiaye writes about an unimaginable crime placing around it a world of confusion, trauma, and memories of a past that cannot be trusted. There’s more questions than answers in this fiercely intelligent story: everyone is complex and full of shadows, as life is.”—Mariana Enríquez, author of Our Share of Night